More teams are shifting ever before. More teams shifted yesterday than the day before, and the day before that. More teams will shift tomorrow than did so today. This is the world we live in. The affects have been debated by TOP MEN, but it’s safe to say that more pulled balls in play are being turned into outs than ever before due to these goddam scientists and their charts.
The fool continues to run into the same wall everyday while the enlightened build a ladder. It stands to reason that if more pulled balls are being turned into outs then teams should place a greater priority on hitting the ball to all fields. Which teams are showing an aptitude for this approach and is it directly translating to better offense? Let’s start with league splits to get a frame of reference that will be used throughout:
wOBA* adjusts for park using my park factors , though I have made no adjustments for league. Lefties have the advantage going oppo compared to righties as they do it more often with more success. We see that lefties go up the middle more, too, but see drastically worse results compared to righties, and up the middle is interesting because wOBA* is very close while Babip is not. The inference here is that righties seem to hit up the middle for more power, but fewer base hits. Let’s look at the entire league for each split:
Despite Joyce’s new found “hit it where they ain’t” narrative and Loney’s actually pretty good opposite field approach the Rays come in dead last for the percent of balls in play that go to the opposite field at roughly 13%. They carry a sub-league average Babip at .267 with their wOBA* only slightly higher. The last column, wRAA*, compares our adjusted wOBA figure to the league average for the split and weights for plate appearances to get an idea of runs scored compared to average. The Rays have close to 2 less runs than average on lefty oppo shots placing them dead last. How about the righties:
The righties fare a little bit better as they’re going to right field around 16% of the time. Below average, but at least closer to their leaguemates. We see a similar breakdown, no pun intended, of their rate stats as they’re close to three runs below the average. Tonight’s opponent, the Cleveland Indians, go oppo a ton so it might be a good idea to get in their kitchen early and often. How about pulling the ball:
Rays lefties pull the ball a ton compared to other teams with a full third of all balls in play going to right field. They’ve enjoyed a ton of success on this as balls often fall in for hits and equally do damage. Their 10.2 wRAA* paces the league with only Hatfield’s Miami Marlins coming appreciably close. This is a very good reason for why the lefties aren’t going opposite field all that much. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Let’s switch over to the righties:
We’re still in the top third here at 29%, but the Babip is near league worst while league average is really very high. Production comes in a little closer to the norm at .447, but still trails which leads to the 5.5 runs below average figure. Here’s the lefties up the middle:
Pretty middle of the pack for balls back up the box at 54% with repressed Babip, wOBA*, and consequently wRAA*. Rays lefties are last in the league in wRAA* so it’s possible that they’re at their best when pulling the ball and should continue to focus on that direction over the others. Let’s go to the righties:
Meanwhile, our righties have seen some success on stuff up the middle even if they’re coming in around league average frequency. Their nearly 6 runs above average places them in the top-third of teams with both Babip and wOBA* looking healthy. All of this could be a function of overall hitting ability and it most certainly will paint a clearer picture at the end of the year instead of using this early endpoint, but this is what has happened so far.
In the next piece I’ll take a look at how each individual batter breaks down here, but this seems like a nice stopping point for now. The Rays do not seem to be able to adapt as well as some of their leaguemates after unleashing Frankenstein’s monster upon MLB. It’s impossible to say if this is a philosophical approach or just the results of this somewhat small sample, but as the season unfolds it might be something to keep an eye on. If lefties stop having as much success pulling the ball then Darwin would mutter something about needing to adapt as it takes another pull from his “e-cig”, but righties seem to be doing a better job of spraying the ball even if the results have been less than desirable thus far.