So I had this idea the other week. Not the kind taken straight from a comic book where I become a madman take over a city. No, no, the kind where I become a madman and try to periodically update the rankings for the splits-leaders of baseball. My goal is to make this a monthly segment, so here is my first attempt at “Split-Decision.”
A lot can factor into whether or not a hitter gets a hit. Some guys hit better off of lefties than they do righties, and some guys hit better at home than they do on the road. However, I used eight categories in two different tables in the hopes that I would give a good all-around look and leave it up to the reader to decide who has been the best thus far. I chose to rank who has had the most opportunities (PA, AB), who has shown a good amount of power (HR, ISO), and who has shown an ability to just be a good all-around hitter (AVG, BB%, wOBA, wRC+). In all honesty, I tossed BB% into that category to even it at eight, but I think it contributes well to telling the full story of a hitters success.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the splits from around the league, as of the end of play on June 7.
[table caption=”Vs. Left-Handed Pitchers:”]
Kipnis (107),Kipnis (94),Frazier (5),Holliday (25.0%)
Fielder (90),Fielder (83),Forsythe (5),Harper (23.6%)
Brantley (86),Morales (78),15 tied at 4,Mi. Cabrera (20.8%)
Guyer (86),Brantley (77),,Ca. Santana (20.3%)
Hosmer (86),Guyer (77),,Springer (20.0%)
Iglesias (.442),Donaldson (.381),Donaldson (.519),Donaldson (242)
Donaldson (.429),Frazier (.370),Rizzo (.512),Rizzo (228)
Rizzo (.425),C. Young (.367),Tulowitzki (.478),Iglesias (212)
Tulowitzki (.422),Trumbo (.357),Iglesias (.474),C. Young (204)
Pollock (.396),Freese (.326),Young (.463),M. Cabrera (202)
It’s pretty clear that Toronto Blue Jays third baseman/baseball-destroyer Josh Donaldson tears up lefties. With an MLB-leading .519 wOBA, 242 wRC+, and .381 ISO, it’s understood that you might want to employ the ever-so-rare ROOGY against him, if possible. One player who made this list, New York Yankees OF Chris Young, actually makes a living off of lefties. For how well that he is hitting off of them—.361 wOBA, 120 wRC+ and .213 ISO—he is hitting the exact opposite off of right-handers—.153 AVG, .204 wOBA, and a 22 wRC+. It should also be mentioned that Seattle Mariners righty Nelson Cruz did not make the list because he was a couple of plate appearances short of qualifying (he has 43 this season), however he absolutely rakes against lefties. With 6 home runs and a .472 (!!!) batting average, you could also add him to the list of formidable foes for left-handers. That’s likely the reason he doesn’t see lefties as often as most. However it doesn’t get much better for righties, as the three time all-star is batting .301 against them.
But what about left handed hitters? The Chicago Cubs Anthony Rizzo has been absolutely dominating lefties so far, batting .425 against them in 40 at-bats with a 228 wRC+. What’s interesting is that Rizzo appears to have turned a corner. Rizzo struggled against lefties at the beginning of his career before batting above .300 against them last season, so it seems he has built on that success and put it toward 2015.
Now let’s take a look at who hits righties well.
[table caption=”Vs. Right-Handed Pitchers:”]
Donaldson (208),Castro (188),Harper (17),Goldschmidt (20.9%)
J. Upton (201),Cruz (186),Pederson (14),Santana (19.6%)
Stanton (201),Kemp (186),4 tied at 13,Harper (18.8%)
Fowler (200),Donaldson (185),,Bautista (18.1%)
4 tied at 199,2 tied at 182,,LaRoche (17.5%)
Kipnis (.396),Harper (.436),Harper (.499),Harper (221)
Fielder (.387),Teixeira (.359),Goldschmidt (.469),Reddick (208)
D. Gordon (.383),Pederson (.344),Reddick (.462),Kipnis (204)
Reddick (.371),Goldschmidt (.323),Kipnis (.456),Goldschmidt (197)
Jh. Peralta (.350),Arenado (.312),A. Gonzalez (.436),A. Gonzalez (182)
It’s these charts where we really begin to see the emergence of Bryce Harper really, well, emerge. Harper—who leads the league against righties in HR (17), ISO (.436), wOBA (.499), and wRC+ (221)—has really begun to feast on his counterparts of the opposite handedness more than he typically has in the past. Because of this it’s likely a leading reason for how well he has hit overall to start the year since he always faces more right-handed pitchers then lefties.
