The Analogy of the Fisherman

March 1, 2013


                There was a man who loved to fish, and one day he was so fortunate as to find an absolutely wonderful fishing hole.    Some months later he was telling his friend about it.    "It has everything you could possibly want in a fishing spot," he said.   "It is cool and shaded.   There is never anyone there.   It has lots of food for the fish to eat, and underground shelter in which fish can live and breed.    There is a brook that feeds into a deep pool at one end.    It’s just perfect."

                "Do you catch a lot of fish there?" asked his friend.

                "Oh, no," replied the fisherman.   "I’ve never actually caught a fish there.   But I keep going back, because I’ve never seen such a perfect spot for fish to live in."

               

 

Ground Ball Pitchers

 

Another reason that SIERA is great at predicting ERA is that it accounts for the run-prevention effect of ground balls - particularly, it controls for the fact that the effect is nonlinear. Not only do more ground balls lead to fewer runs allowed, but the difference in ERA between pitchers who generate 40 to 50 percent ground balls is smaller than the difference in ERA between pitchers who generate 50 to 60 percent ground balls. That is why there is a negative coefficient on the squared ground-ball rate term in SIERA.

This data shows that ground-ball pitchers have a hidden value and that modeling BABIP indirectly as we did with SIERA, rather than assuming pitchers do not control it, helps improve the prediction of ERA. Statistics like xFIP have the benefit that the run value of defense-independent statistics (strikeouts, walks, and home runs) are done precisely with linear weights, but xFIP does not take into account that BABIP is lower for fly-ball pitchers. However, SIERA shows that extreme ground-ball pitchers also have a skill at preventing BABIP themselves.


Matt Swartz, Baseball Prospectus, December 15, 2010

 

What’s a ground-ball pitcher? And what’s so important about being one?

The first question is easy to answer; the second, less so. A ground-ball pitcher is a pitcher who is more likely to get opposing batsmen to hit groundouts than flyouts.

Why is it important? The thinking is that ground ball pitchers are less likely to give up big innings than fly-ball pitchers because it’s impossible to hit a home run with a ground ball.

Eric Brach, MLB.com, August 29, 2012

 

Usually, pitchers that get more outs from ground balls are more successful than pitchers who get more outs from fly balls.

Blue Compass Sports (Author unknown), dated 2013

 

General managers who rely upon sabermetrics as part of their decision-making process love pitchers with high ground ball percentages.

The feeling is that pitchers who make hitters pound the ball into the ground have a better chance of limiting big innings. That's because, at least in theory, the ground ballers should allow fewer home runs and induce more double plays.

 John Perrotto, Covers

 

The Cleveland Indians traded a B prospect for a 38-year-old pitcher coming off a 5.05 ERA season, plus some cash. But by picking up Derek Lowe for the 2012 season, the Tribe have taken on a rare experiment: They're trotting out a collection of ground-ball pitchers that might be unrivaled in baseball history.

In adding Lowe to a rotation that also includes Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona, the Indians will feature three of this year's top eight ground-ball-inducing starters. Throw in Ubaldo Jimenez and his above-average ground-ball rate and the Indians will field a staff unlike any other in the game. In a perennially weak division where little edges can mean a lot, the Indians may have found a new path to success, and just maybe a 2012 playoff berth.

To understand how extreme the Indians' staff figures to be, let's dive into some numbers. Lowe triggered grounders on 59 percent of the balls in play hit against him in 2011, Masterson 55.1 percent, and Carmona 54.8 percent. Over the past three seasons, Lowe, Masterson, and Carmona put up composite ground-ball rates of 58 percent, 56 percent, and 55 percent, respectively, three of the four highest marks in baseball. With apologies to some of the Tommy John-led staffs and other grounder-heavy rotations of the past, publicly available ground-ball data goes back just a decade. In that time, only five other teams have deployed three starters with GB rates of 50 percent or higher — four of them Cardinals staffs led by sinkerball fetishist/guru Dave Duncan. None had a higher aggregate ground-ball rate among its top three starters than what Lowe, Masterson, and Carmona put up this year. Jimenez's 47.2 percent GB rate was his lowest in any full season, but he's still above 50 percent for his career. The Indians' top four thus came in well above league-average ground-ball rates: 44.4 percent in 2011, 43.8 percent over the past 10 seasons.

