FG on Fox: Toronto’s Altered Offensive Approach at Home

Going into the 2015 season, we had a pretty good idea that the Toronto Blue Jays were going to hit a lot of home runs. After all, they hit the third-most home runs in baseball during 2014, and then added Josh Donaldson; the pieces were there for a huge offensive season from the entire team. But even with the talented personnel and a hitter-friendly home stadium, 2015 was the kind of season that was probably on the high-end of expectations: the Jays hit 232 home runs, the most by any team since the Yankees hit 245 in 2012.

As Matt Snyder pointed out in late September, the 2015 Blue Jays were only the 14th team in major league history to have three players with 35+ home runs each, and were the first team to have three since the 2006 White Sox. Those players, of course, were Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion. Digging deeper into the stats, the offensive approach shown by those players at the Rogers Centre was a driving force behind the team’s power explosion.

By July, we had a sense that Donaldson was intentionally altering his plate approach at home to hit more homers: he was striking out more, walking less, and pulling the ball far more often when playing at the Rogers Centre than on the road. In short, he was being ultra-aggressive at the plate when at home, and it turned out to be a big part of what would become an MVP season for the third baseman. A quick look at the increase in his pull rate at home in 2015 when compared to 2013 & 2014 tells a big part of the story of his year:

Donaldson_Pull_Compare

Big power seasons often follow short-term increases in pull tendencies, and Donaldson was no different. And, looking further down the lineup, he wasn’t alone in changing his approach to get the most out of playing in Toronto’s hitter-friendly environment during 2015. Donaldson’s main partner in adopting these more aggressive changes was Bautista, who showed a few important tweaks to his Rogers Centre approach between 2014 and 2015. To begin with, he pulled the ball in Toronto more than he ever had before, owning the third-highest change in pull tendency out of all qualified hitters when at home.

Read the rest on Fox Sports.



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Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.


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MGL
Member
4 months 23 days ago

“….these large changes in approach seem to be intentional.”

For Donaldson, a 3.8% difference in pull percentage, while it looks big on a graph which is “blown up” (not a good way to present something, BTW), is only around 1 SD, which suggests that it could easily have occurred by chance alone.

rosen380
Member
rosen380
4 months 23 days ago

For 2015, among the 196 players with 200+ PA each at home and away, it isn’t even 1SD.

The ABS difference was 3.7% with a SD of 2.8%, so 3.8% would be just about as close to typical as you can get.

The big outliers are:
DIFF HOME AWAY PLAYER
12% 30% 42% Adam Lind
12% 37% 49% Kevin Pillar
10% 30% 40% Ian Desmond
10% 42% 52% Cody Asche
10% 40% 49% Chase Headley
9% 42% 52% Stephen Drew
9% 40% 49% Carlos Beltran
9% 31% 40% Marcel Ozuna
9% 39% 31% Brett Gardner
9% 45% 37% Torii Hunter
9% 58% 49% Jose Bautista

Bluebird in Boulder
Member
Bluebird in Boulder
4 months 23 days ago

Shout out to the Man in White! /s

Mr. Observant
Member
Member
Mr. Observant
4 months 23 days ago

Perhaps L’Homme en Blanc might share the signs with some other Jays aside from their three best sluggers?

Shirtless George Brett
Member
Shirtless George Brett
4 months 23 days ago

Chris Colabello posting a 142 wRC+ suggests that he does share them with the others as well ;)

rolliesmustache
Member
rolliesmustache
4 months 23 days ago

Funny thing about Ryan Goins was that he actually pulled the ball more in 2015 than he did in 2014. Both him and Pillar posted improved swinging strike rates in ’15 and swung less at balls outside of the strike zone. I think you’re right about a tweak in approach amongst the power hitters but it seemed to me that improved plate discipline from the hitters later in the lineup helped matters too.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Member
4 months 23 days ago

This could also be the impact of a new hitting coach in 2015 with a new philosophy and possibly supported by better analytics!

(Why isn’t analytics in my dictionary?)

StroShow
Member
4 months 23 days ago

Random question:
How does Fangraphs or FOX choose which article gets to be a “FG on Fox” article? Do they request the subject matter?

I mean, I love the Jays and they’re my favorite team, but it seems weird to see Jays articles on Fox, who show almost no Jays games (they need to get to the playoffs heh) and feature what is likely an entirely US reader base. This isn’t the first article from FG on Fox about the leagues only non-US team too. You’d think FOX would benefit more from a bombastic headline like, “With Chapman, Yankees bullpen not expected to be any better”. That sounds more FOX-like and would probably get more readers, and therefore more FG exposure.

Anyway, I’m wondering about the selection process.

Jonah Pemstein
Member
Member
4 months 23 days ago

Nice post. I helped Eno out with a similar one a while back about the Rockies – IIRC, the data showed big differences in pull%, but that part didn’t make it into Eno’s article.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/insider/story/_/id/13227274/does-coors-field-make-rockies-hitters-worse-road-mlb

You need ESPN insider though.

stuck in a slump
Member
stuck in a slump
4 months 23 days ago

So now I’m wondering if we should expect to see a similar shift from Tulowitzki, and if so, how we should expect that to play out over a full year.

RichW
Member
RichW
4 months 22 days ago

The Rogers Centre was 15th in HR park factor in 2015 with Donaldson and was 3rd in 2014 without him. How was the Rogers Centre part of this?

rolliesmustache
Member
rolliesmustache
4 months 19 days ago

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/sortable/index.php?cid=1821794

Click on the Home HR column. Jays RH hitters are #1 by a significant margin at the Dome.

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