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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

2006-05-01 10:02
by Jon Weisman

New from me on Why pitchers who induce groundballs like they were going out of style are at once more intriguing and less reliable than people might think.

There's something very tantalizing, very Holy Grail, about the groundball pitcher. Visions of 27 outs on 27 pitches dance in one's head. Why waste three fastballs or more in pursuit of a strikeout when you can set a batter down with one easy sinker?

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb, for example, is Lancelot of the Knights of the Ground Table. According to The Hardball Times, Webb annually induces ground balls on two-thirds of the balls that batters put in play against him. Webb has emerged as one of the top young pitchers in the game, and you could be forgiven for thinking that ground balls are the fast track to success for a big-league hurler.

Cooler heads realize it's not that simple. By and large, groundball pitchers have to work at least as hard as strikeout artists to get their outs. And what can be really confounding is how much punishment opposing offenses can inflict upon some of the groundballingist of groundballers. A few unlucky bounces here, and the smallest cluster of line drives or fly balls there, are enough to do a pitcher in.

The first problem is the home run ball. Thanks to the detailed statistics that are kept today, we can learn which pitchers give up the highest percentage of homers among the fly balls hit off of them. The leaders in this category last season were Derek Lowe of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Webb, who just happen to be No. 2 and No. 1 in getting the most groundballs per balls in play.

Contrary to expectations, groundball pitchers regularly populate the lists of most home runs allowed each year. ...

2006-05-01 10:26:17
1.   Bob Timmermann
Tommy John's career high for HRs allowed is 20. And he was 40 years old and pitching for the Angels then. (1983)

Ultimately, I prefer pitchers who don't walk many, although lately the extreme cases of control pitchers (Bob Tewksbury, Carlos Silva) could often blow up.

2006-05-01 10:32:52
2.   Jon Weisman
1 - Nice to know that Mrs. Koufax knows how to keep the ball in the park.
2006-05-01 10:34:20
3.   Granfallooner
Notice the subtle switch from "highest percentage of home runs among the fly balls hit off of them" to "most home runs each year." He eagerly points out that Webb and Lowe give up very few fly balls, so the fact that they give up a higher percentage of home runs per fly ball is to be expected unles we also believe that they give up proportionally fewer home runs. This is poor critical thinking. In fact, he doesn't even claim that they give up more home runs! If imaginary pitcher A allowed only 1 fly ball all year, and it was a 690-foot shot over the left field pavillion scoreboard at Dodger Stadium, he'd probably only give up one home run all season, but he'd give up a whopping 100% percentage of homers on fly balls hit off of him. Jeez.
2006-05-01 10:35:53
4.   Underbruin
What intrigues me about Lowe's situation (not that this is applicable to the majors in their entirety, but Lowe alone) is that his HR total jumped so drastically in 2005. Yes, Dodger stadium is noted for being a bit of a home-run stadium, with an average park factor for home runs of 1.079 from 2002-2005, but Fenway isn't exactly PETCO, with an average HR park factor of 0.970 over the same time frame.

Lowe, in his 3 years as a full-time starter for the BoSox from 2002-2004, gave up 12, 17, and 15 home runs respectively. He arrived in LA and promptly gave up 28 homers. This season, he seems to be back on track for what, adjusted for park stats, one would expect from him given his Red Sox years. He's averaging about a home run every two starts, versus about 2.2 starts per homer in Boston (granted, one would expect -fewer- home runs in the NL sans a DH even with adjusted stats, but he's a bit older now than he was then).

So, was Lowe's last season an outlier? Perhaps he contracted some sort of home-run-allowing disease from being around Jeff Weaver too much?

The same can be said, to a degree, for his proclivity to giving up unearned runs. The tendency really only surfaced his last season in Boston, and was actually worse in 2004 than in 2005.

Food for thought, maybe?

2006-05-01 10:38:08
5.   Underbruin
4 - Small sample size warning does, of course, apply to that whole comment.
2006-05-01 11:01:43
6.   Sam DC
3 I don't follow your criticism at all. "He" seems to be arguing that, contrary to expectations (and perhaps somewhat undermining their perceived value) groundball pictures often to give up a lot of homeruns. (The rest of the article describes at greater length some challenges in evaluating/predicting performance by reputed groundballers). One reason for this, suggested by looking at Lowe and Webb, might be that a higher than average portion of their flyballs go all the way out. There is a connection between these two different data points, and I sure don't see some improper "subtle switch" as you suggest.
2006-05-01 11:12:42
7.   Sam DC
LA Observed passes on that defrocked (or whatever0 LA Times blogger Michael Hilzik is moving over to . . . sports-related investigations.
2006-05-01 11:18:50
8.   Bob Timmermann
Come to Downtown L.A. Plenty of room to stretch out at the liberry today.
2006-05-01 11:19:14
9.   bigcpa
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

"Although the Red Sox insist they're committed to Alex Gonzalez at shortstop, they are getting ready to engage in trade talks with the Dodgers for Cesar Izturis as soon as he comes off the disabled list, The New York Daily News reports."

