Power to All Fields

I’ll put an end to my quartet of splits-related postings by looking at one more area I find tremendously interesting – power to all fields. There are some guys in baseball who can only drive the ball when they turn on it, but they’ve figured out how to do that enough to make it work. Other guys, though, can launch a pitch to any part of the field. These guys have power to all fields. It doesn’t matter where you pitch them – if they hit it, it’s going a long way.

I browsed through the split data for guys with reputations for serious power. Here are the breakdowns of career ISO by field for three classic, big-time sluggers:

Adam Dunn:

To Left: .272
To Center: .294
To Right: .518

Mark Reynolds:

To Left: .449
To Center: .395
To Right: .267

Russell Branyan:

To Left: .377
To Center: .376
To Right: .456

Dunn and Reynolds both hit for power in any direction, but they have pretty significant gaps between their pull field and their opposite field. They are pull power guys who also are strong enough to hit one out the other way when they make contact, but they’re not your traditional “power to all fields” type of hitter. Branyan is much more like that, and is among the best examples of this description. When he makes contact, he’s going to hit the crap out of the ball more often than not.

I can’t end without giving a nod to Ryan Howard, however. The big Phillies slugger is known for his opposite field moonshots, and the numbers bear this out. Here’s Howard’s breakdown.

To Left: .701 (!!!)
To Center: .480
To Right: .327

Ryan Howard‘s slugging percentage on fly balls to left field is a staggering 1.138. That’s not his OPS – that’s his SLG. 71% of all of his balls in play to left field are fly balls, and 27 percent of those leave the yard. You may remember from yesterday that the league average HR/FB for a lefty to left field was 3%. Howard’s HR/FB to left is nine times the league average.

We don’t have the historical evidence to prove it, of course, but I’d wager that Ryan Howard may just be the greatest opposite field power hitter in the history of the game.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

23 Responses to “Power to All Fields”

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  1. mickeykoke says:

    Adrian Gonzalez is probably the best home run hitter to the opposite field in all of baseball, the only problem is he plays in Petco. He intentionally goes “opo” because Petco, in RCF and even RF to some degree just does not carry… on-top of lengthy dimensions.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Gonzalez’s career ISO to LF is .377. That’s almost half of Howard’s. He’s got good opposite field power, but he’s not even close to Ryan Howard.

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      • Bryz says:

        I think mickeykoke’s argument is that if Adrian Gonzalez didn’t play his home games in Petco Park, his ISO to LF would be much higher. I can’t necessarily agree or prove this, but it would be interesting to note his ISO to LF in away games (getting REALLY specific now!). I don’t think it would be higher than Ryan Howard’s opposite field power, though.

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  2. Impossibles says:

    I love the splits info, wish I had more time to browse. Being a Jays fan, I had to check out Aaron Hill’s splits. His HR/FB to LF last year was a ridiculous 44%.

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  3. TCQ says:

    That…that’s just ridiculous.

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  4. aj says:

    I thought ARod was an All-Fields type of power hitter, based on what I heard from commentators. For his career, his ISO to left is .348, .350 to center, but only .212 to right.

    The commentators also had me believing that as an All-Fields power hitter, as he got better from the surgery he would eventually start taking advantage of that even-shorter-than-the-last-one Yankee RF wall, but now I see the new stadium is not so likely to help him anymore than the last one did.

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    • Jud says:

      aj – I think you made a mistake with regards to ARod. You looked at the BABIP column instead of ISO. His ISO to the 3 regions is; .382, .324, .347. That seems to me to be a good definition of “power to all fields”

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  5. Circlechange11 says:

    Dave good point. Actually when Howard goes in a funk it seems to be when he pulls everything… For whatever reason.

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  6. Jacob Jackson says:

    There was a study done on Ryan Howard for baseballanalysts.com last year, where they too came to the conclusion that Howard was the greatest opposite-field home run hitter in history.

    I think their data point was “HR% by field” – LF, CF, RF – and Howard hits a significantly higher percentage of his homers to the opposite field than any other home-run hitter in history.

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  7. chene says:

    I’m confused. In the splits data, what does LHB to Left really mean? Is it just all balls hit into left field or towards the left side of the field (such as Tony Gwynn’s 5.5 hole)?

    The reason I ask is that Dave says Ryan Howard’s slugging percentage to left on fly balls is 1.138, which matches his career as L to Left number. However, a few lines up, Howard’s SLG on flies is 1.499, which is considerably higher. His ISO on all flies is 1.052.

    So, based on this, am I to assume that L to Left really means all balls in play to the left side, not just fly balls?

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    • Yep, it’s ALL balls to the left side. I’m just splitting the field into 3 equal pie pieces. Doesn’t matter the distance the balls go. You can see the batted ball breakdown by left/right/center if you want to dig deeper.

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  8. Chip says:

    I think this actually warrants more of an in-depth look. My thinking is that if Howard is so awesome at taking the outside pitch the other way, wouldn’t that make him theoretically less susceptible to lefties as one of the keys for a batter against a same-handed pitcher is to take the ball the other way? If not, why would anybody, righty or lefty even consider leaving anything out over the plate for him to take the other way? I’d put the infield in a shift and throw everything inside with an occasional pitch WAY off the outside corner and down. Or, is he even managing to take some of these inside pitches the other way with power? That’d be quite interesting…

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  9. Jeremy says:

    Dave, some thoughts:

    We absolutely do have the historical evidence to prove whether or not Howard is the greatest opposite-field hitter of all-time. In 2006 and 2008, Howard hit 22 and 27 opposite field homers, the highest marks of the Retrosheet era. He has the third-highest percentage of homers to the opposite field of the Retrosheet era, and probably should be higher than that since he’s played in a conventional stadium unlike Clemente. However, Adrian Gonzalez is in my opinion currently the preeminent opposite-field power hitter in baseball, having hit 11 more homers the other way than Howard last year..

