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Bad Ball Hitters

2010 Top Ten Power Hitters on Pitches Outside of the Strike Zone
(min. 750 pitches)

League average slugging percentage on pitches out of the strike zone last year was around .250. Rafael Furcal is the one name that pops out in this list. Unlike the other names in the top ten (and most all in the top 25), Furcal is not a power hitter. He's never hit more than 15 home runs in any season, and has amassed a total of 23 in his last 3 seasons of 400 plate appearances or more.

The switch hitting Furcal has always had more power from the right side of the plate (.400 as LHB, .447 as RHB), and most of his power on pitches out of the strike zone last year came from the right side. Three of his eight HRs from last year came on pitches out of the strike zone from the right side.

For a singles hitter like Furcal, you'd expect him to carry a high batting average on outside of the zone pitches, and his .263 average ranked him tenth last year. And his average on line drives off pitches out of the zone was a lofty .917 as well.

However, what was most surprising was his low batting average on ground balls. In his prime, Furcal was one of the faster players in the game, swiping 226 bases through his first 7 seasons in the majors. Furcal is still fairly fast at this point in his career compared to the average major leaguer, and speedy players tend to have better batting averages on ground balls. However, Furcal only managed a .115 ground ball average on balls out of the zone last year (.258 overall on GB). With 40% of the out of strike zone balls in play coming on the ground, his place in the top ten of this list is that much more impressive. He was doing it with the stick, and not his legs.


Too Fast for Pat

Pat Burrell's move from the Rays to the Giants seemed to help his batting stats.  He posted a .202/.292/.333 slash line with the Rays, raising that to .266/.364/.509 with the Giants.  Looking at his performance against the fastball with both teams, however, I would venture that the improvement might have been skin deep.

First, look how Pat performed against various fastball speeds in 2010.

Pat Burrel vs. fastballs by velocity, 2010.This graph shows that Pat could hit a slow fastball well, one in the high 80s.  His in play average also went up on very fast pitches, but he saw fewer of those.  Now looking at a time line of the 2010 season, look what happened when Pat arrived in the National League:

Pat Burrell, timeline vs. fastballs, 2010.During his time with the Rays, the fastballs he saw were fast.  When he started with the Giants, he tended to see lower speed fastballs, and he hit those well.  As time went on back in the NL, however, he started to see speeds similar to the AL, and his average on balls in play took a hit, not recovering until the end of the season.

Pat hit .338 for the month of June in a Giants uniform, getting on base at a .405 clip.  He hit .246 the rest of the way with a .352 OBP, his ability to draw walks keeping him valuable.  It certainly looks like Burrell can't catch up to the heat anymore, which is why we may see Brandon Belt playing for the Giants sooner rather than later.


Uggla's Power Shift

Dan Uggla is coming off arguably his best offensive season.  Over the past three seasons however, he's started to lose his power stroke on outside pitches.

Dan Uggla (Click to enlarge)

The large drop in power on pitches in the outer half of the zone did not take any major toll on his overall numbers last season.  He put up his highest OPS season and absolutely crushed inside pitching.  On anything thrown over the inside 3.5 inches of the strike zone and in, Uggla hit .326/.413/.722 for a .467 wOBA (4th best among all RHB, min. 500 pitches). 

His ability to turn on inside pitches essentially made up for the lackluster .302 SLG% he posted on outside pitches.  Most of his issues can be attributed to his inability to hit outside sliders and curveballs, against which he collectively hit .155 with a 44.4% strike out rate.