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charts and minds

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mlb.com has this nifty hit-chart feature that lets you see where a given player's hits are falling -- and where they're not; where he's making outs. they've beefed it up recently with some added functionality; you can now sort it by ballpark and by year. i decided to take a look at juan encarnacion's hit chart in pro player stadium, to see how many deep flyballs he has pounded over the years that died in that park's capacious outfield -- but that might have flown over the fence in more forgiving environs.

so without further ado, here are the charts -- last year only on the left, career on the right:

these are screen captures, and some of the sharpness got lost in the translation, but you still get the idea. to my eye, last year's chart shows only one possible dinger lost to the ballpark -- that out on the warning track in the right-field corner, just next to the 345 sign. that lonely flyball was juan's only manifestation of power to the opposite field last year (in his home games, anyway); all his other right- and right-centerfield flies barely flew.250 feet.

the career chart -- which encompasses all of 2003 and 2005, and parts of 2002 and 2004 -- tells a slightly different story. it looks to my eye as if he lost no fewer than 6 and possibly as many 10 home runs to the ballpark over that time. the 4 no-brainers are the flyouts to the warning track in dead centerfield; all carried 400 feet and change, enough to clear the wall in most stadiums. at new busch, the centerfield fence will be 410 feet from home plate, the same distance as that little dimple in pro player's centerfield wall; at least two of encarnacion's outs to deep center would have cleared 410, and the other two look as if they'd have fallen a couple of feet one way or the other.

juan also probably lost a few dingers in pro player's deep alleys. look right in front of the 385 signs in both left and right; some of those outs would've landed in the bullpens at old busch (372 to the alleys) or the bleachers at wrigley (368), and they'd probably clear the wall at half the parks around the nl. but they're probably still outs at new busch, which supposedly is going to have 386-foot power alleys.

the lack of power to right field, while less pronounced, remains evident in the career chart. in the equivalent of three seasons at pro player, he reached the opposite-field warning track just three times -- once a year.

that takes care of the flyball outs. now let's let at encarnacion's hits -- specifically his extra-base hits:

whoa. dead pull hitter. aside from one apparent blooper that landed on the right-field foul line, encarnacion in 2005 yanked every one of his extra-base hits at pro player to left. on the career chart, he does show a bit more power to the opposite field, including one home run to right, but you still wouldn't say he uses the entire field. (i'm not passing judgment on encarnacion, by the way; i'm not suggesting that he should use the whole field. this is a purely descriptive exercise, to try to learn what sort of hitter he is.) note that quite a few of encarnacion's doubles would probably have been home runs in most other parks; prob'y lost another half-dozen or so homers over the years.

for the sake of comparison, here's reggie sanders' distribution of xbh at busch last year:

different type of hitter. it looks to me as if a whole bunch of reggie's 2005 dingers at busch would've been outs (or doubles) at pro player --- about 6 of 'em barely cleared busch's more generous fences.

to get back to encar'cion: his dead-pull tendencies appeared to be more pronounced than ever last season. don't know quite what to make of that; his overall power (.160 isolated power) was about where it has been throughout his career, so he doesn't appear to have gained or lost anything overall. this could simply be a random thing. unfortunately, mlb.com's hit-chart feature doesn't allow you to combine all of a players hits (home and away) into a single graphic, nor even to collect all the away at-bats into a single chart; you have to go stadium by stadium, which isn't very useful. so we're left with only the home-game half of the picture. but encarnacion's tendencies are pronounced and reinforced over time; his home-game charts from los angeles in 2004 and detroit in the early 2000s show much the same thing, although i'm not gonna reproduce `em here.

he does spray the ball around somewhat; his career distribution of singles at pro player is pretty balanced, with the majority pulled to left but a sizeable minority served to center and right:

but encarnacion's ground outs (i'm not gonna lay another chart on you) are heavily skewed to 3b and shortstop, suggesting that he's a sucker for outside slop -- tries to pull it instead of taking it the other way and hits a two-hopper to shortstop. (point of information: juan'cion is 2 for 25 in his career against jeff suppan.)

there's only so much you can tell about a player until you see him play, but i think we can safely say that our new right-fielder is a pull hitter, pure and simple. because of new busch's dimensions, we should probably not expect him to hit with significantly more power now that he's free of the pro-player straitjacket.