Swing Planes and Predicting GB-FB Splits

On July 18, 2009, Willy Aybar, who had not played in 6 days, who could barely play second base and had hardly proven himself as a hitter, got the start at second against eventual the AL Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke. Aybar went 4 for 4 with a game-deciding double.

Rays manager Joe Maddon told the media the choice to start Aybar had been a deliberate one, a decision based in the front office’s proprietary analysis. I remember the event — reading the post-game interview moreso than seeing the game — because it marked the first time in my baseball-viewing experience where I had seen a lineup decision apparently based according to ground ball and fly ball data.

Entering the 2009 season, Greinke had a 37.9% ground ball rate — making him one of the league’s more extreme fly ball starters (this has since changed). Aybar, meanwhile, finished his short career with a .349 wOBA against fly ball pitchers and a .300 wOBA against ground ball pitchers.

Since that July 18 game, the Rays have continued to be one of the very few teams to game the underappreciated GB-FB splits game. I suspect one of the main reasons for that is that teams — namely managers — cannot easily identify and predict the splits. Today, I would like to put forth a theory that suggests we can identify — with decent success — GB-FB splits after just watching a hitter take batting practice. Here is the theory:

THEORY: Batters with an uppercut swing will succeed more against ground ball pitchers, and hitters with a more level plane will succeed more against fly ball pitchers, and — naturally — hitters who can swing on both planes will have a smaller overall split.

Let’s examine:

NOTE: Many GIFs are under the jump. The page may load slowly.

I am unsure how people — how you, the reader — will naturally react to this proposal. I expect my reaction would be: “Of course! The physics of your proposal make perfect sense. Almost enough sense so as to be pointless for a proposal.”

An uppercut swing, a swing that — more specifically — forms a more acute angle with respect to the batter’s torso, has a greater chance of running into a ground ball pitcher’s ground ball pitch. Most ground ball pitchers toss a two-seamer, splitter, sinker or some manner of lower-than-the-batter-expects pitch. So if the bat head matches the break of the pitch — if the pitch breaks along the swing plane, instead of above or below it — there is a greater chance for Kapow Magic, right?

Likewise, a fly ball pitcher works high in the zone or throws pitches that get the hitter’s bat underneath the ball. An uppercut swing has not only more ground to make up, but also has a narrow time slot where the sweet spot and the pitch meet in the swing plane. Moreover, a vertical follow-through increases the odds of a pop up against a fly ball pitcher, whereas that same swing can — so to speak — dig out a ground baller’s pitch.

So that’s one possible reaction, the reaction of: “Duh.”

Another possible reaction is: “Hrm.”

When I was first learning to swing the bat, the learned baseball man teaching me to swing said something to the effect of: “You’re a turd, son; don’t dip your back shoulder — that’s for home run hitters. You need a nice level swing, to hit line drives and such.” Well, joke was on you, hitting coach. You cannot hit line drives if you can’t make contact.

Anyway, there are other ways of looking at this: Hitters who use uppercut swings only do so when swinging for yon fences. Also, hitters who do well against ground ball pitchers are going to be swinging at lower pitches and thereby will be forced to swing with the bat head pointed more towards the ground.

These are both valid points and we will examine them in a moment. But first, we need to define what a ground ball pitcher is and what a fly ball pitcher is.

Defining GB and FB Pitchers
I polled some of the FanGraphs authors, and they felt a neutral pitcher would have a ground ball rate between a 43 and 47% GB-rate. I think that’s a solid grouping, except that the more natural grouping is in fact 40 to 50% GB-rate.

Not only are there a ton of near-47% pitchers that would be somewhat unfairly classified as GB pitchers, but — if we choose to use a GB-to-FB/LD ratio — a 50% GB-rate is a clean 1.00 GB/(FB+LD) rate and 40% is a clean 2/3 ground-to-air ratio. Classifying neutral pitchers as being within 40 to 50% GB-rate also fits with the past three season’s median absolute deviation of the median ground ball rate.

Also, it makes for a neater distribution. Here is a histogram of the league’s pitchers, sorted by GB-rate, since 2010:

Whereas only a third of MLB pitchers are lefties — thereby requiring platoon reactions — almost half the league is a fly or ground ball pitcher. So how can teams know which hitters to use or not?

In The Book, Tango, MGL and Dolphin say it takes 2000 PA to know a true platoon split. In all likelihood, no team will have data of 2000 PA of each batter vs. GB pitchers — there’s simply too few GB pitchers and not enough playing time. Only the stars who start every game of their first five or six MLB seasons will have sufficient data at a useful time.

