All Batted Ball Types, All The Time

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.

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