Once upon a time, all we had were box scores. We might know a player went 1-3 with a double and a walk, but we wouldn’t know how exactly all of the game’s events unfolded. We’ve come a long way since then, getting play-by-play data, pitch-by-pitch data, video tracking, PITCHf/x, and Statcast. We have results data stretching back more than a century, but the way those results came about gets easier to understand with new information.
What direction was the double hit? How far did it go? Who fielded it? Hearing a player hit a double seems like specific information, but there’s plenty more you might want to know about that event. One of the ways we communicate that information is through Spray Charts.
There are certainly other ways to communicate information of this nature, but one implementation is to display it visually on a diamond graphic and you can find our implementation of spray charts on the player pages here at FanGraphs.
Spray charts are useful at recording individual events and in illuminating player tendencies. If you want to know about a specific play, you might look to a spray chart to tell you where the ball went, but spray charts are most often used to determine if player pulls the ball often or if his fly balls tend to go to right field or left field.
FanGraphs has spray charts for batters, fielders, and pitchers, available by clicking on the tab at the top of the stat portion of their player page, based on Inside Edge data. For hitters, you’ll start with something like this:
You can toggle between batted balls (the player as a hitter) and fielding location (the player as a fielder), which we’ll do in a moment, but first we’ll walk through the options. You have the option of selecting a player and then your chart types, seasons, and the handedness of the pitcher.
In chart type, you can select to display the data by hang time, batted ball type, or hit type. In the season drop down, you can select any year from 2012 forward, or any consecutive stretch of years in that window. Handedness allows you to choose all pitchers, righties, or lefties. You’ll also notice that the site displays two charts side by side so that you can select different options and compare. Remember to hit Refresh All Charts when you want to update the page to reflect your change.
As with many features on the site, the icon in the upper right corner of the chart allows you to download and embed the results as you wish.
The basic functions of the fielding side of things are the same:
This time the chart type options are made plays, missed plays, or made/missed plays. The season function works the same and you can select the player’s position as well if you have a player who gets reps at multiple spots. The percentages refer to the Inside Edge fielding data we have on the site which puts plays into buckets based on the probability a play gets made.
Pitchers have the same fielding charts as hitters, but their default charts reflect batted balls with them on the mound. The options are the same as if you’re looking at a hitter’s charts from a functionality perspective:
You might notice that for players with lots of plate appearances, batters faced, or fielding chances that the charts can get cluttered quickly. To help alleviate that problem, you have the ability to click the key at the bottom of the page (i.e., the green dot that has ground ball next to it) to turn the display on and off. Here is the exact same example, with ground balls turned off.
Here’s what it looks like to embed a spray chart:
If you have any questions about functionality, don’t hesitate to ask. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, check out Bill Petti’s spray chart tool which takes similar data from PITCHf/x and offers many additional features.
Neil Weinberg is the Site Educator at FanGraphs and can be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44.