Moreover, pitchers can change their pitch repertoire and suddenly change their classification. As alluded to earlier, Greinke went from an extreme fly ball pitcher in his first four seasons to a neutral pitcher in his second four seasons and now has crossed over 50% GB-rate this season.

Nonetheless, we have to throw ourselves on the mercy of the limited data. The data I’ma boutta throw at you.

Here are the last three years of hitters and their performances (in wOBA and power factor, PF) against the varying types of pitchers:

The data is currently limited to a minimum of 200 PA vs. GB pitchers, but you can change that if you’re feeling frisky. Odds are: You’re just going to want to download this puppy using the green button yonder ^ (that way you can see everything and enjoy the frozen rows and columns and whatnot).

So now we can start to examine who appears to have and not have significant splits. Again, in case you have ignored the waterfall of text preceding this, it is important to emphasize the insufficiency of this data. These number are calculated (by excruciated hand) from 2010 through Monday’s games, which means no one is going to have more than 400 PA against a ground ball pitcher.

Ideally, we would have 2000 PA for everyone, but changing external forces (such as pitchers changing their GB ratios and the ever-changing BABIP and run environments) force us to use this smaller, more specific set. The study — if enough people find it at least intriguing — can be extended to cover more years (assuming the great and magnanimous Jeff Zimmerman will claw the data mountains with his spade of wisdom for me again).

A couple of players in the data make some pretty big and interesting data points. Let us start with Texas Rangers outfielder David Murphy.

The Swings

Murphy represents a rare culmination of numbers. He has not only the biggest positive wOBA difference against GB pitchers, but he also has the largest gap in power factor — which helps us assume away plate discipline and look at oomph per hit instead.

And if we look at Murphy’s swing, he takes almost the same hack every time. It is a big, mighty, vertical swing that just yesterday, against extreme ground baller Alex Cobb, produced a 2 for 4 outing.

It is important to understand that even the players with the most consistent swings will have different angles from time to time. The angle they swing the bat needs to be a product not only of the habits that have made them successful, but also the location of the ball.

I am by no means suggesting every hitter swings on the same plane on every swing (I’d be crazy to propose that). Nor do I think an uppercut hitter will never swing at a much higher angle either. In fact, some hitters will have success against both GB and FB pitchers because they deliberately (if not consciously) change their swing angle to meet the ball.

But, for a hitter like Murphy, his long uppercut swing plane has become his go-to swing. Consider the following swinging strike from Tuesday’s game. The ball is middle-away, but Murphy is using a swing angle more appropriate of a ball thrown down in the zone:

That particular swing resulted in a strike, but these other swings brought Murphy extra bases:

(Two homers and a double.)

The first swing is at a ball almost at the belt. He still managed to get to the ball, however, and produces what looks like an uppercut swing, but judging from the angle of his bat from an invisible (or red, in this case) line perpendicular to the ground, he’s actually at a fairly level 65°.

The other two swings show Murphy at his normal — and, in a sense, his best. The angle is well beneath 55° and he is able to dig the ball from the lowest parts of the zone and serve them deep into the outfield.

Jason Heyward has a .378/.351/.350 GB/neutral/FB split, but much of his success against fly ball pitchers appears to come from good plate discipline against them. In terms of the raw mechanics of his swing, he seems to prefer GB pitchers unevenly over FB pitchers — given his 0.97 power fact against GB pitchers and 0.71 PF against FB pitchers.

Looking at his swing, we can guess why:

(Four home runs.)

The two swings in the middle both check in at 53°, and though the other two swings have the bat at a much higher angle, we can see his shoulder-to-wrist angle looks like he is swinging low in the zone. His wrists — his powerful, handsome wrists — are making up for the difference here, allowing him to put an uppercut swing on even a pitch well high in the zone.

Alex Gordon checks in with a mighty .405/.352/.323 split. And here again we see some very low angles

(One double, two home runs).

If I was asked to guess which of the three images was the double, I would probably say the far right one. But in fact, it is the middle image (still, he crushed the ball). The fact that he homered on the far right image should remind us that no matter how plausible this theory is, the theory is limited because batters swing at multiple angles all the time. The outside images came from the same game — two homers and 9° of separation.

Still, Gordon appears to be most comfortable — judging by the film I have seen of him — swinging at a low angle, more akin to the first two images.