So how does a team parlay a legion of ground-ballers into success? At its simplest level, the benefit of inducing a grounder is that it's much less likely to go for an extra-base hit and impossible to go for a homer.1 Pitchers who induce a lot of ground balls, without racking up many strikeouts, might be able to keep their pitch counts down, thus enabling them to go deeper into games and save their bullpens. Ground-ball pitchers can also be a relative bargain: Every team, the Indians included, would most prefer a pitcher who strikes out a ton of batters and doesn't walk many. But a staff full of Cliff Lees would wreck almost any team's budget. Find five Jake Westbrooks instead, and you might still see decent results at a fraction of the price.

Jonah Keri, Grantland, November 8, 2011

 

 

 

Look, it is easy to explain why Ground Ball pitchers should be effective pitchers. 

The problem is, there are no fish there.

Allow me to rant for a few minutes here without any evidence.   We’ll get to the evidence later; I’m just trying to frame the debate.   Any analyst can give you a long list of reasons why ground ball pitchers should be the best pitchers.   The problem is, they’re not.

Make a list of the best pitchers in baseball.    Make a list of the best pitchers in baseball, in any era, and what you will find is that 80% of them are not ground ball pitchers.   They’re fly ball pitchers.  Tom Seaver was not a ground ball pitcher.   Bob Gibson was not a ground ball pitcher.   Randy Johnson was not a ground ball pitcher.   Justin Verlander is not a ground ball pitcher.   Pedro Martinez was not a ground ball pitcher.   Roger Clemens was not a ground ball pitcher.   David Cone was not a ground ball pitcher.  Dwight Gooden was not a ground ball pitcher.  Catfish Hunter was not a ground ball pitcher.   Steve Carlton was not a ground ball pitcher.

Greg Maddux, of course, was a ground ball pitcher, and there have been a few others, like Kevin Brown.   The vast majority of good pitchers are not ground ball pitchers, and the vast majority of ground ball pitchers are not good pitchers.

What I have never understood about ground ball pitchers, and do not understand now, is why they always get hurt.  Show me an extreme ground ball pitcher, a guy with a terrific ground ball rate, and I’ll show you a guy who is going to be good for two years and then get hurt.  I’m not saying this about Chien-Ming Wang and Brandon Webb; I was saying this before Chien-Ming Wang and Brandon Webb.   They’re just the latest examples.   Mark Fidrych.   Randy Jones.   Ross Grimsley.   Mike Caldwell.   Rick Langford.  Lary Sorensen.   Clyde Wright.   Fritz Peterson.  Dave Roberts.    They’re great for two years, and then they blow up.    Always.

Always?   Well. ..Tommy John.   If your defense argument here is a guy who is famous for having a surgery named after him, I’m not sure I’m convinced.    Maddux and Glavine, sure, but neither Maddux was not an extreme ground ball pitcher until the last two or three years of his career.   I don’t know whether Glavine was, or not.

Derek Lowe?   Derek Lowe was sensational in 2002; the rest of his career he’s a .500 pitcher.   You take Derek Lowe; I’ll take Verlander.

Look, I’m not really saying that there aren’t any good ground ball pitchers.   What I am saying is that being a ground ball pitcher is not an advantage.   It’s a disadvantage.

The 2012 Cleveland Indians loaded up on ground ball pitchers.   How’d that work out?   They finished 68-94 with a 4.79 ERA.

I posted a rant like this in August, 2010, to which Tango replied "does this mean that you would expect Adam Wainwright to not age as gracefully as other great pitchers?"   Months later, Adam Wainwright had Tommy John surgery.   He returned last year, went 14-13 with a league-average ERA.

                Let’s go look at the evidence.  

