Who has the biggest holes in their swings?

Patrick McDermott

All players have some hole in their swing. A fun example of this was Pedro Cerrano of the 1989 comedy Major League, who couldn't hit the curveball. Which players today are most susceptible to certain pitches?

In 1989, the American public was introduced to the Cleveland Indians. Those Indians had an offense led by Jake Taylor, Roger Dorn and Willie Mays Hayes, and a rotation with Ed Harris and Rick Vaughn. Despite starting the year slowly, the scrappy team came back midseason to overtake the Yankees and win the division title in a one-game playoff. And to make things even better, their games were announced by the inimitable Harry Doyle.

Okay, by now you've probably realized we're talking about the 80s baseball comedy Major League. As a side note, the real 1989 Cleveland Indians went 73-89, with an offense led by Jerry Browne and Brook Jacoby. The rotation was anchored by Tom Candiotti, Greg Swindell, and current managers Bud Black (Padres) and John Farrell (Red Sox).

But back to the fictional Indians. One of the fun players on that Indians team was their voodoo-practicing Cuban right fielder Pedro Cerrano. While a prodigious power hitter, Cerrano had one slight batting flaw: He couldn't hit a curveball to save his life.

While Cerrano is a slight exaggeration, there is a point. Specifically, all batters have holes in their swings. Some holes aren't that important, like, say, not being able to hit the knuckleball. Others are a bit more concerning, such as Cerrano's case. So, what players manage to be the ``Heirs to Pedro Cerrano?" Or, in other words, which batters are particularly susceptible to certain pitches?

Two things go into making this team. First of all, the batter has to be particularly bad at hitting a certain pitch. Secondly, pitchers have to realize this. The batter has to see a higher percentage of the particular pitch that he cannot hit. So, we'll look at the seven most common pitches as classified by Brooks Baseball: Four-seam Fastball, Sinker, Curveball, Changeup, Cutter, Slider, and Splitter.

In order to evaluate this, we need some number for this. Again, it needs to account for both the batter's ineptness and the pitcher's recognition of the ineptitude. We'll call this the Cerrano Factor, or CF. The Cerrano Factor is calculated for each individual pitch, and can be calculated as follows.

CF = AB × (AB%Player - AB%League) × (BAALeague - BAAPlayer) × 1AB%Player > AB%League × 1BAALeague > BAAPlayer

Where AB is the total number of at-bats against all of the 7 main pitches, AB% is the percentage of At Bats for that particular pitch, BAA is the Batting Average Against for that particular pitch, and 1 signifies an indicator function.

Before starting, it's worthwhile to see what the league averages for each of the seven pitches, specifically what the percentage of at bats that each pitch receives, and the batting average against. Interestingly, batters typically kill the sinker, for a batting average against of .315 and slugging average against of .480.

Pitch % of AB BAA
Fourseam 32.38% .284
Sinker 22.35% .315
Changeup 10.76% .257
Slider 15.00% .229
Curve 9.73% .235
Cutter 6.97% .262
Splitter 2.81% .211

Now, I realize that 1) not all situations/pitch sequences are the same, 2) not every batter faces the same pitchers, and 3) not every batter faces pitches in the same location. However, for the purposes of this exercise we'll assume that these things reasonably average out over the long run. These factors may bed looked into further at a later date.

Four-seam Fastball

Believe it or not, some batters can't hit the four-seam fastball, the main pitch in the pitcher's arsenal. It results in 32.38% of all ABs so far this year, and has a batting average against of .284 league-wide. Now, we'll see that the Cerrano Factors for four-seam fastballs aren't as large as the other pitches, but there are still a few guys that hit below average on the four-seam fastballs, and receive a steadier diet of them than normal.

Player Fourseam AB% Fourseam BAA Fourseam CF
Mark Reynolds 37.8% .177 0.967
Ichiro Suzuki 35.2% .241 0.888
Victor Martinez 39.9% .256 0.801
Alcides Escobar 36.3% .242 0.713
Ben Revere 40.0% .254 0.713

Reynolds definitely deserves the Cerrano-type moniker for fourseam fastballs, as he strikes out on a whopping 45.1% of four-seam at bats. Some of the other guys are a bit surprising, especially the presence of Ichiro.

Sinker

Now we'll see some high CFs, especially since the league average against sinkers is so high. The sinker saw 22.35% of the at bats and had a batting average against of .315, by far the highest of the seven pitches.

