The Change: Making the Most of Your Batted Balls

The worst batted ball in baseball is the pulled grounder. It heads right into the shift, right into the waiting glove. The best batted ball is the pulled fly ball. It soars majestically into the night.

The line between the two is razor thin. Hitters want to get that good wood on the ball and yank it for power, but if they roll over the top at all, it’s the worst idea. That’s why up the middle is the safe idea. You build a safe, solid swing.

But what about the guys living on the razor’s edge? The guys pulling a ton of balls, but pulling them in the air? Maybe they’re doing something that makes their power more believable. They’ve got the best batted ball figured out.

Here are the guys with 100 balls in play that hit the most pulled fly balls divided by their pulled grounders.

Best Pulled Fly to Ground Ball Ratios
Name Pull FB/GB Overall Pull% ISO
Brian Dozier 0.83 54% 0.158
Salvador Perez 0.77 46% 0.240
Brandon Moss 0.68 45% 0.318
Leonys Martin 0.59 49% 0.205
Carlos Santana 0.58 53% 0.217
Brandon Guyer 0.57 48% 0.201
Miguel Sano 0.56 36% 0.223
Brett Lawrie 0.54 41% 0.154
Todd Frazier 0.53 52% 0.249
David Ortiz 0.50 51% 0.368
Matt Adams 0.50 33% 0.236
Wilmer Flores 0.50 47% 0.139
Nolan Arenado 0.49 48% 0.293
Josh Donaldson 0.49 47% 0.289
Evan Longoria 0.49 44% 0.266
Kevin Kiermaier 0.48 45% 0.211
Ian Kinsler 0.48 43% 0.217
Rougned Odor 0.45 45% 0.220
Corey Dickerson 0.44 35% 0.247
Luis Valbuena 0.44 50% 0.181
Minimum 100 balls in play

Look at this list of power hitters. Let’s pull the interesting names from the list.

Matt Adams
Dude is huge. He was always supposed to mash. Now we want to drag him down even though he’s hitting more fly balls this year, and making the most of his pulled balls. Now he’s a guy that can combat the shift with opposite field grounder, and punish them with the pulled fly ball. He’s even walking more. There’s really no reason Matt Adams should be on any waiver wire. Go get Big City.

Kevin Kiermaier
I wanted to write about at least one scrawny center fielder with surprising pop, but I’ve written twice about how Leonys Martin changed his batted ball mix to get the ball in the air more, and how the exit velocity isn’t super attractive anyway, but now we’ve got another factor that favors him. I’m a fan.

With his fractured wrist, Kiermaier is a much riskier bet. But in terms of batted ball angles and mix, he’s a Martin clone. Down to the mediocre batted ball velocity. But he’s up to 94 mph in the ideal angles, up from below 90. If you missed out on Martin, you may want to try and stash Keirmaier on your DL. You’ll probably want to leave him on the DL as long as possible to see how he fares when he’s back, but there’s some upside here.

Wilmer Flores
We’re only going to investigate the names that don’t really fit the list, so there’s always some risk dealing with outliers. Flores is only hitting the ball at an average exit velocity and it looks like he’s pulling the ball way too much. And on the ground. But if you peal back the cover on those pulled balls, there’s some hope. There’s even hope in the darkness that is David Wright’s season ending injury. The Mets have gone with internal options before, and in their position — in the middle of a crowded wild card situation — they may not want to spend a whole lot to get a better bat. They may want to wait for Duda and see what their homegrown guy can do. There’s a chance there’s 20-homer type power in there.

Brandon Guyer
This Tampa Ray was supposed to be a guy that could play some defense and hit lefties. A secret exists in his handedness splits though, as small sample as they are. He’s been basically league average against righties for a while. Even this year, same deal, but with more power and less patience. He’s still killing lefties — an OPS over a thousand — but also hitting for power against righties in a way that looks believable. Once he’s back from the hamstring strain, there’s probably a job waiting for him.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Baller McCheesemember
7 years ago

Matt Adams needs to hurry up and not be platooned so much.