Visual Scouting Reports (Beta)
What if I could just punch a couple lines into my computer and get to see the strengths and weaknesses of a player in graphical form? Harry Pavlidis does a good job using pitchf/x data to give a brief summary of pitchers, and Dave Allen is like King Midas graphing with R. I've set out to develop my own set of hitter graphs and I ask for your help in improving them for future, more in-depth, player analysis.
Here's what I've got so far, using Jayson Werth's 2008-2009 data as an example.
I'll break down the three components one by one. For now, the graphs represent the three most meaningful locations of the baseball's flight--from the pitcher's hand to the strike zone to the hit location. Here's Werth's "Batter Zone."
These are from the batter's perspective. Here, you can see Werth's expected run value is worst against pitches up in the zone and down and away. As you know, this holds true for most hitters. Where you see blue on the graph on the left, he performs worse than his average self. Then on the right, you see how he compares to the league average. He excels on pitches down and in, but is worse when challenged up.
So, how to improve these visualizations? I'm using a standard strike zone, but I'd like to create contour lines showing each batter's individual strike zones, and swing zones, showing where he's most likely to let it fly. I'm unsure how large the data frame should be. Right now, set at four feet by three feet, it captures the intricacies within the strike zone, but it might be leaving out some information for players like Vlad. The downside to expanding the frame is that for most graphs, the extra space will be occupied entirely by the average value of a ball, which will overwhelm the details of the visual. Lastly, for the graph on the right comparing Werth to average, I don't know whether to fix the color bar so that great hitters, like Chase Utley, appear red everywhere, since he's above average at everything, or to color in blue locations where he has a mere expected value of .01 runs better than average, since he's not as awesome in those locations as he is in others.
Here is how Werth does against release points, which is informative in showing his platoon splits.
It appears to me that Werth has a normal platoon split, but struggles a fair bit against righties with a lower arm slot.
Lastly, Werth's spray charts.
Werth pulls his grounders at a high rate. In the outfield, depending on the precision of the data, the center fielder should shade a bit towards left.
I'd appreciate any input on how to improve this set of graphs. I'd also like to come up with graphs to show how hitters fare based on velocity and movement, but nothing comes to mind, and I have ideas for how to present hitf/x data if we ever get more of it.
I ran through the Phillies lineup excluding switch-hitters, so here they are, with brief comments. A quick glance at these graphs certainly won't give you any answers, but it might give some food for thought.
Utley is an insanely good hitter, no matter where you pitch him. However, don't try to brush him back, as Buster Olney suggested, because he will take his HBPs, which I'm guessing is what that graph's upper-right red portion consists of. He pulls almost everything.
Howard also famously pulls his ground balls. Shifting against him is an obvious strategy, but the real question is where the third baseman should play.
Ibanez has similar batter zones as Utley, but he's not as good anywhere.
Feliz is actually a good hitter on pitches away. I'd imagine that's because he lays off of most of them, since he can't hit them anyway. But he can be beat on the inner half. Feliz shows no platoon split and a normal spray chart.
Boy did Ruiz have a great series. He hits most of his flies the other way,but has hit all of his home runs to his pull field.
Please don't shy from sharing your thoughts.