Yesterday, my Brian Roberts profile ws published at Baseball Prospectus, and I had promised some additional information on the matter. This is something I just want to test out a bit, before I see if I can incorporate this type of analysis into the profiles themselves.
Part of the profiles is a look at the batted-ball tendencies of a certain hitter, but I want to incorporate the direction of these batted-balls into the study to add to the information available for what may have changed in a player. Here's a quote from the Roberts' piece in regards to his batted-ball results:
With that in mind, let's take a look at his Hit Charts from 2003-2006. Remember, these hit charts are only for Roberts' games at Orioles Park at Camden Yards.
Moving into the right image, which is the 2004 season, we see that Roberts started to spray flyballs in a much more evenly distributed manner. Whereas only a handful of flyballs were to right in 2003, 2004 has them all over the diamond. Doubles are once again evenly distributed, but one thing to note is that most of them were not just doubles down the line like in 2003. He started to hit many more doubles to right-center in 2004.
In 2005, we see that Roberts is still hitting flyballs to all fields, but he has drastically reduced the number of groundball outs he makes. He no longer hits as many doubles to right-center as he had the previous year, but displays much more homerun power to right than he had shown at any time before. He continues to hit doubles deep in left-center though.
For the 2006 season, the homerun power has been reduced, but the doubles are still sprayed to all fields, as are the flyball outs. The main difference is the increase in groundball outs in comparison to 2005, but we knew that already by seeing the 7.4 percent increase in his groundball rate from the previous season.
Looking at these charts leads us to a fairly simple conclusion. Roberts started to spray flyballs to all fields, and in 2004 many of those flyballs turned into doubles -- in fact, 50 of them, the record for a switch hitter, and tops in Orioles franchise history for a single season. In 2005, the doubles onslaught continued, but with a dramatic increase in homerun production. 2006 has the ball on the ground a bit more, which accounts for some of the dropoff in power production, but he continues to hit the ball to all fields, and has managed to approach double digits in homeruns following year after year of very low single digit totals. Looking at these hit-charts confirms my initial feelings from the batted-ball data, where I concluded that 2006 was the combination effort of the growth in Roberts' skill set from the 2004 and 2005 seasons. 2005 was certainly an age-27 outlier, but that doesn't mean that going forward, Roberts is not valuable with the stick. Quite the opposite in fact, especially when his position is taken into account, and he was ranked a +32 from 2003-2005 by The Fielding Bible (good for 5th among second basemen) defensively, making him one of the more valuable commodities around. Let's not forget that he's earned just under $3.5 million combined in the past two seasons for his efforts.