## Opposite field hitting: The key to success?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Does hitting the opposite way improve a team's chance to score runs? Let's take a look.

Want a good drinking game? How about every time Ray Fosse says "the hitter should look to go the opposite way here" have a drink. Be careful, you may quickly go through your stash of booze and/or get seriously inebriated. But a thought occurred to me after hearing Fosse say these words for the 10 trillionth time: could he be on to something? Does a team's ability to hit to the opposite field actually matter? Should EVERY SINGLE OAKLAND HITTER try to shoot the ball the opposite way? I thought I would try to find out.

Here's what I did. I took the weighted runs created (wRC) data for every ball hit to opposite, center, and pull fields since they started keeping the data in 2003. Then I compared how well wRC for these hits correlated to a team's ability to score runs. Here are the plots of the correlations.

So we see that opposite and center field hits aren't really good predictors of how many runs a team will score. Pull field wRC is a much better indicator. If you want to score runs, you need to rack up some wRC to the pull side. Hmm. That's strike one on Fosse.

But maybe teams need to spread the ball around. You know, not hit too much to the pull side. Keep the defense honest. So let's correlate percentage of balls hit to all fields with runs scored.

Nope. It doesn't seem to matter if teams hit more balls to opposite, center, or pull fields. Strike two on Fosse.

Wait a minute. Maybe opposite field contact is just better. Maybe that's the reason hitters should go the other way. Maybe opposite field contact is more valuable than any other type of contact. Ok. Let's find the average wRC for each ball hit to a field divided by the times a ball is hit to that field.

 wRC/AB (pull) wRC/AB (center) wRC/AB (oppo) 0.191 0.137 0.099

Hell no. Balls hit to the opposite field suck. Balls hit to the pull side are worth nearly twice as many runs as balls hit to the opposite field. Strike three Fosse. You are out!

Let's give Fosse one more chance. How about just getting a hit. Runner on third, tie game, just need a hit. Should the hitter try to go the other way? Let's look at the batting average for balls hit to all fields.

 Pull Center Oppo AVE 0.346 0.335 0.286

Nope. The best chance of getting a hit is pulling the ball.

How about in terms of the Oakland A's? Are the A's constructing teams to hit more to the opposite field? Absolutely not.

 AB (oppo) wRC (oppo) AB (center) wRC (center) AB (pull) wRC (pull) R 2013 MLB Average 1072.7 118.4 1552.5 202.1 1686.6 310.3 675.2 2013 Athletics 1016 88 1566 199 1760 374 767 2013 % Diff -5.29% -25.70% 0.87% -1.55% 4.35% 20.53% 13.60% 2012 MLB Average 1072.9 121.9 1516.3 211.1 1704.7 319.0 700.6 2012 Athletics 948 62 1471 183 1721 393 713 2012 % Diff -11.64% -49.15% -2.99% -13.32% 0.95% 23.18% 1.77% 2011 MLB Average 1073.7 105.1 1546.5 199.5 1753.4 328.6 693.6 2011 Athletics 1061 75 1586 186 1711 280 645 2011 % Diff -1.19% -28.64% 2.55% -6.78% -2.42% -14.80% -7.01% 2010 MLB Average 1085.1 108.1 1554.0 200.6 1728.7 330.9 710.3 2010 Athletics 1084 84 1587 186 1716 309 663 2010 % Diff -0.10% -22.29% 2.12% -7.28% -0.73% -6.63% -6.65% 2009 MLB Average 1129.4 114.6 1483.1 200.4 1796.1 347.4 747.3 2009 Athletics 1290 115 1560 196 1688 306 759 2009 % Diff 14.22% 0.35% 5.19% -2.18% -6.02% -11.92% 1.57% 2008 MLB Average 1161.5 119.9 1474.9 187.1 1824.5 360.6 752.8 2008 Athletics 1147 83 1398 172 1680 294 646 2008 % Diff -1.25% -30.76% -5.21% -8.05% -7.92% -18.47% -14.19% 2007 MLB Average 1153.9 118.8 1533.3 201.6 1832.0 369.2 777.4 2007 Athletics 1091 91 1553 197 1814 350 741 2007 % Diff -5.45% -23.38% 1.28% -2.30% -0.98% -5.19% -4.68% 2006 MLB Average 1151.7 120.6 1532.4 204.2 1837.9 375.5 786.6 2006 Athletics 1208 80 1544 155 1772 385 771 2006 % Diff 4.89% -33.67% 0.75% -24.11% -3.59% 2.53% -1.99% 2005 MLB Average 1218.2 110.4 1358.2 188.2 1945.9 362.7 744.2 2005 Athletics 1275 85 1470 166 2062 361 772 2005 % Diff 4.66% -22.98% 8.23% -11.81% 5.96% -0.48% 3.74% 2004 MLB Average 1243.3 110.0 1296.9 201.9 1976.8 376.1 779.2 2004 Athletics 1257 84 1279 210 2131 426 793 2004 % Diff 1.10% -23.66% -1.38% 4.01% 7.80% 13.28% 1.78% 2003 MLB Average 1289.6 108.8 1237.7 210.1 2008.5 353.8 765.9 2003 Athletics 1288 77 1272 215 2039 318 768 2003 % Diff -0.13% -29.25% 2.77% 2.32% 1.52% -10.12% 0.27%

