Ideally, we should see the same patterns in our data that we see in Major League Baseball. For example, we know from actual pitch data that BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) varies by pitch location:
|Heat map by Dave Allen|
As you can see, BABIP is slightly higher in the lower part of the strike zone, because low pitches lead to more ground balls, and ground balls turn into hits a bit more often than fly balls.
And, the "hot zone" for BABIP tilts. That is, on low pitches, the highest BABIP occurs just inside the middle of the plate. On higher pitches, this region is a bit farther away from the batter.
This prime hitting zone tilts at this angle because the sweet spot of the bat passes through the strike zone roughly along this line. With the bat (and arms) pivoting on the batter's shoulder, it's easier to reach the high outside corner with the heart of the bat than it is to reach the high inside corner. So, with Baseball Mogul, I modeled the bat moving through the strike zone, by assigning different coeffecients of restitution to each point on the bat. The coefficient of restitution (COR) reflects how quickly the ball comes off the bat at each spot. It can be represented as a parabolic function along the length of the hitting surface, with the COR peaking at the bat's sweet spot.
I hope I didn't lose you with the technical jargon. Simply put, once this COR model is added to the simulation, we should see results that look somewhat like real life. So here's the same heat map from one season of Baseball Mogul:
|Heat map by Baseball Mogul 2013|
I honestly didn't expect it would look that good. As with the first heat map, BABIP is highest from the middle of the plate down to the bottom edge. And, we see the same tilt: on low pitches, the batter is more likely to hit the ball solidly if it's over the inner half of the plate. As the pitch moves up in the strike zone, BABIP improves as the pitch moves toward the outer half.
Very cool. I'm really looking forward to using these heat maps to continue to dig into the new simulation engine.