 

The Evidence

                OK, it turns out that I am more wrong than right. I have this prejudice against Ground Ball pitchers, which I have had for a long time and I have written about before.    It occurred to me that I should do a study to see whether the facts match up with my belief system.

                My belief, simply stated, is that

                1)  All things considered, you are better off avoiding ground ball pitchers, and

                2)   Ground ball pitchers on the whole tend to be less successful than non-ground ball pitchers. 

                How do we test these propositions?

                Here’s what I did.   I formed two groups of pitchers, without any regard to their ground ball rates.   The two groups of pitchers were

                a)  The 50 best pitchers in major league baseball in the years 2002 to 2011, which we will call the Gold Group, and

                b)  The 25 pitchers from the same years who best exemplified the idea of staying around in the majors, pitching a lot of innings without ever doing very much, who we will call the Blue Group.

                My theory is that Blue Group will be significantly more dependent on ground balls than is the Gold Group.

                How I formed the groups is not a critical issue; I am counting on it being self-evident that these are highly successful pitchers.   First, these are the 50 pitchers that I identified as being the most successful pitchers in the major leagues in the years 2002 through 2011:

Josh Beckett

Mark Buehrle

Matt Cain

Chris Carpenter

Roger Clemens

Bartolo Colon

Francisco Cordero

Eric Gagne

Roy Halladay

Cole Hamels

 

Dan Haren

Felix Hernandez

Trevor Hoffman

Tim Hudson

Jason Isringhausen

Josh Johnson

Randy Johnson

Clayton Kershaw

John Lackey

Cliff Lee

 

Jon Lester

Ted Lilly

Tim Lincecum

Derek Lowe

Greg Maddux

Pedro Martinez

Jamie Moyer

Mike Mussina

Joe Nathan

Roy Oswalt

 

Jonathon Papelbon

Jake Peavy

Andy Pettitte

Mariano Rivera

Francisco Rodriguez

CC Sabathia

Johan Santana

Curt Schilling

Jason Schmidt

John Smoltz

 

Joakim Soria

Jose Valverde

Javier Vazquez

Justin Verlander

Billy Wagner

Adam Wainwright

Jered Weaver

Brandon Webb

Randy Wolf

Carlos Zambrano

 

                The "Blue Group"—pitchers who were around a long time but never really did a whole lot—consisted of:

 

Jeremy Affeldt

Miguel Batista

Jeremy Bonderman

Jose Contreras

Aaron Cook

 

Doug Davis

Kyle Farnsworth

Josh Fogg

Ryan Franklin

LaTroy Hawkins

 

Mark Hendrickson

Scott Linebrink

Kyle Lohse

Rodrigo Lopez

Jason Marquis

 

Gil Meche

Guillermo Mota

Oliver Perez

Nate Robertson

Carlos Silva

 

Jeff Suppan

Bret Tomko

David Weathers

Jeff Weaver

Jamey Wright

 

 

 

                The "Gold Group" pitchers—37 starters, 11 relievers and two pitchers who switched back and forth between bullpen and starting--accounted for 17 of the 20 Cy Young Awards in the years 2002 through 2011.     The Blue Group—15 starters, 5 relievers and five pitchers who were used in both roles—pitched more seasons in the majors (per pitcher) than the Gold Group (9.32 to 8.26), but accounted for no Cy Young Awards.  

                It goes without saying that, if you set aside the "Gold Group" pitchers, you could not identify another group of 50 major league starters who had remotely comparable success in the years 2002 to 2011.   It is equally true that if you set aside the Blue Group, you also could not find another, equal group of pitchers who hung around as long, pitched as much, and accomplished as little.   This is how that group was defined.  

 

                The Gold Group pitchers made an average of 177 starts and 118 relief appearances in the ten years of the study.   The Blue Group pitchers made an average of 150 starts and 208 relief appearances.   The Gold Group pitchers had a winning percentage of .598, and an ERA of 3.47.   The Blue Group pitchers had a winning percentage of .481, and an ERA of 4.51.

                The Gold Group had 3,018 Saves in 5,920 relief appearances.   The Blue Group had 347 Saves in 5,194 relief appearances.  