The A's haven't gotten much production out of hitting the other way, the last two years especially (division winning years I might add). If anything, Oakland A's hitters may be worse opposite field hitters. Check this out.

 wRC/AB (oppo) wRC/AB (center) wRC/AB (oppo) Oakland Average 0.1893 0.1280 0.0731 MLB Average 0.1908 0.1372 0.0993 % Difference -0.80% -6.70% -26.35%

Opposite field contact by Oakland hitters is worth far less than MLB average opposite field contact (Oakland also has the lowest oppo batting average at .261). This could mean that the last 10 years Oakland's hitters have been below average at going the other way. (Interestingly, despite Chili Davis' approach to get the hitters to go the other way, Oakland has been bad going the other way the last two years with .0764 runs per opposite way contact.)

Or it could be that the Coliseum is a difficult place to go the other way. Considering the Coliseum is a difficult place to hit period and that hitting the other way is intrinsically more difficult, I might go with the latter. Especially since opposite field contact tends to produce flyballs (55%), flyballs that find gloves in the spacious Coliseum (great article on why opposite hits tend to be flyballs here). Or both, and Beane and Co. know this and have constructed the team accordingly. Take a look at the players on the team the last couple of years and their career wRC to all fields.

 Name wRC (oppo) wRC (center) wRC (pull) Jed Lowrie 24.5 55.8 137.5 Coco Crisp 71.1 159.6 338.4 Alberto Callaspo 33.5 92.1 165.3 Brandon Moss 16.8 75.6 111.9 Derek Norris 4.8 13.6 36 Eric Sogard 14.9 5.3 26.9 Yoenis Cespedes 12.4 62.4 75.2 John Jaso 24.8 29.3 62.6 Nick Punto 86.1 94 82.5 Daric Barton 18.9 58 94.2 Josh Donaldson 30.6 37.8 57 Josh Reddick 11 46.5 105.8 Craig Gentry 4.9 25.8 45.1 Chris Young -8.5 82.3 354.7 Nate Freiman 4.1 9 7.9 Seth Smith 29.9 102.9 146.3 Total 379.8 950 1847.3 % 11.95% 29.90% 58.14% MLB Average % 17.20% 30.20% 52.50%

Yep, it looks to me like Beane is constructing the roster with guys who can pull the ball. Or maybe it is just a coincidence. Regardless, if a hitter is going to be successful in Oakland, hitting the other way is fine, but he better be able to pull the ball. No matter what Ray Fosse says.

## Trending Discussions

forgot?

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

I already have a Vox Media account!

### Verify Vox Media account

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

We'll email you a reset link.

Try another email?

### Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

### Join Athletics Nation

You must be a member of Athletics Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Athletics Nation. You should read them.

### Join Athletics Nation

You must be a member of Athletics Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Athletics Nation. You should read them.