    Surely Jered Weaver’s arm angle puts him in another class of players than the average righty. His L/R BABIP splits are slightly greater than the average righty, and I don’t know what the average HR/FB splits are for righties, but I’d be confident in saying that his arm angle has more to do with his large ball-in-play platoon splits than luck.

    And I like Dave Allen’s idea of pitching Mauer inside rather than employing an over-shift on him. Mauer’s rate of pulled grounders to opposite field grounders is not especially high. There are some players with 10:1 pulled:oppo grounder ratios. Looking at the gameday coordinates, about a tenth of Mauer’s grounders over the last two years would be the responsibility of the 3b alone. You’d probably be giving up ten outs in exchange for hits a year by removing the 3b. I don’t have any idea how to calculate how many outs the shift would generate on the other end of the diamond. And I don’t think you’d want to do anything dramatic with the outfield, though I’m not sure what you consider to constitute that part of the “double-shift.”

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    • Not David says:

      Many of those grounders to third are due to Mauer being an excellent bunter. Employing a shift that dramatically repositions the third baseman would effectively give Joe a free pass to first whenever chooses to take it.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      A few responses.

      1. I’m generally against using single year split data for nearly anything. In this case, I’d wonder why you’d elevate Gonzalez ahead of Howard based on just 2009, when it stands out as a pretty significant outlier from the rest of his career. There’s also the counting stat problem – Gonzalez routinely hits ~50 percent more balls to left field than Howard does, so even with similar HR totals over the last three years, Howard’s clearly showing more power that direction.

      2. As I noted in the Weaver thread when Eric Van suggested the same thing, I’m not comfortable attributing Weaver’s BABIP or HR/FB rates vs RHBs to skill until we see some real evidence to suggest that it’s repeatable. He certainly hasn’t shown that he can hold down BABIP vs RHB on a year to year basis – his seasonal numbers jump around tremendously (.219/.316/.339/.242). His HR/FB rates vs RHB are a bit steadier, but we’re still dealing with ~320 innings. And there’s no league-wide evidence that this is a split. League average HR/FB rates are between 10.3% and 10.9% for all platoon situations.

      3. Given Mauer’s distribution of balls in play, a standard alignment is crazy. Clearly, some shift is correct. The question is just how much.

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      • Jeremy says:

        Thanks for the response.

        1. I just like Gonzalez more than Howard. I think he’s a better power hitter when you factor in ballpark adjustments. I’m probably biased.

        2. Thanks for the info on the HR/FB platoon splits. I do know that sidearmers exhibit extreme platoon splits in general, though I’ve only looked at the data in terms of run value, not BABIP or K/BB or HR/FB.

        3. No argument with that.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        Yeah, i I think this new data should encourage a lot of us to start looking at platoon splits among things that we’ve generally ascribed to not be repeatable skills, specifically BABIP and HR/FB. This is ripe ground for deeper exploration.

        I can see that there could be a real difference, based on different pitch types, location, arm slot, etc… Weaver’s infield fly percentage is twice as high against RHB than LHB, for instance – that’s obviously going to have a big impact on his BABIP. But we need more evidence from more pitchers, and it needs to include Pitch F/x data and be adjusted for park and defense.

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      • schmenkman says:

        Jeremy, “1. I just like Gonzalez more than Howard. I think he’s a better power hitter when you factor in ballpark adjustments. I’m probably biased.”

        The data doesn’t seem to support this — Howard has the better career road stats:
        Gonzales: .370 OBP, .565 SLG, .935 OPS, 17.3 PAs per HR
        Howard: .371 OBP, .584 SLG, .955 OPS, 14.1 PAs per HR

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      • schmenkman says:

        Also, Howard has more HRs on the road than at home…

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  10. petejohn says:

    So why Howard pulls off the ball so damn much in his slumps is beyond me. My head coach used to be at the University of Northern Iowa and they were in the MO. Valley Conference before axing their program. They played against Howard and MO State (then SW Missouri State) and apparently they had their best success burying the ball in on his hands. Seeing as how he’s not shown much power pulling the ball, it seems he was on to something.

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  11. Mike K. says:

    My thought: as someone with such extreme ability to hit opposite-field homers, how will Howard age? To me, the easiest comparison to Howard is Pat Burrell, as far as context and body type goes. And PtB has now possibly fallen off of a cliff.

    But he is a classic pull slugger. So does his case provide any insight for Howard?

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  12. Brent says:

    I love the retrosheet data, but whenever I read that so-and-so is the greatest of all time based on an analysis of retrosheet data, my immediate reaction is that baseball history is much longer than the retrosheet era. Let me through out another candidate (and a Phillie to boot)–Gavy Cravath. We know that 78% of his career home runs were hit at the Baker Bowl and that he was famous for his opposite field shots that took advantage of the short right field wall. No, we don’t have retrosheet data, but newspaper accounts often record where home runs were hit. It would be an interesting comparison.

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