 

                Let’s look at the "out rates" of these two groups of pitchers.  

 

                Since 2002, Baseball Info Solutions has maintained charts of the outs recorded by each major league pitcher.   Occasionally they miss a play because it isn’t broadcast anywhere, but they get something more than 99.5% of them.     An out can be one of five things:

               

                1)  A strikeout,

                2)  A Ground Ball,

                3)  A Line Drive,

                4)  A Fly Ball,

                5)  A Pop Up, or

                6)  Other.

 

                I am rather curious about what "other" entails.    I have thought about this a lot, since it took me about 30 hours of research to do this damned study, and the only thing I have been able to come up with is

a) a batter stepping out of the batter’s box while hitting the pitch, or

b) some sort of interference call in which the ball is not put in play and there is no strikeout. 

 

In more than 90,000 innings of pitching in this study there were a total of 36 "other" outs, or one for each 2,500 innings, so they’re not statistically significant, but I’d still like to know what they are.

 

                Anyway, whether or not I am totally off base in my dislike of ground ball pitchers depends on how you look at the data.    One way to look at it—and what I think is actually the best way to look at it—is to "rate" ground ball tendencies simply by the percentage of the pitcher’s outs that were by way of the ground ball.     Roy Halladay in 2010 got out 700 hitters:

 

                219 by strikeout

                280 by ground ball

                20 by line drive

                139 by fly ball

                42 by pop out

 

                700 batters retired, 280 of them by ground ball; that’s a ground ball percentage of 40%.   I think that’s the best way to look at it. 

                Looked at in that way, it is true that the Ground Ball Rates of mediocre pitchers are significantly higher than the Ground Ball Rates of good pitchers.    (Conversely stated, the Ground Ball Rates of good pitchers are LOWER, not higher, than the Ground Ball Rates of mediocre pitchers.)

 

                These are the Ground Ball Rates of the 50 best pitchers in major league baseball, 2002-2011, with Ground Ball Rates figured in this way:

 

grounder1

 

 

                These pitchers retired an average of 32.8% of hitters by Ground Balls, and only 6 of the 50 pitchers—12%--had Ground Ball rates over 40%. 

                These, on the other hand, are the Ground Ball Rates of the 25 pitchers in the Blue Group:

 

grounder2

 

 

                These pitchers recorded an average of 36.9% of their batter outs by way of the ground ball, and 6 of the 25—24%--were over 40%.

 

                The reason the percentage is higher for the Blue Group than for the Gold Group, however, is simply strikeouts.   We can also state the ground ball tendencies of the pitchers as a ground ball/fly ball ratio.     If we do that, then the Ground Ball Ratios of the "Gold Group" are actually higher than the Ground Ball Ratios of the Blue Group:

 

grounder3

 

 

While these are the Ground Ball Ratios of the Blue Group:

 

grounder4

 

 

                The Gold Group averages 1.095 to 1; the Blue Group, 1.080 to 1.

 

                So what do we conclude?   Well. ..I still don’t really like Ground Ball pitchers, but I do concede that I was, in the past, too radical in my distrust of them.    I think that the advantages of throwing ground balls have been horribly overstated, and that the best way to get batters out is to find pitchers who can throw high fastballs.   However, throwing ground balls does appear to be a small advantage for the pitcher, if you control for the number of strikeouts.    Given two pitchers with the same strikeout rate and the same walk rate, it does appear that we should favor the one who gets more ground balls, although this advantage is probably no larger than the advantage of being a good fielder or the advantage of having a good move to first.

 

                To clear up a couple of points:

 

                a)  When I talk about ground ball pitchers getting hurt, I’m not really talking about guys like Adam Wainwright and Andy Pettitte, with Ground Ball Rates around 38% or Ground Ball /Fly Ball Ratios around 5 to 4.   In that context, I was talking about the guys with really extreme Ground Ball tendencies, like Chien-Ming Wang and Brandon Webb.   Those guys, it seems to me, always self-destruct after a couple of years, unless their name is spelled "D-e-r-e-k-L-o-w-e".   I don’t know why.

