Looking For the Next Jose Bautista

On Monday, I looked at which players showed an increase in their batted ball distances from 2010 to 2011. Not all increases can be seen in the year to year data. Some changes begin to occur during the season like with Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson in the past couple of years. Here is a look at some players that may be turning their game around for the better

The data I use for the analysis is from MLB. It is used in their Gameday display and on their website. The data indicates where the ball was fielded, not landed. The reason I like to only look at fly ball and home run distances is that the ball is usually fielded where it would have landed. Besides the distance the ball travels, it is also important for a HR hitter to pull the ball as much as possible. The fences can be up to 100 ft shorter in the corners than in straight away center.

So I took all the hitters with 30 total fly balls or home runs in both halves of the 2011 season. Then, I compared the change in distance and angle of the batted balls. Here is a select list of players with a decent jump in distance and/or angle (full list of players here).

Note: For the Batted Ball Angle angle, -45 degrees is a ball hit on the left field line, 0 is a ball hit to dead center and +45 is a ball hit on the right field line.

1st Half of 2011 2nd Half of 2011 Difference
Name Distance (ft) Angle Distance (ft) Angle Distance (ft) Angle
Ellsbury Jacoby 264 -1.0 297 7.6 34 8.6
Phillips Brandon 272 11.0 305 3.4 33 -7.5
Scutaro Marco 244 9.2 276 -1.4 33 -10.7
Tulowitzki Troy 295 -0.5 316 -6.2 21 -5.6
Swisher Nick 282 -9.3 303 5.4 21 14.7
Jeter Derek 272 15.8 293 10.1 21 -5.7
Uggla Dan 285 1.2 305 -6.6 20 -7.8
Ellis Mark 259 7.7 278 2.3 18 -5.4
Young Delmon 269 7.5 286 -2.3 17 -9.8
Suzuki Kurt 258 2.4 274 -6.2 16 -8.6
Napoli Mike 305 8.9 320 -0.7 15 -9.6
Murphy Daniel 265 -8.8 279 4.5 14 13.3
Willingham Josh 284 -1.6 298 -15.3 13 -13.7
Cabrera Melky 271 2.7 283 -3.8 12 -6.5
Hill Aaron 251 4.5 263 -1.7 11 -6.2
McCutchen Andrew 282 -0.5 293 6.6 11 7.1
Howard Ryan 305 0.0 314 -5.7 10 -5.7
Markakis Nick 278 -9.4 287 -0.3 9 9.1
Jackson Austin 281 5.6 290 12.8 8 7.2
Smith Seth 295 -8.9 303 -3.3 8 5.6
Callaspo Alberto 257 1.4 264 -7.1 7 -8.5
Kubel Jason 281 -3.5 288 3.0 7 6.5
Infante Omar 262 4.7 268 -2.8 6 -7.6
Hosmer Eric 281 6.1 287 -8.8 6 -14.9
Ross Cody 280 -9.0 286 -3.7 6 5.3
Soriano Alfonso 277 2.5 283 -3.6 6 -6.1
Hunter Torii 284 8.8 289 -1.4 6 -10.3
Konerko Paul 279 -5.8 285 -0.1 6 5.7
Cuddyer Michael 284 1.0 290 6.8 5 5.8
Bruce Jay 288 -4.0 293 2.0 5 6.0
Ramos Wilson 284 5.8 289 15.9 5 10.1

If you want to look at the data for any player over any time frame, you can go to:
http://www.baseballheatmaps.com/graph/
User: fangraphs
PW: Dave (capital D)
Click on: Angle and Distance of a Hitter’s Batted Balls
Enter in the player and parameters.

Here is a more detailed look at a few of the players.

Josh Willingham – Josh had his greatest HR total in 2012 with Oakland. The key for the right handed hitter was not the increase in distance, but his ability to turn on the ball for HRs. Here is graph of his batted ball angles over the last 5 years with a LOESS averaging curve.

Generally his fly balls were to center field in the past, but he really began to turn on them in 2011. Oakland may have been the worst place for him to be productive. If he moves to a hitter friendly park, watch out.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Here is Jacoby’s splits for the season:

First Half
0.316/0.377/0.490 11 HRs

Second Half
0.328/0.375/0.625 21 HRs

He kept getting better as the season went on. He saw his distance increase (33 ft more) and he pulled the ball more (by 8 degrees). People may think that he may regress a bit in 2011. If he hits like he did in the second half, he could improve in 2012.

Nick Markakis – His numbers aren’t the sign of a breakout, but they may be a sign of a halt in the decline of his power. Here are his SLG and batted ball numbers since 2008:

2008: 0.491, 304 ft
2009: 0.453, 299 ft
2010: 0.436, 291 ft
2011: 0.406, 283 ft

The power decline is obvious. He did show some signs of improvement in the second half. He hit the ball a little further at 287 ft. Also, he began to turn on the ball a little bit more by 9 more degrees. This can be seen with his 2nd half SLG at 0.442. He is not back to his 2008 levels. If an owner is looking for a little more fantasy value than the trends and projections may say, Nick could be your man.



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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


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bobby
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bobby

Looks like Hosmer really started to get used to major league pitching in the second half, pulling lot more balls.I imagine his distance will continue trending upward as well as he nears his prime.

rotofan
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rotofan

I believe you have it backwards. The more positive the number, the closer the ball is hit to the right field line, which in Hosmer’s case as a left would represent pulling the ball. The first half of the season Hosmer pulled the ball a bit, hitting to the right field side of center (though really close to hitting up the middle). The second half Hosmer went the other way with more pitches, hitting balls to left-center.

bobby
Guest
bobby

ah yes, i misthought

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