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  1. Joey Votto’s struggles in the Florida State League are largely attributed to an organizational rule that was put in place by Dan O’Brien. It was required that Votto take the first pitch of every plate appearance–a rule Votto hated.

    Comment by camisadelgolf — November 22, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  2. How does this bode for a player like Matt Wieters who had all the hype in the world but it disappeared quickly because all of his power has been opposite field

    Comment by Josh — November 22, 2010 @ 11:48 am

  3. yes, such a rule doesn’t fit a guy like Votto who might need all three strikes to get a good yank.

    It’s better for high contact singles guys that swing too much.

    Comment by joeIQ — November 22, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

  4. I’d love to see if this is translatable to determine who may be moving in the direction that Votto did.

    Comment by Jonny — November 22, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  5. Another catcher who hits the ball with power to the opposite field is Buster Posey. Winning rookie of the year certainly doesn’t get you labeled a late bloomer, but he certainly came up and hit for more power than most people expected from him.

    Comment by Matt — November 22, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

  6. I have to think that Votto’s breakout was predictable, because to some extent I predicted it in my ‘Dark Horse Chronicles’ piece for beyondtheboxscore.com’s fanposts. I think there might be something to the opposite field power theory, but that wasn’t what made me think he could be an elite player this year. I saw his plate disapline to be similar to another first basemen who can on slowly and is now among the game’s best: Kevin Youkilis. Players like Votto and Youk have such good pitch recognition that they are bound to start hitting mistakes hard.

    Comment by matt s — November 22, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  7. Beat me to it. He was the first name that came to my mind as well.

    Comment by hairball — November 22, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

  8. Any notable minor leaguers that fit the same mold that we should watch out for?

    Comment by Rob — November 22, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  9. What I find interesting is that everyone seems to think Votto should be the run away MVP winner while Pujols nearly matched him in WAR on Fangraphs and actually surpased him in WAR on Baseball Reference. Pujols also has the track record defensively, and Fangraphs might be undervaluing his defense this year as he consistenly wins the Fielding Bible award at first base running away every year. If a regular guy had Pujols stat line this year, we’d be talking about a neck and neck race for MVP, but I guess Pujols has to be measurably better than anyone else to win at this point in his career – tangent rant ended.

    Comment by JohnOrpheus — November 22, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  10. Does anyone else think Logan Morrison fits this mold? Lefty, same size as Votto, hits the ball hard to left field.

    Comment by Khurrum — November 22, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

  11. Pull hitters are pull hitters because they rely on meeting the ball with the bat at a specific spot in front of the plate every time. This generates more bat speed because you can make a longer stroke, and it’s why you see mashers like Ortiz, Pena, Dunn etc, hit lasers with regularity, but mainly to one specific area of the field. It requires slightly better timing, and assuming equal ability to pick up pitches, you generally get fooled by offspeed pitches more frequently. As you might guess – this is a clear disadvantage to have to meet the ball in the same plane every time and to be forced to have better timing, but the thing is, the pull hitters you see in the bigs all ridiculously talented, and if they could “fix” their pull tendency they’d have much more success. They only survive because they have insane raw skill.

    As a pull hitter myself, my hands are hardwired to snap and get out ahead of the ball. No matter how many BP sessions of sitting back and trying to spray the ball to the other way, my hands jump. There are reasons that big leaguers can’t unlearn it.

    Players that you are citing who have power to the opposite field simply have better hitting mechanics. They are able to square the barrel and keep it on plane and in the strike zone for a longer period of time, generating hits to all fields. Assuming equal ability – this of course is going to translate into just being flat out a better hitter. Yes, you have the Sheffields and the brutes of the world who on sheer skill alone rope the ball to the pull field – but these hitters are in a way anomalies.

    In the end, it’s impossible to say why or how Votto really developed his power, but it likely has little to do with him being an oppo field hitter. Could you have guess he would be a good contact hitter because of it? Definitely. If you see a guy in the minors consistently hitting line drives to all fields, yes, he is likely to keep developing well, as his has great hitting mechanics. But the power… seems unrelated.

    Comment by Cape Leaguer — November 22, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  12. I don’t think he’s running away with it over Gonzalez and Pujols, but I think most people assume he would get it because his team made the playoffs.

    Comment by Khurrum — November 22, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  13. I don’t know about Smoak but as a Mariner fan i am hopeful that Smoak can provide this kind of power to Right field. Is he a pull hiitter or can he hit to all fields.

