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Hot spots, cold spots

Where do the best sluggers do the most damage?

Posted: Wednesday May 17, 2006 11:20AM; Updated: Wednesday May 17, 2006 1:08PM
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By David Appelman, FanGraphs.com

Since the start of the 2005 season, there have been nearly 900,000 pitches thrown, and Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) has tracked every single one of them. Whether it be the location, velocity or pitch type, there's an overwhelming amount of data on all of them.

From this data, we're able to make a "map" of the strike zone and show exactly where a particular batter is successful. In these "PitchZone" charts, we'll be looking at the topography of a batter's slugging percentage. The center box represents the standard strike zone; the outer ring of boxes are anything outside the strike zone. Anything in red means the batters are slugging at least .750 on pitches in those spots. The lighter the color, the less damage the hitter does in that particular spot.

These are all from the pitcher's point of view, so left-handed batters would be standing on the left side of the graph, and right-handed batters on the right. I'm looking only at right-handed batters today, so they'll all be on the right side of the graph.

Let's start with Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez, the 2005 NL and AL Most Valuable Players. While both players are excellent, they generate power from slightly different areas. Pujols absolutely crushes anything near the center of the plate while Rodriguez appears to be more adept at hitting slightly lower pitches for power. If you have to find a weakness in either of them, Pujols isn't so keen on the down-and-inside pitch, while Rodriguez has trouble generating power off pitches up and inside.

pujols_arod_final3.jpg


Next, check out Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, who both finished third in the 2005 MVP voting in their respective leagues. You'll notice that Lee appears to generate more power from pitches higher in the strike zone, probably because he's a bit taller than the other batters we've looked at thus far. Guerrero, on the other hand, a notorious "free swinger," seems to generate power from pretty much everywhere. If I had to give either of them a weakness, Guerrero might want to lay off the up-and-inside pitches, while Lee, just like Pujols, seems to have trouble with pitches down and in.

lee_vlad_final3.jpg


Enough with the All-Stars. Now let's see how the average players' PitchZone charts compare.

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