As Matthew told us about a couple of weeks ago a new age of baseball data is upon us. Sportsvision and MLBAM released the HITf/x data from April 2009, which gave us information on the speed and angle of the ball of the bat for all batted balls. One thing I was interested in is how the swings of high strikeout high home run hitters differ from those of non-home run low strikeout hitters. Since the data only covers one month we do not have enough data to analyze individual hitters in depth, so here I pooled two groups of hitter to get more data. I choose the most extreme strikeout/home run hitters and none home run/stikeout hitters to highlight the differences.
In the home run group I choose five hitters from last year with greater than 25% HR/FB and greater than 25% K/AB: Ryan Howard, Jack Cust, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome and Chris Davis. The non-home run group was five hitters with less than 5% HR/FB and under 10% K/AB: Placido Polanco, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall,Ichiro Suzuki and Ryan Theriot. For each group I plotted the speed of the ball off the bat versus the vertical angle of the ball off the bat, the vertical angle ranges form -90, a ball hit straight into the ground, to 90, a ball popped straight up. With a 0 angle hit being parrallel to the ground.
The non-HR hitters hit balls with a below 0° vertical angle slightly harder than HR hitters, but for balls with above 0° vertical angle HR hitters hit the ball much harder, with the difference increasing as the vertical angle increases. I guess that is not terribly surprising, HR hitters hit balls in the air very hard and non-HR hitters don’t. Balls on the ground they hit about the same.
One interesting difference is the angle where the speed peaks. I think that you can roughly interpret this as the vertical angle of the swing of the bat as it hits the ball. The greatest speed of the ball off the bat happens when the ball is hit squarely and this should result in the ball coming off the bat at the same angle as the swing of the bat. If you believe this interpretation it looks like the angle of the non-HR hitter’s bat as they hit the ball is just above 0°, roughly parrellel to the ground. While for the HR-hitters the angle is around 10 or 15°, a slight upper-cut.
When data from more months are released we will be able to analyze individual hitters in the same manner.
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