Fun Facts of 2010 Batting, Brought to You by Pitch Type Linear Weights

Back on May 8, I looked at 30 interesting facts–one per team–that Pitch Type Linear Weights tell us about certain pitchers this season.

The article is one of the most popular in the young history in our site, so I thought I’d do it again, except looking at hitters.

So, this is going to look at how hitters have performed against certain pitches, according to PTLWs.

Keep a few things in mind while reading this, if you’re not familiar with PTLWs.

1.) All values presented are “runs above average per 100 pitches.” So, if Batter X is “3 runs above average against fastballs,” that means that every 100 fastballs he sees, he generates 3 more runs than an average fastball hitter would.

2.) Fastballs make up around 60% of pitches thrown. This means that a batter can be very effective even if he only hits fastballs well, while a batter can’t be effective if he only hits, say, changeups well.

3.) Because fastballs are thrown more, their values tend to go toward zero quickly. You see extreme values against splitters and knucklers all the time, because they aren’t thrown very often. A +20 rating on splitters surprises me about as much as a +3.5 on fastballs or +10 on changeups. The more a pitch is thrown, the more some of the extreme values go away.

4.) We’re dealing with just this season, which isn’t even two months old, so data here don’t necessarily mean all that much in many cases. It’s more just interesting than anything else…if you want a real picture of how good a hitter is against certain pitches, full-career or several seasons’ worth of data is preferable.

Anyway, that’s about it. Here are 30 fun facts of 2010 hitting…

AL East

Tampa Bay Rays—How can anyone get Evan Longoria out? He’s at least a run above average against every pitch. While the cutter has helped a lot of pitchers reach new levels, they should lay off using the pitch against Longoria—he’s a whopping 8.57 runs above average against cutters, easily his best rating. Fastballs (1.12 above) and curves (1.49 above) are his “weak” points.

New York YankeesDerek Jeter has had major problems with offspeed pitches this season, as he’s 4.24 runs below average on changeups and 5.69 below against splitters.

Toronto Blue Jays—Much has recently been made of Jose Bautista’s breakout, and he’s crushed fastballs (2.43 runs above average), sliders (1.18 above), and curves (1.50 above). If pitchers want to get Bautista out, they should probably rely on changeups (1.93 below) or splitters (4.94 below).

Boston Red SoxJason Varitek has had something of a resurgence this season, largely because the catcher, long a poor curveball hitter, has crushed slow breakers this year, at a whopping 18.87 runs above average per 100 curves. Small sample caveats apply, but it’s still shocking given that Varitek has been below average against curves all but one year (2005, when he was .15 above) since 2002.

Baltimore OriolesTy Wigginton’s huge year has come about largely thanks to his performance against breaking pitches, as he’s 6.43 runs above average against sliders and 4.72 against curves.

AL Central

Minnesota Twins—Brendan Harris has been dreadful this year, but the one pitch he’s been able to hit is the changeup (4.89 runs above average).

Detroit Tigers—Brennan Boesch is often dismissed due to his long swing, but that swing hasn’t stopped the outfielder from destroying sliders (7.50 runs above average) and curves (13.63 above). His performance against fastballs (2.07 runs above average) is solid as well, but Boesch is not the fastball-only slugger he’s often made out to be.

Chicago White Sox—Paul Konerko has put up a great season, but he’s actually struggled against sliders, cutters, curves, and changeups, rating below average on each. It’s a stellar performance against fastballs (4.01 runs above average) that has propelled him to his great numbers. That 4.01 might look small compared to, say, Boesch’s or Varitek’s curveball numbers, but when you remember that fastballs are thrown 6-8 times more than curves, it makes sense that fastball ratings would have more of an overall influence than secondary pitch ratings. That also makes fastball ratings generally closer to zero than offspeed ratings, so a 4.01 fastball rating is far more impressive than a 4.01 rating against another pitch.

Kansas City Royals—Willie Bloomquist is the anti-Longoria—at least one run below average on every pitch. He’s best against curves (-1.23) and worst against changeups (-11.12) and splitters (-19.83).