Michael Morse is the opposite of David Murphy. Morse’s .266/.391/.389 makes him look borderline hopeless against GB pitchers. And again: SAMPLE SIZE WARNING — a good week could realistically change these numbers around for Morse as he has only some 200 PA against both GB and FB pitchers.

His swing suggests, however, his GB-pitcher struggles may just be a component of his game:

(Two home runs and a double.)

Three swings, all above 55°. The far right image, a home run from August 17, comes with his shoulders almost at a level plane with each other. Compare that to Heyward’s high home run (his far right image) where the back shoulder is dipped almost twice as far as his front shoulder. Two home runs, two catchers reaching up for a ball they would never catch, and yet two very different swings.

The angle of the bat matters. The angle of the shoulder matters. And the follow through — it matters too. Consider the case of A.J. Pierzynski:

Pierzynski has a FB-favoring .268/.319/.352 split, but he has what appears to be an uppercut swing judging by the still images. The angles are at and below 55°, which anecdotally appears to be the border for uppercut swings, and his back shoulder is dipped.

Yet when we watch his swing in motion, it offers a new perspective:

Notice his follow-through — how his bat never goes above his head and how his hands move horizontally across his chest. Pierzysnki may swing at low pitches, but his swing — when watching it live — is clearly not an uppercut swing.

Let us finally consider Chase Headley. The Padres’ only good baseball player (I’m kidding; Carlos Quentin is good too) has a .276/.342/.359 split that also favors fly ball pitchers. Looking at his swing angles, we can see that confirmed:

(Four clobbered homers.)

Headley is especially unique because not only is he a switch hitter, but his follow-through appears to be different from different sides of the plate:

Against righties:

Against lefties:

His versus-righties swing looks definitely more vertical than his versus-lefties swing, but both are still fairly level — especially considering he has three swings above 55° in the preceding quadtych.

I think the important lesson here is simple: Watching the swing live can many times — at least by my eyes — do a decent job of predicting whether a swing his vertical or horizontal. In some special instances, the eyes-on-live-video method is more effective than the still images method — as in the case of Pierzynski.

The Next Steps

There is no conclusion in this article because this is still a young theory. I need more input, more eyes than God gave me. I have looked at only six hitters in this post and maybe 12 overall — a combined 100 or so swings out of the thousands of swings in the MLB each week.

Moreover, these are just the extreme players, the players who have demonstrated a strength or weakness against GB and FB pitchers. Perhaps there is a player out there who swings at a super-low angle or a purely level, 90° angle who excels against both GB and FB pitchers? I could pick players at random to see if I can find such a player, but it would be more effective to hand you the statistics, dear reader, and see what we can do together.

So help me out on this: Tell me what is askew, what is too obvious, what is missing. When you watch a game this evening, keep the above stats handy and see if you can predict — based on a player’s swing — whether or not they excel against GB or FB pitchers. Then do the opposite, look at their numbers and predict their swing.

We might could together create something cool.

A double — nay! — TRIPLE thanks to the aforementioned Jeff Zimmerman for culling the necessary data to even get started on this project. He is, as the scouting reports have suggested, a Titan among men.

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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

39 Responses to “Swing Planes and Predicting GB-FB Splits”

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  1. Nate says:

    Frickin’. Awesome.
    That spreadsheet is gonna kill my work productivity today.
    Thanks Bradeley.

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  2. It seems to me that the timing of a more acute swing is really important. If a player has a 45-50 degree swing, and the ball makes contact with the bat before it gets around, wouldn’t it hit the dirt in front of the plate?

    The flip side, if a 45-50 swing makes contact with the ball late, or out in front of the zone, wouldn’t it be popped up foul?

    It seems like swing angle is a part of the piece to this puzzle, and my instincts tell me that it is probably only the extreme cases that have a significant influence on result.

    That said, I love the idea of examining swing mechanics as the rawest skillset a batter has. It is equivalent to examining a pitcher’s pitch arsenal for velocity and movement. One other point on swing mechanics I’ve always wondered about: If F-m*a, wouldn’t bat acceleration be more important than bat speed?

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      • Jimmy Johnson says:

        I think it’s more about conservation of momentum during the (nearly) elastic collision between the bat and the ball, where momentum = m*v.

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    • I think a 45-50° swing will have just as much need for timing as a 60-70° swing. A ball hit directly down has a decent shot of going foul, but a ball hit late or early from a level swing would go foul just as much.

