Crowdsourcing: Roger Maris’ Batting Profile

Recently it was brought to my attention that Roger Maris had a career BABIP of 0.254. This value seems low for him or any player with an extended major league career. In the video I have seen of him, he looks like a line drive hitter. With your help, I would like to find out what kind of batted ball profile Maris had over his career.

Maris’ BABIP was always low throughout his career. In his first MVP season of 1960, it was 0.255. In 1961, the season when he hit 61 home runs, it was 0.209. It averaged anywhere from 0.209 to 0.287 over his career.

Since 1920, exactly 717 hitters have accumulated over 5000 PA. Of these players, Maris has the 11th lowest BABIP. Some notable players ranked around him are Dave Kingman, Harmon Killebrew, Rocky Colavito and fittingly, the player that ended up breaking his single season home run record, Mark McGwire. Most of these players are the type of players that intentionally swung for the fences.

From the video I have seen, Maris didn’t have the huge upper cut in his swing. Here are four videos of his swing. Three are home runs #59, #60 and #61 from when he was chasing Babe Ruth‘s single season home run record in 1961. The other was of a swing during batting practice.

I am not the best judge of swings, but Maris doesn’t seem to have a big upper cut in his swing. He seems like a line drive hitter.

To look for similar types of hitters, I went back to his BABIP and got some possible comparisons. I looked at batters from 2001 to 2010, years when batted ball data was available, that had over 1800 PA and a similar BABIP. There were 7 players with within 5 points of Maris’ BABIP (Rafael Palmeiro, Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Carlos Quentin, Joe Crede, Jose Valentin, Damion Easley). The average batted ball data for these players was:

LD: 18%
GB: 34%
FB: 48%
HR/FB% of 10.7%.

These batters loved to either hit a fly ball or a ground ball. They were not line drive hitters. Also, these batters didn’t have elite HR/FB% numbers.

Another note on this group and Maris was that they were slow. The group averaged a Speed Score of 3.3 while Maris’ was 3.7 over his career. Some players with similar Speed Scores in 2011 are Raul Ibanez and Joey Votto. These players are not at the Adam Dunn slowness level (0.9 speed score), but they are not speedsters either.

With this background information, I would like to ask the following question to our readers:

What type of hitter was Roger Maris?

Was he a line drive hitter that he looks like to me in the videos? Or was he an extreme fly ball hitter that the stats suggest? I would like to hear from readers on the types of batted balls Maris hit when he was playing. Thanks.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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