Can you name the top three hitters (based on average) when facing the 'cutter' as a decisive pitch during plate appearances in 2010 (minimum of 50 plate appearances)?
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Luke Scott put together a career year in 2010, raising all his averages compared to his first two seasons with the Orioles. How did he accomplish this feat? First, we'll look a two aspects of his batting in the 2008-2009 time period. The following heat map shows where Luke picked up the most hits when he put the ball in play:
Scott hit the inside pitch well, but tended to make outs on balls pretty much over the heart of the plate. He didn't even make that much contact in that area.
There existed an area of the strike zone ripe for Scott to exploit. In 2010, he stopped the swings and misses there:
The balls he hit in that area more often ended up hits:
There is some evidence looking at his hit chart that Scott tried to go with pitches more in 2010. Instead of trying to pull the pitch slightly away, Scott tried to make contact. The result was a about a 25 point rise in his BA, 30 point rise in his OBP, and a 50 point rise in his slugging from the previous two seasons. We'll see if he can keep that up in 2011.
In early August of last season, Yankees' center fielder Curtis Granderson went to hitting coach Kevin Long for help with his swing. From that point on, Granderson was performing much better at the plate. It could just be a combination of small sample size and selective endpoints. You can judge for yourself.
I also noticed that Granderson was producing better results on pitches up in the zone. If we isolate pitches thrown to the top 5 inches of the average strike zone and higher, Granderson's slugging percentage went from .403 to .816. His swing rate, as well as miss rate, didn't really change at all. We're only dealing with 365 and 288 pitches in this specific zone over the two time periods respectively, however, so you can't read too much into his results. Although I will say that a change in his expected OBP might indicate a better approach. Before August 10th, Granderson had an exp-OBP of .363 with a 17.2% exp-BB% on pitches up. From the 10th on: .421 exp-OBP, 20.8% exp-BB%.