Player Sinker AB% Sinker BAA Sinker CF
Denard Span 33.2% .221 3.991
Nate McLouth 29.4% .200 2.756
Jimmy Rollins 27.3% .265 1.053
Eric Young 29.7% .277 0.893
Erick Aybar 31.5% .287 0.870

Span's Sinker Cerrano Factor is the highest Cerrano Factor that we see for any pitch by far (The next closest is at 2.849). Interestingly, only 8 of Span's 131 at bats against the sinker end in a strikout. In fact, none of these five players have particularly high strikeout rates against the sinker.

Changeup

The changeup generates some high Cerrano Factors, but not as many positive ones as the fourseam or the sinker. The changeup gets 10.76% of the at bats for a .257 batting average against.

Player Changeup AB% Changeup BAA Changeup CF
Alberto Callaspo 17.9% .127 2.849
Kendrys Morales 20.1% .202 2.136
Matt Wieters 19.4% .212 1.319
Pedro Alvarez 16.2% .196 1.143
Victor Martinez 12.8% .140 2.849

And Victor Martinez makes the Cerrano list for a second pitch. He has trouble hitting the pitches that comprise approximately 52.7% of his at bats.

Slider

The slider generates some of the lowest batting averages against, so a batter has to be pretty bad against the slider to get a high Cerrano Factor. Yet, there are a few that manage to do so.

Player Slider AB% Slider BAA Slider CF
Chris Carter 22.6% .137 2.266
Dan Uggla 19.3% .092 1.977
Matt Dominguez 21.4% .153 1.641
Todd Frazier 19.9% .157 1.252
Starlin Castro 20.8% .189 1.013

Here, we also see a lot more strikeouts than in other pitches. I'm not talking low K% either, as the lowest of these five players is above 20%: Uggla (63.1%), Carter (60.3%), Frazier (34.3%), Castro (25.6%), and Dominguez (20.8%).

Curveball

We've now reached the true heirs of Pedro, the guys who can't hit the curve. The cruveball gets 9.73% of at bats and batters have a .235 batting average against it.

Player Curveball AB% Curveball BAA Curveball CF
Mark Trumbo 15.4% .154 1.959
John Buck 15.5% .146 1.597
Drew Stubbs 12.7% .077 1.462
Michael Bourn 14.8% .156 1.223
Alfonso Soriano 16.3% .191 1.142

There are some rough strikeout totals here, including Michael Bourn's 23 strikouts in 45 at bats. The curveball, like the slider, also generates some pretty low ISOs, as both have several members of the bottom fives with ISOs at .000.

Cutter and Splitter

As these two pitches combined make up less than 10% of the top seven pitches, I'm not going to go into as much detail. Specifically, I'm only going to mention the two Cerrano Factor leaders for these pitches.

When it comes to the cutter, Mark Reynolds leads his second category. At 11.8% of his at bats and a .158 batting average against, he does much worse than the league averages of 6.97% at .262 BAA. His Cerrano Factor for the cutter comes in at 1.621. Also included in the top five is Evan Longoria.

It would appear that the splitter is Chris Davis's weakness, as he leads the league in Cerrano Factor for the splitter. 5.3% of Davis's at bats come from the splitter, and he hits a measly .050 against it, or 1 hit in 20 at bats. Of course, that one hit was a home run. Davis's splitter Cerrano Factor from all this is 1.524. Pedro Alvarez also comes up for the splitter, making it his second top five.

Combining It All

So, let's combine all the Cerrano Factors to see who has the largest overall Cerrano Factor. To do this, we weight each individual Cerrano Factor by it's percentage of at bats, and then sum them all up. In the end, we see several names from the individual top fives making the overall list.

Player Overall CF
Denard Span 1.324
Nate McLouth 0.811
Mark Reynolds 0.613
Alberto Callaspo 0.554
Chris Carter 0.513

It's also worth noting the players on the opposite end of the scale, the guys who either don't have holes in their swing, or who don't have it attacked all that often. There are 14 guys with an overall Cerrano Factor of 0, and it's a mixture of guys. There are guys who are considered some of the best hitters this year — Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt — guys who are on the breakout — Matt Carpenter, Carlos Gomez, Michael Cuddyer — and guys who are just lucky not to have their weaknesses attacked — Norichika Aoki, Kyle Seager, and Alexei Ramirez.

To finish things out, I include the full list of players with their Cerrano Factors for each individual pitch and overall. So, to restate the obvious, almost all players have holes in their swings when it comes to certain pitches.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

Stephen Loftus is a staff writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @stephen__loftus

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