The opposite field is well respected in baseball. Complete hitters “go the other way” and do so with authority.
Whether it’s a lefty going to left field or a righty going to right field, it’s an important part of a balanced hitter. But who did it best in 2012?
Among qualified hitters, Carlos Gonzalez had the highest average the opposite way, .536, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. That just tells you that when he hit the ball to left field, he got a high percentage of hits.
The most opposite field hits belong to Derek Jeter by a whole lot. He had 86 opposite field hits which was 25 hits better than the players (Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez) who tied for second. But Jeter also had the most balls in play hit the opposite way, so you’d expect him to have a high number of hits to right.
Carlos Gonzalez leads in efficiency the other way, Jeter leads in chances and raw number.
Adrian Gonzalez leads if we’re looking for two base hits the other way with 25 and Elvis Andrus claims a league leading 6 triples to the opposite field.
Three hitters led the league with 10 opposite field homeruns and none of them were named Miguel Cabrera (he hit 9). Michael Morse, Andrew McCutchen, and Russell Martin hold that honor.
Michael Morse, not too surprisingly, slugged the highest the other way, posting a gaudy .913 mark when he hit the ball to right field. He can also claim the highest wRC+ (273) while CarGo grabs the highest wOBA (.586).
If we want to go farther, which we obviously must, Greg Dobbs led the league with a 41.0% line drive rate the other way. While Ben Revere hit the most grounders, 47.9%. Fly balls are Adam LaRoche’s game, as he hit 76.1% of his opposite field contact in the air.
Ichiro and Norichika Aoki each had 11 infield hits the other way, but Colby Rasmus and Erick Aybar each dropped down 8 successful bunt hits to the opposite field.
All this is well and good, but who was the worst? Who had the fewer hits the other way in 2012?
That honor goes to Mr. Aaron Hill from the Arizona Diamondbacks with a whopping 15! Now that could be poor contact or bad luck, but it’s hard to ignore the 6 MLB hitters who only hit the ball to the opposite field 81 times in 2012.
Each of these men; Ryan Doumit, Everth Cabrera, Will Venable, Drew Stubbs, Adam Dunn, and Chipper Jones, can claim to have made contact the other way the fewest times of anyone.
If we sum it all together and ask wRC+, the worst opposite field hitter of 2012 was Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins with a wonderful -16 wRC+. That’s 8% worse than the second worst guy!
Opposite field hitting is a key piece of any hitter’s game, but it’s clearly a bigger piece for some. Certain hitters like Cabrera, CarGo, and Adrian Gonzalez like to go the other way with authority, and some just like doing it period like Jeter.
Others aren’t so skillful, like Hill and Rollins, and probably should just stick to the pull field.