               

                b)  In the preamble ramble, I made the statement that 80% of the best pitchers are fly ball pitchers.    That’s too extreme a statement; it doesn’t stand up to the evidence.   We could say accurately that 80% of the best pitchers are not ground ball pitchers, defining a ground ball pitcher as "any pitcher with a ground ball/fly ball ratio of 3-2, or a ground ball out percentage above 40% or even very near 40%."  

               

                c)  To say that "there are no fish there" is not accurate. 

 

                d)  However, many of the statements which have been made by sabermetric advocates of ground ball pitchers are also inaccurate.   But I will leave it for them to clean up their own messes.

 

                Thanks for reading.

 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

studes
There's been lots published on the relative worth of ground balls and fly balls. I think I may have started it in the 2006 THT Annual, where I found that outfield flies (including home runs) are worth .035 runs more than average while ground balls are worth .101 LESS than average and infield flies are worth .243 runs LESS than average.

In general, fly ball pitchers tend to give up more infield flies (as a proportion of total flies) and ground ball pitchers tend to have a higher HR/OF rate than fly ball pitchers. Admittedly, I haven't look at these findings in a long time.

Agree 100% that variation in home run rates are driven a lot by random variation, but the random variation tends to center around fly ball rates. That is, you'll be more accurate at projecting future home run rates by regressing a pitcher's current home runs allowed against his fly ball rate than against the home run rate of all pitchers. Then, you would factor in the ballpark, which obviously has a big impact.
1:29 PM Mar 4th
 
mrvino
Bill:

I grew up watching the LA Dodgers (1958-1980). During the 1970s Davey Lopes & Bill Russell famously handled 2nd base & shortstop. Both were fine players, but a big weak spot in their game was the double play (In my memory, I never saw stats). The Dodgers were notable for NOT emphasizing the importance of the double play, perhaps fearing that injury loss was thus avoided (I think I recall hearing this explanation). The Dodger infield was another factor, as its parched "crushed brick" surface was a minefield for ground balls.

Wovenstrap's comment on the Groundball Pitcher's "team dependence" reminded me of Tommy John's plight with the Dodgers. Again, I don't have stats, but after Tommy's move to the Yankees he seemed to see a much greater percentage of his grounders turned into putouts and double-plays.

I always felt that the turning point in the 1981 World Series came when Bob Lemon prematurely removed Tommy John and relied on his fireballing relief corp. We Dodger fans were delighted, as the Dodgers typically killed Fastballers, while Lopes, Garvey and Sey were putty in the hands of a good Groundball pitcher.


2:31 PM Mar 3rd
 
bjames
Returning again to the issue of home runs allowed, which I believe is critical to the "hyping" of ground ball rates of which j'accuse the sabermetric community. In 2012 Gio Gonzalez allowed 9 home runs, Jarrod Parker 11, Tim Hudson 12, Jake Westbrook 12, whereas Ervin Santana allowed 39, Phil Hughes allowed 35, Jason Vargas 35 and Bruce Chen 33. We tend to look at that and think "Wow; that's a huge difference--30 home runs a season" (allow it is actually only 25), and we tend to rush to the explanation of this as resulting from Ground Ball tendencies.

But in fact it DOESN'T result primarily from ground ball tendencies; it results 10% from ground ball tendencies and 90% from other factors. It results from many different factors--parks, innings pitched, random variation, and the proclivities of different pitchers to make mistakes. In this case, these four pitchers I listed on each end. . .the pitchers who allowed the fewer home runs faced an average of 768 batters; those who allowed more home runs faced an average of 835. The average park home run factor of the four "low home run" group was 91; for the "high home run group", 93 (which I would suspect was atypically low, but let's move on.) The low home run group consisted of four National League pitchers; the high home run group, of three American League pitchers and one National League. The low home run group were having seasons in which they allowed fewer home runs than they typically have in the past, and fewer than they will in the future, whereas the high home run group allowed more than they have in the past. The high home run group was pitchers who are more inclined to challenge the hitter and take their chances. ..witness the fact that the high home run group issued an average of 52 walks to 823 hitters, whereas the low home run group issued an average of 60 walks to 768 hitters. And. .Tim Hudson just doesn't make many mistakes, whereas Ervin Santana makes a lot of mistakes. . .setting aside ground ball tendencies, Hudson just isn't prone to making mistakes.

