Inside Edge, a professional-level scouting company, tracks the quality of contact made by every hitter in Major League Baseball. This data is sent to both major media outlets and MLB teams. One of their proprietary statistics, well-hit average (WHav), takes a hitter's number of well-hit balls in play and divides by total balls in play. I was able to get access to the 2014 end-of-season data and messed around with some regression analysis, so that led to some pretty useful insight into what makes hitters successful.
Since the information is not available to the public, I am not giving out actual equations. But the following table shows a few stats, some statistically significant regressors, and the type of correlation:
|wOBA (opposite field)||Negative||Positive||Negative||Negative||0.3616|
The non-statistics translation is that a pull hitter should make good contact and hit as many flyballs as possible. An opposite field hitter should make good contact, hit fewer flyballs, and obviously should not pull the ball very much. In order to increase home run to flyball ratio, a hitter should pull the ball more and make good contact. Pretty obvious stuff mostly, but it can explain the struggles of a lot of the Yankees' lineup.
The critically-acclaimed host of Foul Territory recently told reporters that he will not be trying to beat the shift this season, despite seemingly everyone begging him to do so. He recently told reporters, "Every time I try to slap the ball the other way, it doesn't go well for anybody." Technically, he is wrong; it goes very well for the other team. For his career, Tex has put up a very weak .647 OPS when hitting the ball to the opposite field. Keep in mind, that number is boosted because it does not include strikeouts. But to quote the great comedian Desus Nice, you gotta hear both sides.
If Teixeira actually did try to become a slap hitter at any point in his career, it must have been a very small sample size. Remember that production on balls hit the other way is negatively impacted by how often a hitter pulls the ball and his flyball percentage. Tex has consistently had an above league average flyball percentage and had the third highest pull percentage in 2014 (min: 200 at bats). It is no secret that Teixeira's swing has always been tailored towards pulling flyballs over the wall, so there is no way of actually knowing whether he could be productive trying to go the other way. For all we know, Tex could be a decent line drive hitter if he leveled out his notorious uppercut swing.
The flip side is that if Teixeira still wants to be a 30 home run, 100 RBI hitter, he needs to keep pulling the ball. During my pre-Pinstripe Alley days, I noticed that Teixeira's production against fastballs was plummeting. His 2014 well hit average was right around league average, so if a healthy Tex can do better against fastballs and bring his WHav back up, there is no reason to believe that he cannot be an effective power hitter. He also should look to do something about his flyball rate, which despite still being above league average, decreased in 2014. But if his WHav does not jump back up in 2015, new hitting coach Jeff Pentland should help him go the other way, even he does it while kicking and screaming.
As ESPN's Mark Simon noted, Sir Didi's well-hit average is well above average. His career 41.7 flyball percentage is actually higher than Teixeira's, but the home runs have obviously not followed. But unlike Teixeira, his pull percentage is at around 33%. Tex is at 55%, league average is around 40%. Last week I suggested that he hit more line drives, but realistically, everyone would do that if it was easy. The solution to Didi's hitting woes might be as simple as pulling the ball more, especially as he moves into Yankee Stadium. The following chart, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, shows how he can do it:
The chart shows that Didi has a bit of a hard time catching up to fastballs and ends up hitting them to the left side of the field as a result. At times, he has seen hard pitches as much as two-thirds of the time:
If pitchers are going to throw him that many fastballs, he might as well start making them pay. If he is in a hitter's count, or even the first pitch of an at bat, he might consider sitting on a fastball. His high WHav suggests that he has the power to hit a handful into the right-field bleachers. Gregorius was obviously a defensive acquisition, but if he can start pulling the ball, he might be able to tap into some of the hidden pop in his bat.
Data is courtesy of Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, and Inside Edge.