Touching BasesFebruary 04, 2010
Hitters by Zones
By Jeremy Greenhouse

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.


Name Runs Swings
Derrek Lee 5.6 57
David Wright 3.8 72
Corey Hart 3.6 60
Hunter Pence 2.8 73
Carlos Delgado 2.6 11
Chase Headley -5.9 58
Ryan Braun -6.1 84
Aubrey Huff -6.2 56
David Ortiz -6.2 64
Ryan Howard -6.6 84

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.


Name Runs Swings
Joey Votto 10.6 193
Brian Roberts 9.9 204
Miguel Cabrera 9.7 191
Dustin Pedroia 6.9 150
Nick Markakis 6.8 160
Garret Anderson -11.7 174
Nate McLouth -12.3 125
Jack Cust -12.7 124
Dan Uggla -13.4 185
Derek Jeter -13.9 173

I’m surprised Derek Jeter’s on this list, as he’s a successful groundball hitter. Dan Uggla and Jack Cust on the other hand are fly ball hitters.


Name Runs Swings
Carlos Gonzalez 1.8 69
Denard Span 1.5 68
Ichiro Suzuki 1.4 121
Robinzon Diaz 1.2 18
Trevor Crowe 1.2 17
Hideki Matsui -12.8 107
Adam LaRoche -13.4 145
Jayson Werth -13.5 138
Ryan Howard -13.8 231
Brandon Inge -14.0 120

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.


Name Runs Swings
Martin Prado 13.2 87
Michael Young 10.9 132
James Loney 10.2 83
Mike Cameron 8.8 113
Derrek Lee 8.3 116
Willie Bloomquist -7.1 121
Lyle Overbay -7.2 42
Jeff Francoeur -7.6 172
Edgar Renteria -8.5 132
Mark DeRosa -14.1 125

Derrek Lee likes the ball inside.


Name Runs Swings
Prince Fielder 30.7 249
Mark Teixeira 29.9 294
Ryan Braun 29.6 281
Adam Dunn 25.3 294
Andre Ethier 25.2 323
Augie Ojeda -10.9 128
Nick Punto -11.3 191
Luis Rodriguez -11.8 129
Ty Wigginton -12.0 219
Dioner Navarro -13.1 174

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.


Name Runs Swings
Adrian Gonzalez 8.2 156
Robinson Cano 7.2 175
Ryan Braun 7.2 101
Nick Markakis 6.3 178
Brad Hawpe 5.9 228
Pedro Feliz -10.5 129
Jimmy Rollins -10.7 301
Chase Utley -11.1 232
Curtis Granderson -13.3 252
Aaron Hill -13.6 152

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.


Name Runs Swings
Casey McGehee 5.1 84
Michael Young 5.0 85
Marco Scutaro 3.8 43
Seth Smith 3.8 14
Pablo Sandoval 3.1 81
Hunter Pence -7.1 77
Matt Holliday -7.7 85
Clint Barmes -8.0 75
Jhonny Peralta -8.6 85
Michael Cuddyer -10.3 123

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.


Name Runs Swings
Michael Cuddyer 10.7 186
Raul Ibanez 9.7 114
Aaron Hill 9.6 223
Kevin Youkilis 7.5 172
Todd Helton 7.4 168
Orlando Cabrera -10.3 204
Jason Giambi -11.3 109
Mike Cameron -11.6 122
Jose Bautista -11.9 136
Mark Reynolds -13.5 177

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.


Name Runs Swings
Albert Pujols 5.5 82
Matt Wieters 4.7 42
Chris Coghlan 4.7 76
Matt Kemp 3.9 56
Jacoby Ellsbury 3.8 58
Jimmy Rollins -6.0 110
Rafael Furcal -6.1 93
Jorge Cantu -6.4 56
Brian Roberts -7.3 76
Emilio Bonifacio -8.0 73

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.

Here's a spreadsheet containing all hitters with at least ten pitches swung at in a zone. And why not? Pitchers too.


I'd be interested to see these numbers over a couple of seasons, as the sample sizes are so small.

Good work nonetheless.

I never expected to say this, but...

Hopefully Granderson can learn something from Cano.

As to why Jeter would show up with such a terrible number on balls down/middle, my guess is that's where a lot of his GIDPs came from. He tops those and bounces 'em (usually fairly hard) right to the SS.

Odd that a lot of the leaders in total wRAA don't make the top 5 in any of the 9 categories. Mauer, Utley, Zobrist, and Hanley Ramirez totally absent. Well, not totally; Utley does appear, but in the bottom 5. Pujols makes the top 5 only on once for 5.5 runs. These guys must not have any weak spots at all (except Utley) and must be near the top 5 in the middle-middle category.

And how does Howard give away -20.4 runs in the two areas where he is in the bottom 5, never appear in the top 5, yet still end up with a +37.7 runs for the year?

Peter, I only included balls that were swung at. Ryan Howard drew 75 walks that weren't counted.


Is there a 2008 spreadsheet? is there any way to split the data by men on base vs. bases empty? I ask because I did a study on Cano that suggested his 2008 struggles were based on trying to pull everything, including that pitch middle-away, an issue he clearly fixed in '09. That's why I want to see how he did in that regard in '08.

As to my second question, I further suggested (only a suggestion, bc unlike for my first point, I didnt have enough data to do an actual study) that his career long struggles with runners on can be attributed to trying to pull the ball middle- outside with runners on base. Poor run values for that zone with runners on would point to me being correct, whereas unchanged run values would not.


Moshe Mandel

Moshe, all the data I used for this article is in the spreadsheets I provided. I've never analyzed Cano's struggles with men on base.

I figured. I was just wondering if you had ever created a similar sheet for 2008.

Could you add total pitches in each zone, so we can also see the swing%?

Jeremy - I need a clarification on your methodology. If a batter swings and misses on the first two pitches and ground out on the third are you giving him some minus value for esch swing and miss and then the full -.28 runs or so for the ground out? And if he swings and misses on the first two pitches but eventually walks does he get some minus value for the two strikes but no value for the walk? And if he gets a single after hitting two foul balls, does he get minus value for the two foul strikes, but only the normal linear weight value for the single? That is the only way that I can figure out that the top hitters run values for your nine categories are so much lower than their wRAA.

Brian, I don't have those numbers available.

Peter, the two swings and misses count, but the groundout cancels them out, since the expected run value on an 0-2 count is so low. I used Joe P. Sheehan's/John Walsh's methodology for run value and only included pitches in which the batter swung.

Hello Jeremy,

i would like to ask where you found information for your spreadsheets? I would like to update my MVP baseball rosters and and i need numbers for zones splitted vs. LHP and vs. RHP. Could you give me some advice, please.