      Still, I think there is perhaps something to that line of thinking. Maybe uppercut hitters are more prone to bat speed problems and timing issues? Likewise, maybe vision plays a bigger role for level hitters?

      Another avenue to take this down might even include pitch type success. A level swing out to excel against four-seemers, sliders and some changeups, while a vertical swing should excel against curves, sinkers and two-seamers, right? I don’t, but it’s worth exploring.

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    • AMartin223 says:

      Yes it would… that’s why hitting coaches tell you to let your hips and hands lead your bat straight through the zone, making the bat almost whip through.

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  3. Philip says:

    Very cool article. For poops and giggles I would love to see this type of analyst on Joey Votto.

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    • I actually spent a little time looking at Votto — for that same humorous and digestive purpose. If I recall correctly, his swings varied considerable (as we might expect given his .408/.418/.422 GB/NU/FB split), but that his overall swing looked a bit uppercuttish, in the low 50° — which is a bit opposite of expectations.

      A Reds fan would be better equipped, however, to speak on his swinging motion than me. I only saw 10 or so swings from him. And given how good his numbers are anyway, it’s very possible it’s just random variation that his GB/FB splits are 14 points off.

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  4. Philip says:

    I would automatically assume he utilized more of a vertical swing based on his low FB numbers but being the hitter that he is, I can see him adjusting frequently.

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  5. FredR says:

    A tremendous bouquet of thank yous for this intriguing article.

    Question: would you expect this swing angle analysis to tell a similar story in success-by-pitch-location? I.e. flatter swings performing better high in the zone, uppercuts better low in the zone. It seems like a given, but it would be neat to see which hitters have the greatest discrepancy in high vs. low performance, and whether or not this tracks to a similar swing analysis. Is this possible?

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    • I think — though I’ve not thought tested it just yet — that high-ball hitters and level-swingers ought to be the same person. But at the same time, I would not be surprised to see an absence of correlation.

      For instance, Ben Zobrist hits fly-ballers better, but he also goes after low-zone pitches pretty well, too, dropping his hands down low and maintaining a level swing even in the bottom of the zone. When you have vision like Zobrist, you can probably match a level swing to a ball anywhere in the zone, so maybe vision is the component that determines high-low frequencies moreso than swing plane? I dunno, it’s work studying.

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  6. Eno Sarris says:

    This is so great Bradley. The only thing I wonder about is if the placement of the ball determines so much of the swing angle the way you’re figuring it. I like your analysis of the follow-through. Maybe that’s the place to focus in order to determine an uppercut vs a level swing plane in a statistical fashion?

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    • Yeah, there is definitely an interplay of location and even pitch selection when it comes to the swing angles. A low ball /uppercut hitter may just pass on the high stuff until he gets something low to swing at — thereby never showing us a more level angle.

      At the some time though, there some guys you can watch — like David Murphy, IMHO — and see they take the same approach on every swing, dipping their back shoulder and swinging upwards even at high pitches.

      In terms of statistically establishing a method of determining uppercuttiness, I definitely think the follow-through merits more attention.

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  7. johnnycuff says:

    what about predicting GB/FB rates based on GB pitchers vs FB hitters, etc? who has more control over the batted ball type, the pitcher or the hitter, or is it equal?

    i imagine this has probably been looked at before, if it has do you know who/where? i seem to recall tangotiger tackled similar stuff in the book.

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  8. payroll says:

    Here’s a conclusion for you: the old adage, that lefties like balls low and in – there might be some truth to that.

    Just kidding I have no idea, further study is clearly needed. Just happens to line up with most of the players you specify in the article.

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  9. Calvin says:

    Freddie Freeman (5th on the list) also has a ridiculous uppercut swing.

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    • Good to know. I’ve only seen like 5 PA from him in his career, I think, and wasn’t paying attention to his swing then (I got distracted by the clobbered balls).

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  10. Calvin says:

    Do you have the component breakdowns for the big splits? Is it K/IF%, LD%, or just better results on batted balls in general?

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  11. Brendan says:

    This is great stuff, Bradley, I really enjoyed it. Thanks. It looks like most guys have a larger PF on FB pitchers than GB pitchers, even though many of them have higher wOBA vs GB pitchers. I would assume this is because home runs and doubles are going to occur mostly on fly balls, so a fly ball pitcher is more likely to induce extra base hits even to hitters who have an uppercut swing that is better suited for GB pitchers. There are some exceptions (Murphy and Heyward, for example) but it looks like it might be a general pattern.