    Comment by chris d — November 22, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  14. I though most people were past that arcane component of MVP voting. Also, Pujols won in2008 when the Cards had must worse season than last year and Ryan Howard slugged the Phillie’s into the playoffs. I think it has more to do with the sentiment that if someone has a comparable year to Pujols, give it to that guy because Pujols has won enough awards.

    Comment by JohnOrpheus — November 22, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  15. Yeah, Posey definitely exhibited more power than was expected, but after watching his swing be consistently the smoothest right-handed swing ever, it’s not an astonishing result.

    Comment by Nate — November 22, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

  16. Well, looking at his splits, he certainly looks like a dead pull hitter.

    Comment by hairball — November 22, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  17. I can see where that MIGHT be a necessity to develop a player.

    In the minors, the emphasis is on “hitting” your way yo the majors. So, the tendency might be for guys to hack away, all the time … and basically form a style/habit that has low chances of success in MLB.

    I’m not a fan of zero tolerance type policies, where everyone has to do the same thing regardless of ability, etc. But, sometimes, they do serve a prupose (you have to compare the pros/cons).

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

  18. i think people are giving CarGo a tough time because he plays half his games in Coors. idk if it makes that much of a difference, but i think we should recognize his great season anyways. although i think that he is a distant third to votto and pujols…

    Comment by phoenix — November 22, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  19. Interesting stuff. Hope this bodes well as comeback years for guys like Kemp and J. Upton, who, according to Hit Tracker, had some success last year going the opposite way.
    http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2010_149&type=hitter

    Comment by Trey — November 22, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  20. Plus, “Pujols had a down year” … so he can’t win. *Shrugs*

    I’m not an MVP supporter of Tulo, but what he did at the end of the year and as a SS is going to get some votes.

    Votto gets a lot of talk at SBAR sites because he leads in thing such as RC+, wOBA, etc … and he is a great hitter (anyone with a BABIP that high for multiple years, hits the poop out of the ball). However, his MVP award might not be because of sabermetrics inclusion, it could just be that he’s the best hitter on a division winner in a year when both Pujols and Howard aren;t putting up their usual gawdy numbers … Pujols *only* hit .312 to go with his 42 homers and 115 RBIs.

    So, sites like this one and others will tout this as “wOBA beats HRs” or “WAR wins over RBIs”, it could very well just be “division winner vs. not”, since they are rather close in stats, and in the same division. Pujols could just as easily win, and be just as deserving.

    You’ll know sabermetrics mean something when Chase Utley and/or Ryan Zimmerman win or damn near win an MVP.

    Votto or Pujols? Yes.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  21. The simple answer, to the question, is IMO oppo hitters don;t get the same type of attention … and/or perhaps their oppo power is assumed to be diminished at the ML level where pitcher velocity is higher.

    Guys like Votto and mauer go oppo because of swing path, not because of slower bat speed. Mauer pulling the ball is darn near an automatic ground out.

    I would imagine scouts like to see “bat speed” and equate pulling the ball with bat speed.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

  22. Could this explain why Adam Lind was a late bloomer (and could still improve even more)?

    Comment by SP — November 22, 2010 @ 1:46 pm

  23. I think it’s a shame that people are willing to discount CarGo playing in Denver, but completely ignore the fact that he played center field a lot (and the outfield corners the rest of the time), and Pujols and Votto are playing first. Yes, their bats are incredible, but if it’s really going to the most VALUABLE player, should guys who place first get penalized for that? I mean, it is the position where players who can’t play anywhere else get placed.

    Comment by Matt — November 22, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  24. Small sample, but his HR plots certainly don’t look like those of a dead-pull hitter (though the only HR he hit to RF in an M’s uniform was hit at Angels stadium, not Safeco).

    Comment by joser — November 22, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  25. Oh, yeah. And the plus plate discipline can’t hurt.

    Comment by TK — November 22, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

  26. I believe Eric Hosmer fits this mold

    Comment by Mike Williams — November 22, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  27. An example from the past (but not in the same class as Votto, obviously):

    Danny Tartabull

    Comment by Mike Williams — November 22, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  28. But what exactly has the predictive power here? Aren’t there lots of players who have unremarkable lines similar to Votto’s in the minors, yet few who develop into all-fields power hitters like he has? What do we look at to filter das Vottos from the ordinary slapengrüven?

    Comment by joser — November 22, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  29. Smoak’s a switch hitter, so I’m curious how you’re drawing meaningful conclusions from his homerun chart without info about which side he was batting from.

    Comment by JCP — November 22, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  30. From what i’ve heard, Eric Hosmer has pretty good Oppo field power.

    Same withou Moustakas.

    And both those guys have already been perceived as ‘busts’ early on in their career.

