The Mets are hitting the wrong way

This morning I read in the Daily News that the Mets in 2009 had fallen under the spell of Tony Bernazard and this opposite-field hitting philosophy. “This is nuts,” I thought as I sipped my cappuccino. “I’ll post a THT Live on this later.” As it happens, as it always happens, somebody beat me to the punch. Rob Neyer was right on it. Rob explains why an over-emphasis on opposite-field hitting doesn’t make sense in today’s game. But, then he throws us numbers guys a bone:

Of course, we’re missing a key piece of information here. We know the Mets were last in the majors in home runs, but were they last in the majors in pulling the ball, too? And did individual players pull the ball significantly less in 2009 than they had in 2008?

Well, here’s where maybe I can contribute. What follows is a list of teams and their “pull fraction” in 2009. I consider a ball pulled if it was ultimately fielded by the third baseman, shortstop or left fielder for right-handed batters, and first or second baseman or right fielder for lefty swingers. This is only an approximation, but it’s good enough for a THT Live post. Here’s the list:

+------+--------------+---------------+-----------+
| Team | pulled_balls | balls_in_play | pull_frac |
+------+--------------+---------------+-----------+
| PHI  |         2016 |          4286 |    0.4704 | 
| SEA  |         2052 |          4377 |    0.4688 | 
| CLE  |         1980 |          4277 |    0.4629 | 
| BOS  |         1959 |          4260 |    0.4599 | 
| TBA  |         1874 |          4093 |    0.4579 | 
| SDN  |         1907 |          4198 |    0.4543 | 
| DET  |         1950 |          4323 |    0.4511 | 
| SLN  |         1961 |          4352 |    0.4506 | 
| TOR  |         2034 |          4518 |    0.4502 | 
| WAS  |         1895 |          4224 |    0.4486 | 
| PIT  |         1891 |          4225 |    0.4476 | 
| CHA  |         1927 |          4316 |    0.4465 | 
| TEX  |         1843 |          4129 |    0.4464 | 
| BAL  |         1996 |          4484 |    0.4451 | 
| MIL  |         1849 |          4175 |    0.4429 | 
| CHN  |         1875 |          4235 |    0.4427 | 
| ATL  |         1969 |          4449 |    0.4426 | 
| FLO  |         1887 |          4289 |    0.4400 | 
| HOU  |         1929 |          4395 |    0.4389 | 
| COL  |         1775 |          4060 |    0.4372 | 
| NYA  |         1937 |          4446 |    0.4357 | 
| ANA  |         1943 |          4475 |    0.4342 | 
| CIN  |         1858 |          4295 |    0.4326 | 
| SFN  |         1852 |          4317 |    0.4290 | 
| MIN  |         1903 |          4493 |    0.4235 | 
| KCA  |         1838 |          4357 |    0.4218 | 
| NYN  |         1899 |          4560 |    0.4164 | 
| OAK  |         1861 |          4477 |    0.4157 | 
| LAN  |         1865 |          4488 |    0.4156 | 
| ARI  |         1722 |          4167 |    0.4132 | 
+------+--------------+---------------+-----------+

So, you can see that the Mets are indeed near the bottom, #26 out of 30 teams. What about the individual players? With all their injuries last season, the Mets only had five players with at least 150 balls in play in both 2008 and 2009. Here are the pull fractions for those players.

+-----------------+----------+----------------+----------+----------------+---------+
| Name            | BIP_2008 | PULL_FRAC_2008 | BIP_2009 | PULL_FRAC_2009 | DIFF    |
+-----------------+----------+----------------+----------+----------------+---------+
| Tatis, Fernando |      202 |         0.4802 |      285 |         0.4526 | -0.0276 | 
| Castillo, Luis  |      269 |         0.2788 |      449 |         0.2984 |  0.0196 | 
| Beltran, Carlos |      489 |         0.5767 |      256 |         0.4688 | -0.1079 | 
| Church, Ryan    |      228 |         0.5000 |      197 |         0.4112 | -0.0888 | 
| Wright, David   |      483 |         0.4617 |      389 |         0.4087 | -0.0530 | 
+-----------------+----------+----------------+----------+----------------+---------+

As you can see, 4 out of 5 saw a significant decrease in the fraction of balls pulled. And the other guy (Castillo) rarely pulls the ball anyway. So, maybe the Mets really were drinking Bernazard’s Kool Aid. Weird.

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Comments

  1. Derek Carty said...

    Good stuff, John.  Using MLBAM’s data and classifying pull/center/push by launch angle, I actually have the Mets as leading the league in Pull% at 22.75% (Lg. Avg: 19.8%).  In 2008, they were on the opposite end of the spectrum at 17.7% (5th lowest in MLB).

  2. Jim G. said...

    What about balls hit up the middle that are handled by the 2nd basemen/shortstops? I wouldn’t consider anything hit to those positions from their standard placement to the center as “pulled.” Is that taken into account? Did you decide that there wasn’t enough of those hit to make a significant difference in the outcome? Or is this what you mean by “good enough for a THT Live post”?
    Regardless, I agree that the extreme “opposite field” philosophy is nuts. What about a happy medium, like a “go with the pitch” philosophy. Seems the would lead to more opposite field hitting in a more natural way.

  3. Nick Steiner said...

    What about a happy medium, like a “go with the pitch” philosophy. Seems the would lead to more opposite field hitting in a more natural way.

    Jim, I love you…

  4. John Walsh said...

    Jim G/

    The data I had at hand (Retrosheet play-by-play) allowed me to easily look at who fielded the ball.  Precise information on where the ball went was not available. It is available elsewhere (see Derek’s comment above), but analyzing it would have taken me time I didn’t have.

    As I wrote, it’s approximate, but good enough for our purposes.

  5. Craig said...

    The Mets didn’t hit because they had a lot of injuries to star players. This, in turn, affected the hitters who were not injured. Also, they had their first year in a hitter’s ballpark.

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