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  12. Okie Joe says:

    Great analysis. I would guess that two other influencing factors would be where in their stance contact (out in front or back) is made and the tendancies of hitters to hit a certain hemisphere (top or bottom) of the ball therby creating the ball carrying backspin or grounder topspin. I suspect that the latter data would be difficult to determine or would be a statistical wash.

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    • If we had side camera angles available, the first thought would be relatively easy to find and even measure (based the batter’s and ball’s location in reference to home plate).

      Sadly, I know such camera angles exist, but our access to them is limited.

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  13. Graham Tyler says:

    So this is an intriguing idea, but unfortunately you’re not measuring an uppercut correctly. Pitch height determines barrel position relative to a hitter’s hands, which in turn completely defines the angle you are using to determine “uppercut” vs. a “flat swing”. I hate to say it, but if you watch a video of Jason Heyward from a side view you’ll see that he has one of the flatter swings in baseball. His relatively low finish is another indicator of this. Finish isn’t the best way to define swing plane either, though, because some guys get to a really high finish by just being really steep (think of a swing path that looks more like a V than a flat U).

    The first place to start in defining an uppercut would be looking at the angle between a HORIZONTAL line drawn at the lowest point in a swing and the barrel path after this point. This would still say that guys with steep swing paths have uppercuts, so in my opinion you would want to look at a second factor. Using some definition of the hitting zone (the horizontal area from a side view of the hitter in which a hitter can reasonably make contact within his swing path) measure the percent of that zone during which the barrel is moving up versus down or perfectly horizontal.

    Guys with flat swings by definition stay in the hitting zone longer, which is a good thing because it gives them more margin for error when their timing is off. You would also probably find that these guys spend a larger portion of their swing path with the barrel moving up, but it’s at a very slight angle. Therefore, they would look like a hitter with an uppercut on the second measure, but not at all on the first.

    Guys with uppercuts OR steeper swings generate more power, generally speaking, because their swing planes generate more loft. Both of these types of hitters will have more extreme angles on the first measure in order to finish high, but hitters that just have steep swings spend a good portion of the swing path moving down into the hitting zone before quickly going up to generate the high finish. Therefore, my guess is that they will have a large angle like a hitter with an uppercut on the first measure, but they will not grade out as having an uppercut on the second measure.

    Sorry for such a long post on hitting mechanics, but I think it’s an interesting idea if you define swing plane correctly. Obviously finding side views of hitters hitting balls at similar heights and then measuring all of this may not be doable, but right now saying that Jason Heyward has an Adam Dunn-like uppercut and this is why they both hit GB pitchers much better than they do FB pitchers likely won’t hold too much weight in baseball circles. Here’s a couple of youtube videos on each guy to make the point:

    Heyward: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyG_4Iv0xOI
    Dunn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68MG3U_mjLU

    Dunn defines an uppercut and peripherally we see this in huge FB, HR, and K rates because he generates loft, but doesn’t keep his barrel in the zone long enough to make contact when he’s fooled. On the other end of the spectrum Martin Prado has opposite batted ball and contact numbers and opposite swing mechanics, but also finds himself near the top of the list for GB – FB pitcher performance difference.

    Definitely worth looking into further and I like the idea with a better measure of swing plane.

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    • I knew going into the project that I would be redefining swing planes — or at least measuring it different than the traditional hitting coach’;s / scout’s method. I think you and I might have to disagree on Heyward. I do think he is capable of level swings — and he’s a good enough hitter to balance out his GB/FB split over time (I would not at all be surprised to see him perfectly neutral in a few years).

      But his follow-through and his typical swing angle (both in his shoulders and his hand-to-barrel as I measure it above) to me look like an uppercut. After reading your comment, I went and looked at a few more of his swings at random, and I still think he’s a bit — if not a lot — uppercuttish according to my definition.

      I do agree that side camera angles could vastly improve the discourse here, but unfortunately to my knowledge, there is not a rich, accessible database for those ends. We can find a swing or two here or there, but I am already unimpressed with my own sample size of visual data, so I’m uncomfortable of looking at one swing and making significant pronouncements — as is a bit too common in video analysis, IMHO.

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      • Graham Tyler says:

        I definitely agree that right now there’s no way to get a large enough sample of side angles to be useful, which is unfortunate because I think it would really help.

