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# Billy Butler Loves Hitting the Ball to Center Field

A few weeks ago, I was driving and heard from the radio broadcast team that opposing teams' outfielders are really playing Billy Butler to hit the ball to center field and are giving him the lines. I decided to use batted ball data to see if there was any reason that teams are doing the shift.

To start with, I needed the average number of balls hit by RH hitters into various parts of the outfield. I divided the outfield in 5 equal zones, LF, LCF, CF, RCF, RF and looked at the percentage of line drives, fly balls and home runs hit into each zone. Here are the number for all MLB hitters from 2007 to 2011:

 Year LF LCF CF RCF RF 2007 18.3% 19.4% 26.5% 18.7% 17.0% 2008 18.9% 18.5% 26.6% 18.8% 17.2% 2009 18.3% 18.3% 27.1% 18.5% 17.8% 2010 17.8% 17.9% 27.6% 18.5% 18.3% 2011 16.7% 19.2% 27.5% 18.7% 17.9%

Now here are the percentages for Billy Butler:

 Year LF LCF CF RCF RF 2007 13.0% 13.0% 28.7% 26.1% 19.1% 2008 11.7% 17.2% 29.7% 20.7% 20.7% 2009 11.6% 19.0% 22.2% 26.4% 20.8% 2010 10.8% 19.6% 24.5% 21.1% 24.0% 2011 10.6% 22.3% 28.7% 22.3% 16.0%

Finally here are the percentage differences of the league averages subtracted from Billy's values:

 Year LF LCF CF RCF RF 2007 -5.3% -6.3% 2.2% 7.4% 2.1% 2008 -7.2% -1.3% 3.1% 1.9% 3.5% 2009 -6.7% 0.6% -4.9% 7.9% 3.1% 2010 -7.0% 1.7% -3.0% 2.6% 5.8% 2011 -6.1% 3.1% 1.3% 3.7% -1.9%

First looking at just Butler's numbers, it can be seen that he has adjusted from previous seasons by putting the ball in center field more instead of going the opposite way. In previous seasons he hit to RF any where from 2.1% to 5.8% points more than the league average.  This season he is hitting there 1.9% points less. The gain is distributed to the 3 CF positions (LCF, CF, RF) which he hits to about 8% points more than the league average.

Also, he never has hit to LF at any time in his career and that continues in 2011.  He hits it there about 5% to 7% points less that the rest of the league.  With Billy's blazing fast speed, if he even hits it into the corner, he has about 0% chance of getting a triple out of the hit.

Billy Butler is definitely hitting the ball more to the center part of the field compared to how he did in the past and compared to the rest of the league. It seems that some other teams have noticed. They are taking away the gaps in the center part of the field and giving him more room on the lines.

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Frenchy's data (it was asked for in the comments and since they don't handle tables at all, I will post it here):

 Year LF LCF CF RCF RF 2007 17.7% 23.4% 24.0% 17.2% 17.7% 2008 21.0% 21.5% 22.0% 17.7% 17.7% 2009 14.3% 20.1% 26.8% 20.5% 18.3% 2010 19.8% 15.1% 27.3% 20.9% 16.9% 2011 15.5% 22.7% 28.9% 16.5% 16.5%