Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Top (And Bottom) 10 Fastball Hitters in MLB

I've neglected my sportswriting recently in favor of film critics, organic food and fake Gene Hackman interviews. I apologize from the bottom of my heart for this mistake. To make amends, it's time to break out my inner nerd and discuss a topic that's been near and dear to my heart since my days of wearing sweatpants on a daily basis: baseball statistics.

It's gotten to the point where batting average, home runs and RBIs don't get the job done anymore. I need new ways to absorb what I see on TV. Give me OPS, VORP, win probabilities, fielding range and pitch values.

Enter FanGraphs, my new favorite site. They track pretty much every stat that's been conjured up. How in depth are they? They can tell you what hitters and pitchers are most/least effective when hitting or throwing a certain pitch. I'm positively giddy. This new information is awesome beyond words.

You'll learn things about your favorite players that you never would have known before. For example, the only pitch that Albert Pujols hits below average is a split-fingered fastball. You'd think every NL Central pitching coach would lead a split-finger course to try to gain any kind of advantage over King Albert.

You're either going to find this information extremely fascinating or more boring than Pretty In Pink (I kid, RIP John Hughes. And Molly Ringwald's career). My guess is that there's a good chance you'll find this material captivating if you have a Y chromosome. If you're a double X, you could be out of luck. But whatever. Like I said, I'm unleashing my inner nerd here. So here are the major leaguers who currently are best and worst at hitting the ol' #1. The average is 0. Above average hitters score above zero, below average hitters score below zero. Easy enough.

10 Best Fastball Hitters of 2009 (Runs above average)

1. Albert Pujols (31.1)
2. Kevin Youkilis (29.0)
3. Michael Young (27.6)
4. Mark Teixeira (25.3)
5. Justin Upton (24.8)
6. Prince Fielder (24.1)
7. Shane Victorino (23.7)
8. Chase Utley (23.1)
9. Adam Dunn (22.2)
T-10. Victor Martinez (21.9)
T-10. Mark Reynolds (21.9)

  • Only one guy in all of baseball is worse at hitting sliders than Justin Upton (-12.1), and that's Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres(-12.4). Why Upton still sees fastballs is beyond me.
  • 4 of these 11 guys are on my fantasy team (Albert, Young, Prince, Victorino). My pitching is blowing it for me, but that offense is still stacked.
  • Only 2 of these 11 boppers (Prince and Dunn) are above average at hitting a split-finger fastball.
  • Albert, Prince and Utley also tattoo sliders. (5.1, 4.1, 5.2)
  • 2 BoSox, 2 Phillies and (shockingly) 2 D-Backs on this list.
  • No Cubs on the list. The first one doesn't have to wait too long, though. The most effective fastball-hitting North Sider is Derrek Lee (14th in MLB at 20.1)
  • First White Sox man doesn't appear until Paul Konerko shows up in 54th place at 9.8
  • I hate Teixeira. Just seems like a big, muscled, sexy douche. Wait, what?

10 Worst Fastball Hitters of 2009

10. Magglio Ordonez (-6.3)
9. Jose Lopez (-6.4)
8. Orlando Cabrera (-6.6)
7. Jeff Francoeur (-6.7)
6. Emilio Bonifacio (-7.6)
5. Randy Winn (-7.8)
4. Edgar Renteria (-8.8)
T-2. Bengie Molina (-10.5)
T-2. Jason Kendall (-10.5)
1. Willy Taveras (-11.5)

  • Taveras' only above average score is 0.5 on split-fingers. He's below average on fastballs, sliders, curves, changeups, cutters, and knucklers. Professional hitter.
  • 3 straight Giants are near the top of the list (Winn, Renteria, Molina).
  • Francoeur has the lowest score of any player on this list for any secondary pitch (-6.5 on sliders).
  • Magglio had a +26.9 on fastballs in 2007, good for 22nd in the majors. He was +3.3 in 2008 and now he's 10th-worst in 2009 at -6.3. Either he's aging rapidly or he kicked the performance enhancers.
  • No Cubs in this list, either. Worst fastball hitter on the team is Ryan Theriot, who is at 50th-worst in the league (but still above average) at +2.2.
  • The worst fastball hitting player on the White Sox is Alexei Ramirez, 28th-worst in the bigs at -2.2.
  • 7 of the 10 worst fastball hitting players hail from Spanish-speaking countries. Latinos can't hit the fastball unless aided by performance enhancers? Let the stereotyping begin!
Even if this post bored you completely, I had too much fun with it. I really did. Expect more baseball stats that don't really matter in the future. I'm out like Maggs on 93 mph gas.

1 comment:

  1. Just one comment - what position is predominant on the worst list? It would make sense that it would be catcher - and I see Kendall and Molina to perhaps back me up. But I'm not sure about these other guys.

    Catchers are usually forgiven for being below average hitters in general (fastball or otherwise) as long as they bring game-management & defensive skills to the table.

    And, is there a more common position on the best list? 1B?