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Tough Hill to Climb

Aaron Hill hit only .205 for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, .081 points below his career average going into the season.  His line went from .286/.330/.499 in 2009 to .205/.271/.394 in 2010.  While the 100 point drop in slugging percentage was certainly a problem, the drop in OBP was almost entirely due to a lack of hitting - his walk rate actually increased 1.4% in 2010.

Going into the season Hill had a career BABIP of .307;  in 2010 it hit a career low .196.  When we look at his splits we see that Hill had a ton of trouble against left-handed pitching.  His BABIP was a ridiculously low .124, indicating he may have been a bit unlucky.  However, his overall line drive percentage was 8 percentage points below his previous league average last season.  Against lefties, his line drive percentage was only 2.3%, and he had a .118 batting average on ground balls against southpaws.  So while bad luck may have contributed, Hill wasn't getting many solid hits either.

Aaron Hill vs. LHP (click to enlarge)
Basically, Hill wasn't making very good contact on anything lefties threw at him last season.

Park Factors

Johnny Damon saw nearly a 100 point drop in OPS from his 2009 season with the Yankees to his 2010 season with the Tigers (.854 to .756).  His home OPS had an even larger gap (.915 to .794).

Johnny Damon Home Offense (click to enlarge)

Yankee Stadium played a big role in helping Damon to a successful 2009 season at the plate.  While it ranked in the bottom half of stadiums in offensive park factor that year, Damon took advantage of the short porch in right, with all 17 of his home HRs finding their way there. The low offensive rating for Yankee Stadium was likely balanced by the Yankees' high-powered offense that hit equally well on the road; Yankee Stadium would jump up to 2nd in the league in offense in 2010 behind Coors Field.

While Comerica park ranked in the bottom half of the league in offensive park factor in 2010, unlike Yankee Stadium it is a much tougher park for left-handed hitters.  It might not get any easier this season for Damon as Tropicana ranked dead last in park factor offense in 2010.


Reader Question: Hungry for the curve...

Can you name the top three MLB hitters when facing curveballs thrown in the strike zone during the 2010 season (based on batting avg. and a minimum of 50 plate appearances)?