Team Corey vs. Team Geoff

When I think of Corey Patterson, I think of high cheese. Corey loves it.

When I think of Geoff Jenkins, I think of golf shots. Geoff seemed to hit them.

Back in the early days of PITCHf/x—you know, 2007—I surprised no one when I found that Corey Patterson was one of the most likely hitters to swing at a high fastball. No eyebrows were raised when I found that Geoff Jenkins loves to go after low pitches. While wading around in the 2009 data, I decided to put together two teams in honor of each. Adding two more in dishonor of each also seemed appropriate.

Building the teams

This is simple:find the hitters with the most extreme swing rates on low or high pitches. Using 2009 data* I identified the hitter at each position** who best or worst exemplified Corey or Geoff.

*minimum of 30 low or high pitches seen
**I took some mild liberties with playing time

Using the average strike zone limits provided over the last few years by PITCHf/x for each hitter, I defined a low pitch as any that crossed the front plane of home plate below the bottom of the hitter’s zone. I was a little more liberal with the high pitch range, including not only pitches above the hitter’s zone, but those within the top quarter. The criteria for inclusion was swing rate—be the highest or lowest at your position and you’ve made a team. No DH, no pitchers.

You’ve probably seen several combination of PITCHf/x and run values here at Hardball Times and elsewhere. I’m on the bandwagon. I’m using them here to measure performance on pitches in the criteria zones and, for comparison, overall. Roughly speaking, the idea is which is better, a team of high- or low-ball swingers? and How do they compare to teams made up of guys who are their opposites? Team Corey, Team Geoff, the Anti-Corey and the Anti-Geoff.

The teams

Team Geoff Low Swing % rv100 All rv100
c Bengie Molina 45 0.533 12.4 269 11.4
1b Chad Tracy 41 0.512 9.3 249 7.2
2b Kazuo Matsui 59 0.475 6.5 331 5.9
3b Pablo Sandoval 55 0.564 16.0 298 12.6
ss Miguel Tejada 58 0.448 7.2 348 9.5
lf Carlos Guillen 42 0.429 18.8 337 3.6
cf Rick Ankiel 59 0.492 3.7 301 3.9
rf Micah Hoffpauir 35 0.457 16.1 151 9.7
394 0.490 10.6 2284 7.7

Most of the low-ball guys are performing about as well on the low pitches as they are overall. They should be higher on the pitches out of the zone, since every count yields a positive value when the pitcher throws a ball. Although that will really only benefit the Anti-Jenkins. The two glaring exceptions are Guillen and, to a lesser extent, Hoffpauir. Guillen and Ankiel are stinking it up. As a group, the team’s rv100 for the season is less than eight, which is not bad, and is good enough for second place in this contest. These guys like the low stuff, and it would be a good idea not to give it to them.

Anti-Geoff Low Swing % rv100 All rv100
c Chris Iannetta 35 0.114 4.7 273 1.6
1b Lyle Overbay 57 0.070 11.2 279 5.8
2b Marco Scutaro 68 0.088 10.6 498 6.1
3b Ty Wigginton 35 0.114 4.1 270 0.3
ss J.J. Hardy 54 0.111 7.6 328 1.5
lf Juan Rivera 39 0.077 15.0 259 6.9
cf Franklin Gutierrez 41 0.122 11.9 323 7.2
rf Austin Kearns 56 0.054 13.7 270 6.6
385 0.091 11.2 2500 4.6

The hitters who dislike the low-ball comprise the weakest line-up of the four. The biggest drags don’t have the highest pitch totals, but they provide enough combined weight, with no counter-balance, to bring the team a full three runs down from their opposites.

They’ve been wise to lay-off the low stuff, because they’re apparently not doing much of anything elsewhere. A low pitch is probably a mistake with these guys. They’ll just take it for a ball, but some of them probably won’t do anything with strikes, either.

Team Corey High Swing % rv100 All rv100
c Bengie Molina 87 0.609 14.9 269 11.4
1b James Loney 82 0.524 10.1 423 9.8
2b Clint Barmes 55 0.636 12.9 240 8.6
3b Nick Green 71 0.606 5.3 191 6.6
ss Jack Wilson 47 0.660 6.3 178 8.0
lf Scott Hairston 62 0.629 3.5 206 9.2
cf Marlon Byrd 60 0.683 20.0 242 15.0
rf Josh Hamilton 53 0.698 2.6 257 4.1
517 0.623 9.8 2006 9.2

OK, hang on, there’s enough Molina to go around, but Team Corey and Team Geoff have both claimed Bengie. Swings. At. Everything. And hits the snot out of it, too.

This is the best group of the lot, and their two rv100s are the closest together. The high-ball swingers are all doing well, with the exception of Hamilton and Green. Hamilton and Hairston are not doing well by swinging at the high pitches. In Hairston’s case, he should cut it out.

Anti-Corey High Swing % rv100 All rv100
c Jason Kendall 72 0.194 5.7 315 4.5
1b Nick Johnson 82 0.171 8.0 360 8.6
2b Mark DeRosa 111 0.234 7.6 420 4.7
3b Chipper Jones 31 0.226 8.8 254 7.1
ss Marco Scutaro 146 0.178 8.0 498 6.1
lf Nick Swisher 109 0.220 8.8 380 8.1
cf Curtis Granderson 102 0.216 7.6 435 3.6
rf Kosuke Fukudome 69 0.217 12.5 376 6.4
722 0.205 9.2 3038 6.1

Marco Scutaro has a callus on his shoulder where his bat sits. This group is saved by the Anti-Geoffs, but they have the lowest rv100 in their criteria zone. The guys who swing at those top of the zone and higher pitches three-times as often are outperforming them (slightly) on those pitches. Overall, the difference is three runs, so we’re looking at two very different groups of hitters to begin with.

The flaws

Defense? What about low- and high-ball pitchers? And bigger samples? And consistent criteria? And benches? This was a “lite” survey, and may actually raise some interesting questions for further analysis. Taking the run value distributions that Jon Hale and Max Marchi have been showing us and finding hitters that take optimal advantage of it—and those who defy it.

References & Resources
PITCHf/x data and strike zone inputs from Major League Baseball Advanced Media; Run Value inputs from Baseball Analysts

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