Cleveland Indians—Austin Kearns’ big year is largely due to his 7.95 runs above average against curves. He’s also 56.22 above against splitters, although so few splitters are thrown that splitter ratings are notoriously unreliable unless you’re dealing with several seasons of data.

AL West

Texas Rangers—I mentioned before, with Konerko, that fastball ratings are closer to zero. Tell that to Josh Hamilton (3.60 above), Nelson Cruz (4.50 above), and Max Ramirez (6.70 above).

Oakland Athletics—Eric Patterson has struggled with everything but fastballs (1.93 runs above average). Changeups (-9.30) have given him the most trouble.

Los Angeles AngelsBrandon Wood has had a tough year, at least 3 runs below average on fastballs, sliders, cutters, and changeups. His one saving grace is a 1.63 runs above average rating against curveballs.

Seattle Mariners—Like Bloomquist, Ken Griffey Jr. is the rare hitter who is not only below average on every pitch, but at least a full run below average on each. He’s best against fastballs (-1.34) and worst on curveballs (-6.94).

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies—Raul Ibanez’s bat may be slowing. He’s below average on fastballs (-.88), cutters (-2.09), and sliders (-1.94). Only “slow stuff”—curves (+6.24) and changeups (+2.78)—seem to be soft enough for Ibanez to drive.

Atlanta Braves—Jason Heyward has immediately taken well to major league pitching. The only pitch he’s having issues with? The cutter (-1.49). He’s above average against everything else, especially fastballs and sliders, which make up about 75% of pitches.

Washington Nationals—Don’t throw Ryan Zimmerman a slider—he’s 6.82 runs above average against them.

Florida Marlins—John Baker has a Zimmerman-esque +6.18 rating against sliders, but has struggled mightily against everything else—his -1.96 rating against fastballs is his next best after the sliders.

New York Mets—There’s really nothing good to say about Jose Reyes on the PTLW level. The only pitches he’s above average against are splitters and knucklers, which make up a whopping 3.3% of the pitches he’s seen.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals—Good curveballs give the Cardinals fits. Many of their best hitters—Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, David Freese, Yadier Molina, and Skip Schumaker—are below average against the pitch this year.

Cincinnati Reds—Jonny Gomes has a reputation as a fastball-only hitter, but he’s crushed cutters (+7.70) this season, and is also above average against sliders and curves.

Chicago Cubs—Alfonso Soriano is above average against every pitch, with a +.88 against changeups coming in as his worst rating. With that sort of across-the-board success, it appears his resurgence is for real.

Pittsburgh Pirates—Proving that all breaking pitches are not created equal, Andrew McCutchen has bashed curveballs (+8.11) but flailed against sliders (-2.58).

Milwaukee Brewers—Even as he approaches age 40, Jim Edmonds still has the bat speed to turn on a fastball—he’s 2.99 runs above average against them.

Houston Astros—Only three hitters on the Astros are above average against fastballs: Lance Berkman (+1.13), Michael Bourn (+.68), and Geoff Blum (+.35).

NL West

San Diego Padres—Don’t throw a breaking ball to David Eckstein. He’s +2.96 against sliders and +7.27 against curveballs. The second baseman is below average against all other pitches.

Los Angeles Dodgers—Don’t throw Matt Kemp anything hard. He’s +1.62 on fastballs and a whopping +11.82 against cutters. Kemp is below average against everything else.

San Francisco Giants—Eli Whiteside, like Kemp, kills fastballs (+3.80), but has struggled against everything else (unlike Kemp, including cutters).

Colorado Rockies—Clint Barmes has struggled to get around on hard stuff this year, rating below average on fastballs (-1.26), cutters (-6.23), and sliders (-.42). He needs to see a slow curve (+3.28) to be successful.

Arizona Diamondbacks—Tony Abreu rates a whopping +11.03 on cutters, but hasn’t even mustered an average rating against anything else.

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