On the reasons that home runs surrendered do not bear a straight-line relationship to fly balls, I took the explanation for that to be obvious, although I realize now that it will not be obvious to many people. If fly balls increase 20% (above normal) then home runs will increase only 10% above normal for this reason: that extreme events always manifest themselves in exaggerated percentages. A power pitcher may reduce the expected batting average against him by only 4%, but the number of no-hitters he throws will double, because the no-hitter is an extreme event. The park-effect variation in triples is generally much larger than the park-effect variation in doubles, because the triple is a more extreme event than a double.

If the home run was an "extreme" fly ball, then, as fly balls increased by 20%, home runs would increase by 40%. But in fact, the "extreme" fly ball is the pop up. So, when fly balls increase by 20%, POP OUTS increase by 40%, so the increase in "normal" fly balls is less than 20%.
12:29 PM Mar 3rd
 
bjames
Sort of spinning off of the thread about home run rates. ..PART of the reason that I regard most of the Ground Ball advocacy in the sabermetric community as unwarranted and not sustained by good analysis is that people wildly overestimate the variation in the number of ground balls different pitchers get.

Well. .to start with an off-point comment for the purpose of illustration, a young pitcher might OCCASIONALLY throw a pitch 97 miles an hour, might throw 3 or 4 pitches in a six-inning outing 97 miles an hour. A fan or sometimes a reporter will get excited and say "he was throwing 97," when the reality was he was throwing 93-95, but had a couple of pitches which came in a little harder. A SCOUT will never make that mistake; a scout will always say that the pitcher was throwing 93-95 and TOUCHED 97.

There is a similar effect with regard to ground ball rates; because a very few pitchers will occasionally have ground ball/fly ball ratios like 320-80 (Derek Lowe ratios), when we talk about ground ball ratios the mind will go to those extremes. But the reality is that, with the exception of one or two pitchers, a ground ball pitcher will have a ratio more like 230-165, rather than 315-80. From this study, I took ground ball pitchers pitching 180 to 220 innings, and looked at their ground ball/fly ball TOTALS, rather than ratios. Again, not the MOST extreme ground ball pitchers, but relatively near the most extreme. Those pitchers averaged 230 batters retired by ground balls, 165 retired by fly balls.

Well. ..what's the real advantage there? Let's say it is avoiding 35 fly balls a year. If 11% of the fly balls were home runs, that would be an advantage of four home runs a year.

Except that it ISN'T four home runs a year, because of the effect noted in the query by jemanji; it's actually only half that; it's actually only two home runs a year.

Not to diminish two home runs a year. .. three runs a year is an advantage, but it's not a BIG advantage. It's on the same scale as "having a good pickoff move". ..EXCEPT for the EXTREME ground ball pitchers, who will get hurt after a couple of good seasons. MOST of the variation in home runs allowed by pitchers is NOT created by ground/ball fly ball differences. Most of the variation in home runs allowed by pitchers is caused by:

1) Parks, and
2) Normal random variation.


11:15 AM Mar 3rd
 
bjames
Responding to ventboys "You used strikeout against GB pitchers". . .at no point did I do this. That is not a fair or reasonable reading of the method. In any case, what I was arguing was "nonsense" is using strikeouts plus ground balls as an indicator of QUALITY. NONE of the ratios suggested here is in respect an indicator of quality. Combining strikeouts with EITHER ground balls or fly balls to make an indicator of quality would be nonsense. That is what I was trying to say.

Responding to doncoffin. . .the "other" events are NOT pickoffs. This is an accounting of BATTERS retired, not baserunners. And in any case, pickoffs would be dozens or perhaps hundreds of times more common than these "other" events.