        In talking about Heyward I would just make a couple of points. The first and main one is that pitch location drives a TON of any sort of swing plane analysis you’re going to do, but especially barrel-hand angle at contact. Regardless of where a guy starts from and ends, his barrel path and position at contact on a ball down and in will be drastically different than on a pitch up and away. To the extent that two guys have different barrel-hand angles at contact on the same pitch it probably has a lot more to do with posture than with swing plane.

        The second point is more about semantics than anything else, but typically when you think of an uppercut a guy necessarily has to start his hands low and then finish high. A guy who starts high and finishes high on a low pitch wouldn’t uppercut. That being said, there may be certain points in the swing where the barrel path for a guy who starts higher and finishes high looks the same as a guy who starts low, uppercuts, and finishes high. So while uppercut may not be the right word, this may be the quality you’re looking for.

        The last thing I’ll say is that I think if you wanted to keep going with this there are definitely other factors that might be possible to analyze that could be pretty interesting. In considering the effect of the pitcher I’d be interested to know whether certain traits common to most GB pitchers are driving these splits for hitters. In other words, is it something about the movement, velo, pitch mix, or location common to most GB pitchers that these hitters handle especially well? The first place to start would be to figure out among the pitchers if and what the common characteristics are (I’m assuming less FB velo, more offspeed, obviously more vertical movement, and more pitches down in the zone). It may not necessarily be one hitting trait that drives the splits, but instead one (or more) pitching one. For example, Heyward has long arms, gets pretty low into a wide base at contact, and generally has his head and torso out over the plate relatively far at contact, which all may allow him to dig out low pitches pretty well for a tall guy. So maybe the split has more to do with the general location of what he sees than with one particular swing trait.

        On the hitting side maybe simplifying it to look at guys with low hands, high finishes, something you can clearly see from a front angle may allow you to get deeper into it. Again, just ideas if you wanted to go further with it because I appreciate all the work you put in and I think it’s really interesting stuff.

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  14. channelclemente says:

    Great stuff Woodrum, but this going to take a while to digest. As an aside, I’ve heard it rumored that this kind of analysis went into Beane’s choice process in his A’s acquisitions that led to this 2012 team. I wonder if your data/insight is at all revealing with regard to that.

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  15. Dr_Caligari says:

    Very interesting article. Just out of curiosity, did you happen to look at Alfonso Soriano’s swing? Seeing as how he has tended to have more power on balls low in the zone, but has a split that tends toward neutral, then flyball, and then groundball pitching… Could it be that he only functions against mistake pitches by lefties? I say this semi-sarcastically as a Cubs fan who doesn’t hate Soriano as much as most folks.

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  16. astrostl says:

    Fascinating stuff. Thanks for the effort you put into it!

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  17. How do you cover the bottom of the strike zone with a level swing?

    Rather than uppercut or level swingers, in truth what you are talking about are high ball hitters and low ball hitters.

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  18. Baltar says:

    Great post and great comments. This is the kind of thing I come to FanGraphs for.
    I’d give my testicles to see how the Rays’ proprietary lineup analysis works.

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  19. Dustin says:

    How about Alfonso Soriano for an uppercut swing? He always seems to be golfing out low balls. Albert Pujols seems to murder high fastballs with a nice level swing and also seems to ground into a lot of double plays.

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  20. channelclemente says:

    The question of ‘level, or ‘not level’ is most often interpreted in the plane of the balls arrival, not the surface of the earth.

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  21. Swingdoc says:

    There seems to be at least three determinants of success against a GB or FB pitcher. Swing plane as viewed from the side, High/Low ball location preference which would be viewed from the pitcher and seen through bat angle. All hitters will adjust but some are more comfortable with a steeper bat angle (ie. lower ball preference). The third and I believe this may prove out to have the highest correlation (but have only looked at it briefly) is ball contact preference – ie. top, center, bottom as can be seen through GB/FB ratio.

    There would seem to be some independence in the variables. For example, Joe Mauer has a slight uppercut (flat to the plane of a pitch, say 6-10 degrees). This is seen via bat through the zone from the side as well as posture established at foot plant (ie how much lean towards the catcher) until after contact. Ball contact preference is likely slightly north of center giving him a GB/FB of 2.5 but a high LD rate, low IFB% and Swinging Strike rate (last two indicative of matching the plane of the pitch.

    I don’t doubt that swing plane is a factor but I’m guessing that other factors would prove to be meaningful as well.

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  22. Daniel Steinberg says:

    Any chance for an updated spreadsheet?

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