Here at The Hardball Times, we’re probably slightly obsessed with batted ball types. Earlier this week, Studes took a look at how some players fared relative to their line drive rates. Today, I’m going to try to take it a step further.
A player’s line drive rate doesn’t only affect the player’s Batting Average on Balls In Play. For one, over 2% of line drives become home runs. For another, line drives are much more likely to become doubles and triples than either fly balls or groundballs. So even if the same percentage of LD, GB, and FB became hits, each batted ball type would not be equal.
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look at which players performed better and worse than their batted ball type numbers would indicate. To do this, I took the rate at which LD, GB, and FB became singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. Next, I used this data to calculate expected singles, doubles, triples, and home runs for each player.
Before I show you which player’s had the biggest differences, let me make something clear: the difference between a player’s results and expectations in this survey is in large part a measure of skill. The hang time and distance of any batted ball is dependant on the hitter, so players may (and almost certainly do) hit ground balls, line drives, and fly balls harder or softer than is typical. In addition, faster players will convert more outs into singles, more singles into doubles, and more doubles into triples. So outperforming expectations from batted ball types indicates good power and/or speed. Keep in mind, though, that luck will still play a role.
One more note: no park adjustments were made in this article. That’s one of the next steps.
First, let’s take a look at the top hitters by extra hits per batted ball, minimum 400 plate appearances:
Jason Bay .086 Jim Edmonds .082 Manny Ramirez .081 Melvin Mora .080 Barry Bonds .075 Ichiro! .075 Adam Dunn .075 Jason Varitek .066 Travis Hafner .066 Mark Bellhorn .063
Not an unfamiliar list by any means. Most of these guys are excellent power hitters, with the speedy Ichiro! the lone exception. However, it could certainly be said that a lot of these hitters had career years in 2004. Here are the bottom ten:
Jason Phillips -.080 Scott Spiezio -.068 Desi Relaford -.062 Orlando Cabrera -.059 Rafael Palmeiro -.053 Craig Counsell -.049 A.J. Pierzynski -.045 Todd Walker -.042 Brad Ausmus -.040 Placido Polanco -.040
A lot of catchers and middle infielders here. Some of these players have a long history of being poor hitters, while others like Pierzynski, Polanco, and Palmeiro are pretty good hitters who had seasons out of line with their recent performance.
Now, let’s take a look at those who hit more home runs per batted ball than expected:
Barry Bonds .086 Adam Dunn .072 Jim Edmonds .069 Jim Thome .067 Sammy Sosa .059 Manny Ramirez .053 Adrian Beltre .049 Jason Bay .045 Paul Konerko .045 Mark Teixeira .045
This may be the least surprising list I’ve ever seen. Eight of those players ranked in the top ten in the league in home runs per batted ball. Here are the bottom ten:
Eric Young -.037 Brian Roberts -.035 Alex Cintron -.031 Chone Figgins -.031 Orlando Cabrera -.030 David Eckstein -.030 Chad Tracy -.029 Craig Counsell -.028 Jason Kendall -.028 Cesar Izturis -.028
A veritable who’s who of middle infielders, with everybody’s favorite HBP machine (Kendall) thrown in for good measure.
How about the most doubles and triples per batted ball?
Mark Bellhorn .043 Lyle Overbay .042 Travis Hafner .040 Matt Holliday .039 J.T. Snow .035 Jim Edmonds .034 David Ortiz .030 Orlando Hudson .029 Aaron Rowand .029 Royce Clayton .028
An interesting mix. We have a pair each of Rockies and Red Sox, which probably has a lot to do with Fenway and Coors Field – anytime Royce Clayton shows up on a list of positive offensive achievements, you can probably guess there’s a ballpark at fault. This list also includes J.T. Snow’s alien abduction performance, which was perhaps aided by his figuring out that SBC Park yields a lot of doubles. It should also be noted that part of the “skill” here comes from having well-hit fly balls stay doubles instead of becoming home runs, which helps explain Clayton and Hudson. That also establishes how remarkable Jim Edmonds’ season was, as he shows up in the top ten for both this list and the home run list.
Here’s the bottom 10:
Alex Cora -.034 Placido Polanco -.033 Scott Spiezio -.029 Steve Finley -.027 Pat Burrell -.027 Desi Relaford -.027 Aaron Miles -.027 Paul Konerko -.025 Edgardo Alfonzo -.025 Brad Ausmus -.025
An eclectic mix. Konerko and Finley both hit a bunch of home runs that probably brought down their doubles total. Cora perhaps also belongs in that category, as he hit 10 home runs but only 9 doubles and 4 triples.
Finally, let’s take a look at singles. The top 10 in extra singles per batted ball:
Ichiro! .101 David Newhan .066 Adam Everett .061 Juan Pierre .052 Melvin Mora .047 Aaron Miles .047 Luis Castillo .046 Ivan Rodriguez .045 Erubiel Durazo .042 Marcus Giles .041
The top name should surprise no one. The list is dominated by speedsters, but it may also suggest that Pudge and Durazo were supremely fortunate last season.
The bottom 10:
Jason Phillips -.044 Luis Gonzalez(Ari) -.041 Vinny Castilla -.040 Michael Barrett -.039 Mark Teixeira -.036 Todd Walker -.034 Tony Batista -.034 Ramon Hernandez -.033 Dmitri Young -.033 Chipper Jones -.032
An awfully slow bunch. Frankly, I’m getting tired of seeing lists with both Castilla and Batista. How rough was Jason Phillips’ season? He had fewer singles than his batted ball types would suggest, but he also had fewer doubles, fewer triples, and fewer home runs. Perhaps he’s hitting a healthy combination of infield pop-ups and weak ground balls or perhaps he just had the unluckiest season in baseball.