Touching BasesNovember 08, 2010
Batted Ball Location Leaderboards
By Jeremy Greenhouse

There has been a distinct void in batted ball leaderboards this year, as Dave Studeman has been saving up all the good stuff for this year's THT Annual. (Buy it!) This is the third and final year I'll be writing my tangential column, and now you can find the relevant data yourself in FanGraphs' player splits section. Without further ado, here are the best and worst pull hitters of 2010. I have a feeling who will be number one.

Value of Pulled Batted Balls


The past couple of years, I've had an idea who would be the top pull hitter. Some hitters like Ryan Howard, Jim Thome, Adrian Gonzalez, and Derek Jeter are renowned for their opposite-field prowess. But this year, Jose Bautista's batted ball distribution made the mainstream, getting written up in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and ESPN. His 57-run mark is the highest I've ever seen, and his 47 pulled homers are the fourth most in the Retrosheet era. The requisite spray chart:


There was definitely something about the Blue Jays approach this year as a team. They led the league in home runs with 257, 46 more than any other team. They hit fewer line drives but more fly balls than anyone. Their 13.6 home run per fly ball rate was also tops, and way higher than last year's 10.4% mark. Bautista added ten percentage points to both his fly ball rates and home run per fly ball rates. Less noise was made over Vernon Wells, who somehow went from 0 WAR to 4 WAR, also posting a career-high number of pulled homers.

Dan Uggla, aided by Florida's short left-field fences, has added at least 30 pulled runs of value in every year of his career. Albert Pujols is the only player to appear in the top ten each of the last three years.

Juan Pierre appeared at the plate 734 times this year. Is that not dumbfounding? He is a really good baserunner, I suppose.

Value of Center Field Batted Balls


Josh Hamilton hit 19 homers out to center, which is impressive. But I'm more interested to know about the ground rules concerning that lawn out there in straightaway center in the Ballpark at Arlington. Is it like the black at the old Yankee Stadium?

Good things happened when Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, and Joey Votto got the bat on the ball, as they boasted respective BABIPs of .384 and .390 and .361. Gonzalez and Votto have the 22nd and 23rd highest BABIPs of all-time. Only Shin-Soo Choo, Ichiro Suzuki, and Derek Jeter have higher BABIPs among active players, and I wouldn't be surprised to see CarGo or Votto pass all three of them.

Carlos Lee hit more balls to center field this year than he did last but wound up with 23 fewer hits

Value of Opposite Field Batted Balls


The pull list is dominated by right-handed hitters while the opposite-field list is dominated by left-handed hitters, which suggest there is value to hitting the ball to left field. The BABIP on balls to left is about 40 points higher than on balls to right.

It's crazy that Adrian Gonzalez does this damage in PETCO. As a Padre he's hit only a third of his home runs at home. He'd make a lot of sense on the Marlins or Red Sox.

Votto did it. He ended the year without a single popup. He hits the ball with power to all fields. His worst results came from pulling the ball, and when he did so he still added 16 runs thanks to a 47.6% HR/FB.

Jim Thome slugged .125 on grounders and 1.405 on balls he put in the air. On first thought, I thought that might be something to exploit, but interestingly, according to Baseball Reference, he has the exact same career .958 OPS facing groundball pitchers and flyball pitchers.

Aaron Hill had a .196 BABIP, so unless he was pulling the ball in the air, it wasn't happening for him.

Remember, you can now find all of this stuff on FanGraphs. My hope is that soon we'll be able to take the next step and analyze these numbers using HITf/x.