Year to Year Spray Charts
Rich Lederer covered Jose Bautista's home run scatter plot on Tuesday, noting that he has yet to hit one out the other way. Bautista's spray chart this year differs sharply from last year's as well.
Perhaps Bautista's new patterns can be explained through mechanical changes. According to Frankie Pilliere, Bautista is moving his hands through the zone quicker, is starting his leg kick slightly sooner, and opening up on inside pitches.
Still, former teammate Alex Gonzalez, who Rich profiled way back when, also adapted the Blue Jays swing-for-the-fences approach. Can his change in batted ball locations be explained by a new-found approach?
On the other hand, Elvis Andrus is no longer pulling the ball, and has seen his ISO drop to 40 points, the lowest mark in the leagues, and he plays half his games in Arlington.
Similarly, Matt Kemp, possibly the most disappointing player in the league this year, evidently hasn't gotten around on pitches. He might have lost speed over the offseason, considering he went from a plus center fielder/baserunner to a guy with right around the worst UZR and stolen base numbers I've ever seen, and maybe he lost bat speed too.
I tend to think of BABIP luck for a batter as a dying quail that drops in for a hit once in a while. He controls where he hits it, but not how often it falls in. I'm beginning to think that I've underestimated the amount of randomness that can effect a batter's spray charts. A split second difference in timing is the difference between hitting the ball well and popping it up or rolling it over or something. Even though Bautista is undoubtedly hitting the ball with more authority, he's probably lucky to have done so. While I think that looking at spray chart differences can signal a change in approach, I would still expect all of these guys to regress heavily to their mean next year, both in terms of performance and batted ball locations.