    Comment by Tony — November 22, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  31. Or it could be attributed to the fact that the FSL is a notoriously difficult place to hit, among the hardest in the professional baseball, especially to hit for power.

    That’s not to say the O’Brien rule didn’t affect Joey, but it looks like everything was still in proportion, just down across the board.

    Comment by Rick — November 22, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  32. I think it was a virtual tie production-wise, but all the standard tie breakers went in Votto’s direction, making him the “clear choice”. I imagine most voters would agree.

    Comment by Rick — November 22, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  33. Adam Lind had great opposite field power in his breakout season, but lost just about everything last year.

    I hope he still has some pop left in him, because he was simply fantastic in his breakout season.

    Comment by Matt Defalco — November 22, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  34. I think the question is the composition of that minor league line. Generating the line while hitting to all fields suggests a brighter future than doing so while pulling the ball.

    I wonder if there’s a link between the all-fields vs. pull approach that lends itself to having fewer holes in one’s swing and thus being more reliable as the player advances.

    Comment by Rick — November 22, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  35. Isn’t Edgar Martinez another opposite field power hitter who confounded early coaches, etc., and basically developed late as an MLB hitter?

    Comment by Rusty — November 22, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  36. Ah, good point. Forgot about that.

    Comment by joser — November 22, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  37. I guess I could go through the list and look at the handedness of this pitchers but… no, not today.

    This does point out kind of a flaw in HitTracker’s presentation of their data, however (not a big one, since there aren’t all that many switch-hitting power hitters, but still)

    Comment by joser — November 22, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  38. Okay, except BR WAR – Pujols 7.2 to Votto’s 6.2
    Fangraphs WAR – Votto 7.4 to Pujols’ 7.3
    Pujols avg. WAR – 7.25 to Votto’s 6.8
    Seems to me that’s a pretty significant tie-breaker Pujols won.

    Comment by JohnOrpheus — November 22, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

  39. Also Hosmer’s new comparable, Brandon Belt. Although some of that power is starting to develop in the minors, he’s not a guy who projects to hit a lot of homeruns, but as one scout recently put it, “he hits the ball hard from line to line”.

    Comment by Giant Torture — November 22, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  40. Agree to an extent. Some pull hitters have learned that their swing is tailored to pull the ball and instead of re-inventing their swing they change their approach. I don’t agree that pull hitters get fooled more often by breaking pitches because of two guys named Williams and Bonds who were prodigious pull hitters who rarely got fooled. Obviously, they’re in a different class, but I think the point still stands.

    As for your assessment of guys who develop opposite field power later on, I think it has to do with development. When you first learn to hit the ball the other way, you’re just trying to square the ball up and make solid contact while keeping your front-side in. As these guys develop their timing gets better and they’re able to put a full swing on the ball while driving it the other way, instead of putting a full swing on it, getting out in front and hitting a nubber to the 3rd baseman. Sure good mechanics are key, but I think it’s something that takes longer to develop than pull power.

    Lastly, if only I could go back, but learn to hit the ball the other way, Bonds is a great example for guys who want their hands and wrists to snap and want to pull everything. He pretty much took the same pull swing, just allowed the ball to get in deeper and drove the ball to the opposite field. Tee work helps with this, move the ball back further in your stance and learn to put a good swing on it. If not you’ll wind up like a lot of us, who didn’t learn and never even got a cup of coffee as a result.

    Comment by Giant Torture — November 22, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  41. The theory “that players whose power is primarily to the opposite field develop differently, and are viewed less favorably early in their careers, than players with obvious pull power” is a significant insight so long as we don’t overstate (as the title of the article implicitly does and many of the comments explicitly do).

    Cape Leaguer correctly assess that the statistics that are being interpreted in the article directly correlate to mechanics. His insight about the persistence of habit for the dead pull hitter is central to why statistical models translate as well as they do to performance for hitters: mechanics are hard to change when the ball comes in at 95 mph or breaks hard. In a game that requires such quick reaction time mechanics are likely to change very little, especially in periods of adjustment to better competition (aka the minor league system).

    In order to have seen the potential for this year’s potential MVP you could not have truly differentiated him statistically from many of his peers. The numbers are derivatives of mechanics, and the derivatives can get us only so far. Opposite field power is perhaps a significant statistical measure, but statistically predictable breakouts are few and far between since the numbers will never tell the whole story.

    My experience with player projection (which the title puts at the heart of this article): I’ll always trust a scout before I trust a statistical analyst, and I’ll always trust a statistically-oriented scout before I trust a scout.

