Today’s quick post is a heat map of swings taken by two hitters with totally different approaches to hitting, Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval.
Burrell is your classic ‘takes a lot pitches, doesn’t swing much outside of the zone’ masher. In 11 seasons in the majors, he’s averaged 82 walks per per season while seeing an average of 4.18 pitches per plate appearance — the league average over that time is 3.76 Pit/PA. Burrell’s hitting style also includes a lot of whiffs (career K-rate of 23.8%), but he rarely goes outside of the strike zone. On the other hand, Sandoval doesn’t walk all that much (averaging 50 walks per season over the past two years) and he’s seen around 3.4 pitches per plate appearance over that same time. Sandoval makes much more contact (career K-rate of 12.7%) and he’s known for a swing from head to toes approach.
Below, you’ll see a heat map of both Burrell’s and Sandoval’s 2010 approach at the plate by swings. The darker the heat map, the more swings.
(Click to enlarge)
Burrell’s heat map looks exactly like what I expected. He doesn’t swing much outside of the strike zone. Sandoval’s heat map also looks like I expected — he swings a lot, and he’s unlikely to be very picky when it comes to hitting. I don’t think that, by themselves alone, these graphs tell us a whole lot about each batter, but they do give us a little insight. I think people will often point to Sandoval’s plate approach as a reason why he struggled so much last year and I think that’s a little unfair. When he was hitting in 2009, with the exact same plate approach, I didn’t hear anyone complaining. Yes, I would love to see him be a little more selective when hitting, but Sandoval seems exactly like the type of hitter that could have a bad BABIP year and look worse than he really is. His loss of power was a little concerning. If you split the difference between his 2008-09 and 2010 seasons, he’s probably around a .320-ish BABIP hitter going forward. If so, he should have the ability to hit around .300 and if the power comes back to even the .450 SLG range, he’s an asset to have.
In closing here are some Sandoval projections from ZiPS, CAIRO, and Marcel.
I would gladly take any of those projections.