Hitters by Zones
Few in MLB can beat a well-located pitch down and away. I wanted to look up those who could, so I broke the plate area down into nine zones, scaling the vertical component of the pitch for the batter’s height. For this analysis, I decided to restrict my sample to only 2009 pitches at which the batter swung. Here’s a crude chart showing the percentage of swings in each zone and how batters fare when swinging, indicated by color.
Batters have the advantage when the pitch is middle-middle, and for the other eight zones, the run value is negative.
Getting right to the leaderboards. There are nine of these, but I’m going to leave the commentary short and I’ll leave a spreadsheet at the end.
Ryan Howard and David Ortiz are similar type hitters who like the ball out over the plate but can get beat inside. Carlos Delgado hit a homer, three doubles and a single on his eleven swings at pitches down and in.
It appears foot speed is instrumental if one is to succeed by swinging at pitches down and away. I’m assuming the highest percentage of grounders are on pitches in this location, and speed is important to get on base via the grounder. Pitching Howard down in the zone seems to be a good idea.
Derrek Lee likes the ball inside.
This is clearly the most telling list in terms of quality of hitter. To be successful swinging the bat, you have to be able to hit the ball pitched down the middle.
I already knew that Adrian Gonzalez and Robinson Cano excelled hitting the ball the other way, so it makes sense that they also excel at hitting outside pitches. The Phillies are not so good at hitting the ball when pitched away. They are good at baserunning, however.
Michael Young also likes the ball inside. He beat out Lee by six runs last year on pitches at least half a foot inside. Seth Smith had seven hits on the 14 pitches he swung at up and in, including four for extra bases.
Michael Cuddyer was last at pitches up and in, but first at pitches up and over the plate. I find this very interesting. If you’re a pitcher, you can jam Cuddyer, but you better not miss.
It took you a whole article to find Albert Pujols at the top of a leaderboard. My analysis confirms Rich Lederer's preliminary hypothesis. Pujols continues to be good.