If you’re a supernerd like me, you were sitting around the other day and thought to yourself, “Hmm, I wonder where each batter is more likely to take a ball?” I’ve never seen a study done on this, so I went into this as the proverbial babe in the woods. Whilst there I slayed a couple of wolverines and emerged alive with a good majority of my sanity and a couple of pretty charts and a table that I hope you find interesting.
I downloaded the pitch data and filtered out anything that wasn’t called a ball. Next, I created a pivot table that allowed me to total the number of pitches that were greater than 8.5″ and less than -8.5″ on the horizontal axis (using a true plate-width). I then divided this number into the total number of balls called. I did the same for the top and bottom of the zone using the average of all their plate appearances. The astute reader will notice that this is going to create some overlap in the regions up-and-away or down-and-in, etc… I don’t anticipate this being a problem for our purposes, just know that the percentages will not total 1. The following table was the result of all of this:
The above chart shows the breakdown of if a guy took a ball, where it most likely missed. Green cells mean that the % was higher than team average, while red means below team average. The most immediate thing to stand out is that when a pitcher misses, it’s probably going to be above the top of the strike zone. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as there’s a lot of room to miss high, while inside there is only a sliver, as shown by the higher likelihoods of a guy getting a ball away.
Burrell stands out as a real oddity as he took a ton of balls inside. My theory is that pitchers constantly challenged him there, rather than away, so that when they missed it was more likely to be inside. Who cares since the bum is off the team, but it could have made a nice follow-up. Take what you will from the table, and please be sure to comment or e-mail or tweet me any questions that might come up trying to interpret this. Before closing, I also put together some radar charts that I think came out pretty sweet. I’ve split these up into righties, lefties, and switch-hitters. These show the percentages in each direction for each batter and you will definitely want to open in a new window to get anything meaningful out of this:
click images to view full-size
I think these definitely show how the percentages are higher for pitches away, while the majority of balls are up in the zone. Please feel free to get at me with any questions, because as I mentioned earlier, this is kind of a new thing and I’m sure there are better ways to look at this and present it. I’d love to hear any ideas.