Not exactly responding to CWright, but spinning off of his comment about Derek Lowe. . ..it is my thought in general, not merely with regard to ground ball pitchers, that we are missing an opportunity with regard to OLDER pitchers by being rigid and intolerant in regard to workloads. It just seems obvious to me (understanding that many things which seem obvious don't stand up to research, like the obvious advantages of ground ball pitchers). .. .it just seems obvious to me that, as a pitcher ages, he may need more recovery time and/or may have slightly shorter limitations. But we basically say to older pitchers "if we're going to use you as a starting pitcher, we have to use you on the same starting schedule as we would use a 28-year-old, because we can't run different starting schedules for different pitchers," and we allow older starting pitchers to fail, rather than working around their limitations.

Responding to Tango: "If you include HR, then it's no contest, and GB pitchres are better." I absolutely cannot how that statement is justified by the facts. It would seem to me that the statement that IS justified by the facts would be "If you include HR, then it is an extremely close contest, but there are some tiny, microscopic advantages for ground ball pitchers."

Responding to Jemanji. . ."I read that extreme GB pitchers, as a group, have high HR/f ratios than extreme FB pitchers. Is that accurate?" Sort of. First, I would get rid of the words "extreme", since this effect can be noted about ground ball/fly ball rates in general, rather than about EXTREME ground ball/fly ball pitchers. Second, whether it is true depends or whether you treat Pop Ups as fly balls or as a separate category. If you treat pop ups as fly balls, then it absolutely true. If you treat pop ups as a separate category, then it is less notably true. But in general. . .yes, it is true; it is a ratio of squares, as many things in nature are. If a pitcher gives up 20% more fly balls than normal, then he will give up 10% more home runs than normal, not 20%. If you include pop ups as fly balls. . ..if you count pop ups separately, then this phenomenon becomes less noticeable.

Responding again to Jemanji, separate post. . .I would agree that the injury rates of extreme ground ball pitchers MAY result from using a somewhat forced or unnatural throwing motion in order to achieve heavy forward rotation.

Will post again in just a minute. . .Appreciate all of your comments, including those to which I did not respond.
10:57 AM Mar 3rd
 
jemanji
gracias :- )
7:51 PM Mar 2nd
 
tangotiger
jemanji: Google "BattedBall FIP" bbFIP.
5:34 PM Mar 2nd
 
jemanji
Why GB pitchers get hurt more ... my 'first hypothesis' would be

1. Because they're throwing at their limits, straining to max their velocity at 91.

2. Because the more overhand a pitcher throws (and the more vertical the spin on the ball), the more unnatural the motion is.

I too would rather have the 'big hoss with easy velocity' who doesn't seem to labor to let a pitch fly.

.
3:37 PM Mar 2nd
 
jemanji
*"underselling your own prior belief" in the sense that the position going in -- you're better off avoiding GB pitchers -- is a very insightful position.

UNLESS somebody is saying "let's get a 7K groundballer rather than a 7K flyballer," which isn't normally the debate.
3:34 PM Mar 2nd
 
jemanji
Superb study Mr James ...

I wonder too if you're not underselling your own prior belief a little. We haven't usually seen MLB orgs, and non-MLB sabermetricians, advocating "well, let's find the 7-K pitchers who throw groundballs, rather than finding the 7-K pitchers who throw flyballs."

What I've usually seen is them arguing, "This guy only has 5K, but he throws grounders, so we'll get them that way." Usually the argument has been groundball pitchers VERSUS higher-K, flyball pitchers. Let's trade for Rick Porcello rather than Chris Capuano; Porcello keeps the ball on the ground.
.
3:31 PM Mar 2nd
 
jemanji
Tango - think I read that extreme GB pitchers, as a group, have higher HR/F than extreme FB pitchers. Is that accurate?

If so, matching GB vs FB pitchers while *assuming* that their HR rates are equal has an evident issue.