    Comment by jimnvox — November 22, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

  42. An interesting thing is guys who hit to ALL fields– like Derek Jeter, who has a higher BABIP and ISO to the opposite field, but not the insane splits as the guys you mentioned. He’s just as good pulling the ball as he is going oppo.

    Jeter wasn’t a late bloomer, or an early bloomer, or a middle bloomer… he just kinda maintained a very steady rate of production throughout his career.

    Any other guys like him?

    Comment by Temo — November 22, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

  43. No, Rick. That’s not possible. Nice try, though.

    Comment by camisadelgolf — November 22, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

  44. For every Gary Sheffield there are many Doug Mirabelli’s

    Comment by chulton — November 22, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

  45. C’mon now, Dougie was a stud who hit bombs.

    Comment by SMK — November 22, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  46. wait – i just saw the top 10 in mvp voting – where was Zimmerman? i thought that he was clearly the best option according to Cameron? did the voters just forget him? hmm, maybe b/c his stats this year were so…forgettable.

    Comment by Conshy Matt — November 22, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  47. Ed DeCaria wrote two articles during 2009 about using opposite field home runs to predict a power breakout the following year at http://www.BaseballHQ.com, but I believe they are available to subscribers only. The thought was that those guys already have sufficient power: they just need to pull the ball more frequently to see their HR totals rise. The results were pretty striking as I recall.

    Comment by Detroit Michael — November 22, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

  48. David Ortiz is known for his opposite field power as much as pull power.

    Comment by Grant — November 22, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

  49. Players that you are citing who have power to the opposite field simply have better hitting mechanics. They are able to square the barrel and keep it on plane and in the strike zone for a longer period of time

    Simply put, the bottom of their swing path, or arch, is flatter … where power hiters generally have the “true” C-path swing.

    They don’t generate bat speed because of this … bat speed is like throwing velocity … you got it or you don’t. What happens, is the elite power hitters (i.e., bat speed ~100 mph) get away with the C-path swing more than others, because when they do square it up, it goes a long, long way.

    Pujols, for example, only has a bate speed of around 86 mph, which is in the realm of doubles hitters. He’s unusual in this regard. However, the bottom part of his swing is basically flat, which means the barrel is in the strike zone longer, so when he connects with an outside corner pitch, the ball strikes the barrel versus the bottom part of the bat. It’s really very interesting (Edgar Martines, same way)

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  50. I would not be a bit surprised if “division winning team” was THE reason Votto wins over Pujols. Had it been the other way around, particularly given the highly visible 3-game series in Cincy … that Pujols would be accepting another MVP award.

    Both guys had great seasons, and there’s really no reason that he and Pujols, and the Reds and Cards don’t battle head-to-head all next year as well.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

  51. Not so much an opposite field power hitter. He would hit the occasional home run to right field, but most of his home runs (as I recall them) were to left and center. He hit a great many of his double to right and right center though, and plenty of singles too. Pretty much fit the “sprays to all fields” mold as a hitter.

    Comment by Nathaniel Dawson — November 22, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  52. CarGo still trailed in WAR, even though CF’s have a lower replacement level than 1B.

    The thing to remember, given the quality of hitter at 1B, a 3 WAR 1B is a very good stick.

    What the WAR is saying is that Votto and Pujols’s bats were great enough to be more valuable than CarGo’s bat + glove.

    Almost anyone can play 1B defensively, but not everyone can hit well enough to accumulate 6-7 WAR at that position.

    I do agree that CarGo had a great season at an important defensive position. He and Tulo likely split votes due to being on the same team.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  53. Votto was big in WPA (even showed it on ESPN).

    IMO, when WARs are that close, it basically a push.

    I don’t have a problem withthe “division winner” being a tie-breaker. It matters.

    Albert had just another, ho-hum, .300-30-100 season.

    Votto did better in essentially all of the advanced metrics.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

  54. Mike Piazza. Classic opposite field power.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 22, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  55. But does he have the same contact skill? Votto hits for a high average, which helps drive OBP and also pumps up slugging.

    Comment by Alireza — November 22, 2010 @ 11:48 pm

  56. I can think of plenty of crummy pull hitters; are there guys who you would say have good opposite field power but are lousy overall hitters? Because if not, then we’re just confusing good opposite field hitter with good hitter.

    Comment by Nick Smith — November 22, 2010 @ 11:49 pm

  57. Cito says: “Pull ‘em all!” … and hard.

    Comment by Someanalyst — November 23, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  58. Not sure why you’re down playing the mechanical aspects of bat/pitch speed, CC11. Velocity especially can be generated in a lot of ways other than just “having it”. Torque, stride length, scap load, et cetera.

    Comment by TCQ — November 23, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

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