Batter/Pitcher Splits Crib Sheet

I don’t know about everyone else, but it can be somewhat difficult for me to keep track of all the different splits that are worth remembering. We all know that batters typically fair better against opposite-handed pitchers, but sabermetric knowledge has now progressed to the point where that’s not the only thing to keep track of anymore. What about batted ball splits? Does this pitcher throw a dominant changeup, and if so, what are the platoon splits for changeups?  How large of a sample size do I need before I can make assumptions about a player’s platoon split? It can be a lot of knowledge to remember, but it’s all important information in case you want to analyze a managerial move or lineup.

So below the jump, you’ll find a crib sheet for understanding lefty-right, batted ball, and pitch platoon splits. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Lefty-Righty Splits

    •Obviously, we all know that batters typically do worse when facing a same-handed pitcher (e.g. a lefty batter facing a lefty pitcher). However, we can’t make any overarching statements about how much batters struggle against same-handed pitcher; the size of a lefty/righty platoon split varies from batter to batter.
    •The same can be said for pitchers: while pitchers are normally better against same-handed batters, the size of a pitcher’s platoon split varies from pitcher to pitcher.
    •Batters don’t have their platoon splits stabilize until at least 1,000 plate appearances against each hand (around 2,000 for right-handed batters), while pitchers have their platoon splits stabilize much faster (500-700 plate appearances against both hands).

Batted Ball Splits

    •If a pitcher has an extreme batted ball profile – as in, they allow a high percentage of flyballs or groundballs – they will be more effective against batters that have a similar batted ball profile. In other words, if you put Tim Hudson (career 59% groundball rate) into a game against Johnny Gomes (career 51% flyball rate), I wouldn’t expect it to go well. Hudson would be more likely to succeed against someone like Derek Jeter, who has a career 57% groundball rate.
    •Batted ball splits can have just as large an impact on a matchup as lefty-righty splits, but they don’t come into play as often because most hitters and pitchers have a neutral batted ball profile.
    •Certain batted ball types are more likely to fall for hits than others. In 2010, line drives fell for hits 72% of the time, groundballs fell for hits 23% of the time, and flyballs went for hits 14% of the time. However, those percentages are based off BABIP, which excludes homeruns from its calculation; if you include homeruns, the flyball percentage bounces up to 21% of the time.

Pitch Splits

    •There has been lots of work done over the last couple years to determine if certain pitches are more effective against same-hand or opposite-hand batters. The general rule of thumb is that pitches that move horizontally (e.g. sliders) work best against same-handed hitters, while pitches that move vertically (e.g. curves, changeups) are most effective against opposite-handed hitters.
    •For a more complete list, here’s what I’ve been able to find over at Baseball Analysts and The Hardball Times:

Four-seam fastballs: Small platoon
Two-seam fastballs: Large platoon
Cutter: None
Sinkers: Medium platoon
Sliders: Large platoon
Changeups: Small reverse-platoon
Curveballs: Small reverse-platoon

    •In other words, pitchers should try and attack same-handed hitters with stuff like sliders, sinkers, and two-seam fastballs, while they should use changeups, curveballs, and cutters against opposite-handed batters. These are sweeping generalizations, though, and the optimal breakdown may vary depending on a pitcher’s movement and pitch repertoire.



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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

28 Responses to “Batter/Pitcher Splits Crib Sheet”

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  1. craigtyle says:

    I’d be interested in a deeper dive into the components of lefty-righty splits. For example, I would think that differentials in a batter’s K% vs. LHPs and RHPs would stabilize quicker than differentials in BABIP.

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  2. Bryce says:

    This, or something like it, should go in the sabremetrics library.

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    • Oh, I’ll be adding it there, no worries. There’s already a “Splits” section under the “Principles” tab, and this will get added to that content. Should be done later today.

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  3. phoenix2042 says:

    this is so cool. thanks!

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  4. Norm says:

    So pitchers that give up a lot of fly balls will do better against fly ball hitters?

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  5. Al Dimond says:

    I can think of an intuitive physical explanation for the statement that pitchers with extreme batted-ball profiles fare well against batters with similar extreme profiles, but I never would have guessed it was the case… is there a study about this I can read somewhere? This would seem to suggest a pitching strategy of climbing the ladder against fly-ball hitters… I wonder if that’s part of conventional pitching wisdom, or whether pitchers more typically try to “control” fly-ball hitters by throwing them sinkers and sliders, only to give up (presumably) hard-hit line drives.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      Al, I think it’s something like that. If you think about what’s going on, you can see how it might work out. With a groundball hitter against a groundball pitcher, you can imagine there’s going to be a whole lot of choppers and worm-burners, not helping the batter much. If it’s a flyball hitter, he’s able to get a little more loft on the ball, possibly leading to more line drives and low angle flyballs (the kind you get a lot of home runs and doubles from). A flyball hitter facing a flyball pitcher is probably going to get a lot of popups and shallow fly balls, while a groundball hitter might hit them square on the nose.

      Steve, I’ve heard of this before, but I’ve seen scant evidence of it (other than an ages-old study by Bill James). What kind of info are you basing this on?

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      • All the batted ball stuff was taken straight from research done in “The Book” by Tom Tango and MGL (pg. 90-92).

        So yup, FB hitters are worse against FB pitchers, although as a group they’re still better than GB hitters against either type of pitcher (as FB hitters are normally power hitters, while GB hitters are only rarely very good). I think a lot of it comes down to what the pitcher is good at doing – if they’re good at making batters pound it into the ground, then GB batters are definitely going to do that against them and likely make outs. And if a pitcher is good at getting batters to hit flyballs, they’re more likely to make FB hitters pop up than go yard.