Another name that comes up at the top of these categories is Arizona Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt—who’s a righty—is batting a crazy .340 against right-handed pitchers with a .469 wOBA, 197 wRC+, and league-leading 20.9% BB%. However Goldschmidt hits even BETTER off of lefties, which makes you wonder: Who should pitch to Paul Goldschmidt?
The answer is nobody. Nobody should pitch to Paul Goldschmidt because he will probably get a hit, regardless of your handedness. And it might go far. Because he’s really really good.
Not to be left unmentioned, this split list has a lot more repeat players from list to list than any of the others. Players like Jason Kipnis, Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson and Josh Reddick all lie at or near the tops of the listed categories. So what do all these players have in common? They’re all left-handed hitters, which shouldn’t really be much of a surprise. Much like how righties dominate the top rankings against left-handed pitchers, it seems left-handed batters dominate the top rankings against right-handed pitchers. Which, honestly, is what most of us would assume to be the case.
How about guys who like the other teams’ ballpark more?
McCutchen (139),Me. Cabrera (129),Cruz (14),Harper (20.6%)
Butler (139),Butler (129),Arenado (10),Pederson (19.4%)
Marte (137),Simmons (125),Braun (10),M. Montero (17.2%)
5 tied at 136,Fielder (124),Stanton (10),Ca. Santana (17.2%)
,2 tied at 123,4 tied at 9,Napoli (17.0%)
Aoki (.396),Cruz (.480),Cruz (.527),Cruz (252)
Phillips (.385),Pederson (.386),Harper (.454),Mi. Cabrera (195)
D. Gordon (.378),Braun (.366),Goldschmidt (.452),Harper (191)
Cruz (.367),Arenado (.350),Rizzo (.450),Goldschmidt (189)
2 tied at .360,Goldschmidt (.340),Mi. Cabrera (.447),Rizzo (188)
Here we see that Nelson Cruz absolutely dominates at opposing fields, owning a wOBA north of .500 and an ISO near .500 (!!!!). It’s no surprise that Cruz does most of his heavy work away from Safeco field, a notoriously pitcher-friendly park. In fact, 14 of Cruz’s 18 homeruns have come on the road. So if you thought Cruz’s numbers would dip slightly from last year to this year, just know that one of the reason’s they haven’t is because he has been hitting very well away from home.
And let’s not forget Paul Goldschmidt, who is at the top of the rankings for these various categories once again. Goldy is hitting .324 away from home with a 189 wRC+, and he’s hitting even better at home. While Goldy might not be the best hitter in the game, he is certainly one of the only hitters that has the ability to hit every type of pitcher in any kind of park.
Another interesting sight is that Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado carries his power with him on the road away from Coors Field, posting a .350 ISO. We also see that two lefties, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rizzo, are enjoying a fair amount of success away from their respective home fields. The pair have posted a .450 wOBA away from home thus far in the season.
Now, finally, the Home spilts!
Cruz (136),Cruz (124),Harper (12),Goldschmidt (23.5%)
Altuve (133),Rollins (122),Frazier (11),Ca. Santana (22.0%)
Rollins (133),Altuve (121),Donaldson (10),Bautista (21.9%)
Goldschmidt (132),3 tied at 119,4 tied at 9,Springer (20.8%)
Seager (132),,,Harper (19.8%)
Kipnis (.407),Harper (.449),Harper (.519),Kipnis (237)
Pedroia (.367),Frazier (.444),Kipnis (.499),Harper (234)
Fielder (.366),Donaldson (.345),Frazier (.497),Frazier (217)
D. Gordon (.365),Bautista (.338),Goldschmidt (.475),Goldschmidt (198)
Donaldson (.362),2 tied at .333,Donaldson (.459),2 tied at 197
Right off the bat, we see that there’s a group of players dominate the home split rankings. Bryce Harper, Jason Kipnis, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, and Paul Goldschmidt all find themselves in more than two top 5’s. Harper, in particular, enjoys a great amount of success at National’s Park—putting up a .519 wOBA, 234 wRC+ and .449 ISO. Like Goldschmidt, Harper enjoys a good amount of success against any pitcher in any park. However, he has been hitting especially well at home this season.
And again we see Goldschmidt in the rankings, however this time he is also among the league leaders in plate appearances. That means that, while Goldschmidt has more chances than everyone else, he still hits as well as some of the hitters that have a smaller sample size.