Hot Zones

Well, I’m officially bored. Luckily for me (although I must admit that finding this at 1:30 a.m. last night was a bit frustrating) I found the hot and cold zones for hitters on FOX Sports’ website from the 2009 season. For those of you that don’t know, what happens is that a hitter’s strike zone is divided into 9 equal rectangles, and the batting averages for all pitches thrown into these zones is shown. Generally colors are shown in addition to the batting averages to help display whether a hitter hits well or poorly with pitches in those zones. Red is good or “hot,” a neutral color for average, and blue for bad or “cold.” Now FOX Sports only had these three colors (gray for neutral) but I felt that their legend was a bit off.

Here’s what their legend and zones looked like for newly acquired J.J. Hardy.

I don’t like this. There’s no way that .200 or .299 should be considered “average,” and I refuse to treat a .226 and a .294 as being equal. Therefore, I’m going to add a light red and light blue to denote slightly above or below average. This makes the new legend:

Since the MLB average for batting average was .263 in 2009, I chose this to be the median (middle) of my range. I arbitrarily picked the middle three zones to have ranges of .033 points, in case you were wondering. It’s not perfect, but I think for the most part, we can agree that these ranges do a pretty good job at defining how a hitter fared against pitches in that particular zone. Now, it’s onto the fun part: Let’s look at how our Twins fared in 2009. Each player’s BA/OBP/SLG will accompany their name.

Joe Mauer (.365/.444/.587): Was this really a surprise? Apparently it’s recommended to pitch to him low and away…but be careful. Around that .303 lurks a .390, .474, and a .560 (!).

Jose Morales (.311/.381/.361): Of course, Morales will have two of these since he’s a switch hitter. His data as a left-handed hitter is on the left, and right-handed on the right. Simple enough, correct? Against RHP, it appears that he hit best on pitches low in the zone and generally had trouble with pitches high in the zone, which likely contributed to his low SLG and ISO (.050 when the MLB average was .155). Morales only had 17 AB against LHP in 2009, which explains why 4 of the zones on the right do not have any data.

Alexi Casilla (.202/.280/.259): Looking at Casilla’s zones against RHP, would you expect that he hit .210 as a left-handed batter? That’s how much his .067 average on middle-in pitches hurt him. As a right-handed batter, Casilla only tallied 66 AB, and the abundance of blue accurately represents his overall .182 BA against LHP.

J.J. Hardy (.229/.302/.357): Not very encouraging for the new guy, but several people (including myself) have mentioned that Hardy should have a rebound year in 2010.

Brendan Harris (.261/.310/.362): Wow, a strike zone that apparently describes Harris as being a feast/famine type of hitter. This also points out something that I find rather interesting…remember how Harris seems to flinch at ANYTHING near the inside corner? Apparently he either lacks confidence even when he’s hacking at those inside pitches, or he just gets jammed repeatedly. I actually feel it’s a combination of both, because Harris does display the ability to hit to the opposite field, as shown by his ability to hit well with pitches down the middle. Perhaps he tries to hit inside pitches to the opposite field as well, which leads to Chip Caray’s favorite word: “f_sted.” Pat, can I buy an “i”?

Justin Morneau (.274/.363/.516): I’m not too surprised to see Morneau struggle a bit with the outside pitches, and I’m especially not surprised with that .167 on pitches low and away. I think we all can remember seeing Morneau flail at a low and away slider when facing a LHP. Also, he started receiving advice from Harmon Killebrew to help him hit more home runs, and it sounds like Killebrew’s advice was for him to turn on the inside pitches more often in an effort to drive the ball. Judging that most of the hitters so far aren’t too good at hitting inside pitches and Morneau is hovering around .300 on the inside pitches, it looks like he has been succeeding so far.

Nick Punto (.228/.337/.284): Well, as a left-handed hitter, you should throw the ball either high (remember his inordinate number of pop-ups?) or outside to Punto. As a right-handed batter, having a .200 average on pitches gift-wrapped to a hitter’s liking and mailed to the middle of the plate is just ridiculous. Hey Little Nicky, wherever you are, see those red areas? Try hitting more pitches that are thrown there. Love, Twins Territory.

Matt Tolbert (.232/.303/.308): There’s something about Tolbert’s picture that causes me to stifle a laugh…sorry, back on topic. There’s an awful lot of .000s for Tolbert. At least he can hit those middle pitches pretty well.

Michael Cuddyer (.276/.342/.520): I must admit that this is a surprise. I didn’t think that Cuddy would be this good within the strike zone. Since all of the red zones are higher than his season batting average, it suggests that Cuddyer has an itchy trigger finger for pitches low and inside, which are not his forte.

Jason Kubel (.300/.369/.539): Good to see that Morneau and Mauer are getting some support in the lineup. I wish there was a separate one for Kubel vs. LHP so we could see how extreme the differences are for him.

Denard Span (.311/.392/.415): Aren’t you glad we have this guy leading off instead of someone like Carlos Gomez?

Delmon Young (.284/.308/.425): Well geez, this doesn’t make Young look that bad at all. I’ve said this before Off The Mark started, so I’ll say it for the first time to all of you: Young is still the worst .290 hitter I’ve ever seen in my life.

While putting this together, I noticed a peculiar trend. The batting averages for the zones don’t seem to match up with the player’s actual batting average. A good example is Jason Kubel, where only two of his zones were lower than his batting average, whereas the other 7 zones are above his batting average. This is similar with Michael Cuddyer. Therefore, I have a feeling that this information that FOX Sports provides is only for pitches in the strike zone, rather than all pitches like I was treating it at first. Still, I find this very interesting to see where Twins hitters excel in the strike zone and where they struggle. I’m sure teams use this type of analysis with their pitchers to figure out how to pitch certain hitters, and now you have some of this info as well.

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5 Responses to “Hot Zones”

  1. Josh Says:

    Fantastic post… love it!

    • Andrew Says:

      Hey, thanks! After you read this, I edited the portion about Brendan Harris because I realized I hadn’t finished a thought at the end of the paragraph.

  2. Twins Geek Says:

    Nice site and good, detailed entry. I’m looking forward to reading other posts. 2 questions:

    1) usually, when I’ve seen charts like this, I thought the showed them from the pitchers point of view, as opposed to the umpires. So Mauers tough zone would be low and INSIDE, not outside, which jives with my perceptions. Are these zones different?

    2) Do we have your Rss feed on mngameday.com? If not, could you send it?

  3. Blogging Milestones « Off The Mark Says:

    […] Off The Mark « Hot Zones […]

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