Interesting point that FBs-not-HR's are identical in run value to GB's. I take it you're including infield pops in FB's?
3:26 PM Mar 2nd
 
tangotiger
If you exclude homeruns, the run value of groundballs (hits, outs, DP, errors, etc) is virtually identical to the run value of flyballs.

If you include HR, then it's no contest, and GB pitchers are better. That is, Bill's quote here:

"Given two pitchers with the same strikeout rate and the same walk rate, it does appear that we should favor the one who gets more ground balls"

That advantage is totally because of the HR. So, if you extend Bill's quote to pitchers with the same K, BB, and HR rates (or, in other words, the same FIP), then there is no advantage to GB or FB pitchers. Which is basically the point of DIPS.
10:20 AM Mar 2nd
 
CWright
In doing aging profiles for pitchers during my career, I downgraded extreme groundball pitchers because they tended to show more reactive responses to abuse setting off premature aging syndrome (PAS) and also to the normal aging response. They are logically be a group of pitchers who would benefit more than most from managed workloads shaped to their circumstance. I tried to convince the Indians of this in regard to Derek Lowe last season, telling them that there was a key that could be simply applied to managing Lowe's workload that would significantly enhance his ability to sustain a positive performance as a starting pitcher over the 2012 season. They felt they already had Lowe figured out and replied, "We believe that Lowe will perform appreciably better next year than he did last year." In their wisdom they ended up doing exactly the opposite of what my study indicated would be the single most helpful thing they could do to enhance his effectiveness at this late stage of his career. He crashed and burned after a fast start. (5.52 ERA in his 21 starts, allowing an .819 OPS.)
9:13 AM Mar 2nd
 
mauimike
And whatever that young man comes up with, it wouldn't equal the pleasure I've had over the last 30 plus years, of reading Mr. James, stuff.
4:20 AM Mar 2nd
 
mauimike
What we need is some young guy, who within his lap top has everything, Mr. James has written, it would also have every video and audio clip of, Bill. This young buck, would work at, the...a..Stolely-Van Camps Pork and Beans Cannery and while watching the cans of beans, he would study the works of Mr. James, and like the scribes studying the Torah, try and figure out just what he meant, what he foresaw and what it all means. He is the Creator of this stuff. Don't be afraid, after all he can't drown us all with a flood. He has a beard, does he have the thunder?
4:12 AM Mar 2nd
 
doncoffin
"Other" might be pick-offs; 36 in that many innings seems plausible.
8:37 PM Mar 1st
 
shthar
Some manager, maybe harry the hat, said that the best match up was a flyball hitter vs a groundball pitcher or vice versa. Cuz the combinaton of a flyball and ground ball is a line drive.

Any evidence of this in the data?
7:57 PM Mar 1st
 
ventboys
You paired them with fly balls, so that's a nonsense stat too?
7:04 PM Mar 1st
 
bjames
Responding to Ventboys. . .that's just another way of making ground balls look much more important than they really are. If you pair ground balls with a positive stat, it makes it look like the ground balls ARE a positive stat. Which is basically nonsense.
4:57 PM Mar 1st
 
ventboys
How about going one more step? You used strikeouts against ground ball outs, and you used strikeouts as a neutral stat. How about using strikeouts against fly ball outs? For example (your example), Halladay's GB+K/FB would be 499/181, with line drives left out. To me, that can be useful, maybe more useful for gb pitchers than the other formulas.
3:01 PM Mar 1st
 
wovenstrap
Very nice. It's a lot of fun to watch you suss through a problem on the fly. You learn things, we learn things. I'm reminded of your point from many years back that ground-ball pitchers tend to be team-dependent, with their quality fluctuating wildly depending on the team they're on. I think this in itself is an argument against ground-ball pitchers. Ground-ball pitchers aren't Michael Jordan, they're John Paxson.
11:52 AM Mar 1st
 
MWeddell
If we measure "groundball pitchers" by groundballs / divided by balls in play excluding bunts but adding in home runs, do we get a list close to the second one? I'd guess so. I think that's how most baseball analysts think of when they say "groundball pitchers."
11:46 AM Mar 1st
 
 
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