You Call That a Spray-Chart Split?

As soon as I heard about the new split data at FanGraphs I had one thought: Aaron Hill. Maybe not everyone’s first thought, but if you recall, the surprise third-leading AL HR hitter pulled his HRs like crazy. Dave C. had a post about it, you could see it over at HitTracker, and I reproduce the data for you here:

Crazy. Not only almost all pulled, but most extremely so and no HRs on pitches on the outer quarter of the plate. That one HR to right was off Joba Chamberlain on July 5th at Yankee Stadium. Thanks to the indispensable HitTracker we know that the 369-foot shot was a home run thanks to the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium and would not have made it out of any other park. So even that one opposite-field HR hardly counts, which also discounts one of his few HRs on a pitch on the outer half of the plate.

So what do Hill’s 2009 spray-chart splits look like?

              ISO   wOBA   HR/FB
 to Left     .410   .503   .443
 to Center   .127   .317   .042
 to Right    .078   .240   .013
 Average RHB
              ISO   wOBA   HR/FB
 to Left     .282   .419   .272
 to Center   .126   .340   .054
 to Right    .124   .279   .028

They do not disappoint. To his pull (left) field Hill is nearly the equal of Mark Reynolds or Russell Branyan to their pull fields (the examples are pulled from Dave C.’s post about power to all fields and, to be fair, those guys are noted for their even power to all fields, but still Aaron Hill has just slightly less power to left than Mark Reynolds does). To right, though, he has much less power than the average RHB, so much so that — and remember this is the AL batter with the third most HRs in 2009 — an opposite field ball in play from Hill had the same ISO as the average David Eckstein ball in play. Yikes.

So Hill has enormous power when he pulls the ball, how does this power look as a function of where he he is pitched?

Although the pattern is not surprising I think the extent of it is. Hill’s power reaches its peak about a half farther inside than the average RHB and it only drops off slightly as you move in from there. The drop off is so slight that he has more power on pitches right on the inner edge of the plate than the average RHB has on a pitch down the fat of the plate. That is not to say I think this is his true talent; as with all stats, if we want to predict how he will do in 2010 it would be best to regress this back to average some. Still, I think it is safe to say Hill should crush inside pitches in 2010 even though it may not be to the same extent as it was in 2009.

Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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14 years ago

Given this data, it looks like teams would be borderline insane to pitch Aaron Hill inside. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised, given this data, that pitchers will start to nibble on the outside half of the dish vs. Hill, and in turn see his ISO go down and BB% go up in 2010.

14 years ago
Reply to  JoeR43

That seems like a wise prediction.

As stated in the post, it appears that Hill would probably fare worse if other teams pitched him right down the middle as opposed to inside.

If I was an opposing team, I’d still try to bust him in on the hands with fastballs early in an at-bat, follow it with breaking stuff low and away, and if necessary, finish with a fastball on the outside. Of course the risk comes from the initial inside stuff if the pitcher can’t get it in far enough.

14 years ago
Reply to  Josh

Especially since Hill was in the top 10% of league eligible hitters in swing rate in 2009. And 15.5% of his PA’s lasted just 1 pitch, vs. the league average of 11.19% (essentially, he was 30% more likely to go after the first pitch vs. the average MLB hitter). Giving him a ball in his sweet spot on the first pitch seems like a risky proposition, IMO.

PhD Brian
14 years ago
Reply to  JoeR43

I have to agree. I guess I wont draft him this season like I did last season.