Timing is an oft-neglected aspect of baseball, partly because there’s no stat for it and partly because we only see swings from center field on TV. Still, baseball is a three-dimensional game, and we need to consider depth in addition to height and width.
Starting with the basic assumption that an early swing will result in the ball being pulled and a late swing will carry the ball the other way, I looked at every hitter over the last three years and compared how much they pull fast pitches (>90mph) versus how much they pull slow pitches (<90mph). I’ll write about the various archetypes I discovered later, but I wanted to highlight the most interesting one today.
Some guys have a huge gap in pull ability depending on a pitch’s speed. For instance, here’s how Francisco Lindor does as a right-hander on slow pitches versus fast ones.
And here’s him describing a home run back in May:
“[It’s] getting the barrel to the ball, getting the barrel out front,” Lindor said. “The at-bat before, I hit it a little bit closer to my body. And then the second at-bat, I hit it a little more out front. That’s the difference. I won’t hit any home runs [if the ball travels too much]. All my home runs are going to be out front.
“Whether it’s opposite, pull or center field, all my home runs are going to come when I get the barrel out. It’s just, I don’t know, it’s a blessing.”
Lindor’s not a musclebound freak, but he’s found a way to fake some power as long as he’s okay with being a mere singles hitter against high velocity. If he was indeed leaning out in front more this year, it would explain why he hit more homers in 2017 than in the previous two seasons combined.
Interestingly enough, this category also includes Jose Altuve, Dustin Pedroia, and Mookie Betts. All of them drastically pull slow pitches and drastically go the other way with fast pitches. And like Lindor, they notoriously outperform power expectations for players their size.