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  6. Bill says:

    “Curveballs: Small reverse-platoon”

    This was surprising to me!

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  7. Travis says:

    Is there any truth to the notion that left handed hitters exhibit larger platoon splits? It seems that lefties tend to struggle more against same handed hitters than righty/righty.

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    • lester bangs says:

      That would make sense. if you can’t hit RHBs, you generally can’t play.

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    • Yup, this is true. In general, if you haven’t done the work to regress a player’s split, the safe assumption is that righties will have a smaller platoon split than lefties. I’m not sure if it’s been determined why exactly, but I like to think it’s part pitch selection and part familiarity. It’s not like lefties grow up getting copious amounts of practice hitting against left-handed pitchers.

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  8. Arjun says:

    This is kinda random, but what’s the definition of a line drive (versus a fly ball)? I assume a one-hop single is a line drive… is a gapper a fly ball? etc.

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    • Matt Lentzner says:

      This is the big shortcoming with batted ball types. It’s very subjective.

      A one hopper is definitely a ground ball, but that same ball speared by the pitcher would be a line-drive out. There is no objective definition of a line drive vice a fly that I know of.

      There’s also a bias depending on whether the ball was played for an out. Caught balls are more likely to be ruled flies while ones that drop are more likely to be line drives.

      There is also systematic biases introduced by where the scorer sits – IOW his view of the field.

      It’s a mess in my opinion and has very limited statistical usefulness.

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  9. Matt Lentzner says:

    I’m a little unsure what the difference is between a sinker and a two-seam fastball. I was under the impression that they are the same pitch.

    Steve, also it would be helpful if you could expound a little on the character of these splits. Are we talking differences in wOBA? Whiff rates?

    Thanks,

    Matt

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    • Matt- The differences I’m talking about with the L/R and Batted Ball splits are all wOBA differences. With the pitch splits it’s a little bit tougher to put an exact wOBA value on pitches, but the same concept holds: the splits are rating which pitch is most effective against a particular hand.

      That’s really vague, though, so I’m going to link you to all the research I found down below….someone else asked about that too.

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  10. Bossss says:

    Is there anyway we can get double splits like against righties at home or against lefties on the road? Or does Anyone know where you can access such information?

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    • Personally, I wouldn’t bother with splits like that – they’re meaningless and have no predictive value. If these sort of splits can take 1,000 PAs to stabilize, just think how long it’d take for a batter’s splits against righties at home versus away would take to become meaningful!

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  11. Ben Hall says:

    Steve–The end of this paragraph should be changed.

    •If a pitcher has an extreme batted ball profile – as in, they allow a high percentage of flyballs or groundballs – they will be more effective against batters that have a similar batted ball profile. In other words, if you put Tim Hudson (career 59% groundball rate) into a game against Johnny Gomes (career 51% flyball rate), I wouldn’t expect it to go well. Hudson would be more likely to succeed against someone like Derek Jeter, who has a career 57% groundball rate.

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  12. Jonesie says:

    Steve,

    Could we get a couple of links for any of the original Baseball Analysts/HBT work that covers the pitch type platoon numbers?

    Otherwise, this was a great read. Concise and meaningful. Excellent job.

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  13. lex logan says:

    Do sinkers and two-seam fastballs have a lot of horizontal movement? Otherwise it’s hard to understand the medium-to-large platoon splits for these pitches. Looks like the classic sinker-slider pitcher needs a curve or changeup to handle opposite hand batters. And how do knuckleballs and splitters fare?

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    • Matt Lentzner says:

      Simple answer is: yes. Sinkers and two-seamers have more horizontal movement than four-seamers.

      Essentially, a pitcher tilts the spin axis when he throws a sinker/two-seamer causing more of the spin to be applied to the tailing/boring actions and less to the “hop”.

      Splitters are essentially chanegups so we expect the platoon behavior to be similar.

      The movement from a knuckleball is pretty random so I would expect that there would be no platoon advantage. Having said that, there are not enough knucklers thrown by enough pitchers to make that determination empirically.

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  14. gabriel says:

    I must admit to being flummoxed by why two-seamers and sinkers show significant platoon splits, while changeups show the largest reverse-platoon tendency. The source of my confusion is that while the speeds of these pitches differ, their movement is very similar, with some drop and arm-side action. Anyone have an explanation?

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    • Matt Lentzner says:

      The model works like this:

      Slow pitches (ie not a fastball) are most effective when the move away from a batter. Fast pitches (four seam, two seam, sinker, cutter) are most effective when moving toward a batter. A changeup is a slow pitch that moves away from an opposite handed batter – hence the reverse split. A cutter is a fast pitch that moves toward a opposite handed batter – hence the reversed (compared to other fastballs) split.

      Pitches that have high horizontal components like sinkers/two-seamers and sliders have the most dramatic platoon splits while pitches with more vertical displacements like four-seamers and curves have smaller splits.

      We have one odd-ball here. The curve is slow and moves toward an opposite-handed batter and is reported to have a small but reversed split. This is something I will have to investigate.

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  15. Tom Hanrahan says:

    The flyball/groundball split was first proposed, I believe, by an ELias study in the late 80s. I wrote up a lengthy study in 2000 for SABR, which can be found in the 2003 publlicsaiton Best of By The Numbers.
    I would modify Steve’s assessment from The Book only slightly, to say that batted ball splits can be much GREATER than lefty/righty splits, altho as he said it happens less frequently since many hitters and pitchers do not have marked tendencies.

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