2006-05-01 11:21:24
10.   Jon Weisman
3 - Basically, what Sam says in 6. I'm not really sure what you're criticizing.

I wasn't at all implying that HR/FB was a be-all, end-all stat. Nor was I making any assumptions about whether a groundball pitcher would give up a lot of HR/FB.

The point is that one (1) reason some groundball pitchers can be less effective than people might expect is because the balls that aren't grounders can be more damaging than some people expect. Is that unreasonable?

Your example about the pitcher who allows fly balls is exaggerated to prove a point, but it's not really much of a point. Even Webb allows balls in the air on one-third of balls in play. So if a relatively high percentage of those balls are HR, that's going to have a significant impact.

Bottom line - I think most people would be surprised by the numbers of HR that groundballers give up - even if they aren't at the Eric Milton level.

2006-05-01 11:26:58
11.   bigcpa
I've got it. Sinkerballers keep the ball down and put heavy top-spin on the ball. When they leave the ball up and the hitter hits it square, that same top-spin turns to back-spin off the bat and creates loft.
2006-05-01 11:28:09
12.   Jacob L
9 Afraid of what? More middling middle relief? Mike Timlin, anybody?
2006-05-01 11:29:42
13.   Marty
7 Sam, I don't see anywhere on Kevin's site that he is moving to sports. Am I missing it?
2006-05-01 11:31:18
14.   Sam DC
Marty -- under "more Hilzik reactions" -- "Deadline Hollywood Daily reports that Hiltzik will move to investigating sports when he returns from suspension." The oringial has a link.
2006-05-01 11:31:47
15.   JMK
I don't have his book with me, but I believe that Ron Shandler in Baseball Forecaster claimed that flyballs turn into homeruns at approximately an 11% rate. And that there is no indication that pitchers have any ability to keep flyballs from turning into homeruns. I guessing that it's more likely that the hr/fly ball rates of Webb, Lowe, and even Lidle are more a function of their ball parks and luck. Have you seen some sort of study/analysis which indicates that groundball pitchers give up more homeruns per fly ball than the average pitcher?
2006-05-01 11:31:58
16.   Sam DC
Sorry (twice) "Hiltzik".
2006-05-01 11:33:41
17.   Kayaker7
Hmmmm...maybe it's good to be an extreme flyball pitcher. That would imply that a large percentage of the flyballs would be popups or lazy flyballs to shallow outfield.
2006-05-01 11:35:14
18.   bigcpa
12 Well yeah- how can this end well? Ned wouldn't do it for prospects given Izzy's popularity. I could see Trot Nixon's name in the mix. But Ethier seems to be the same profile player. I could see Matt Clement offered. How about Odalis/Izturis for Clement/something? OP and Clement's contracts offset almost exactly. Change of scenery argument plus Boston is short a lefty with Wells out.
2006-05-01 11:38:45
19.   Bob Timmermann
I would assume that Hitzlik would be covering business of sports type stories. I doubt he's going to be duking it out with Plaschke.
2006-05-01 11:39:33
20.   Bob Timmermann
Maybe the Dodgers could get Doug Mirabelli in exchange for Izturis?
2006-05-01 11:39:34
21.   Kayaker7
Come to think of it, maybe it just doesn't matter whether you get flyballs or groundballs. Maybe the bottom line is, you need to get strike outs. Whether you do it by getting the batter to swing over the ball, or under the ball.
2006-05-01 11:40:17
22.   PennyJavy
According to Inside the Dodgers, Broxton was recalled and Lance Carter was optioned to Las Vegas
2006-05-01 11:41:51
23.   Uncle Miltie
9- Ned will get robbed again.

Expect the return to be one of the following:
Rudy Seanez
Trot Nixon
Julian Tavarez (former Giant!)

I would demand Wily Mo Pena

2006-05-01 11:43:52
24.   Bob Timmermann

And there was great rejoicing in the land.

2006-05-01 11:44:58
25.   Telemachos
Finally, a move that makes some sense.
2006-05-01 11:46:11
26.   GoBears
Ding, dong, the witch is dead...

Or something like that.

2006-05-01 11:48:33
27.   Jon Weisman
15 - I'm sure it's dependent on circumstance.
2006-05-01 12:33:04
28.   Vishal
using "holy grail" and "knights of the ground table" in back to back paragraphs is genius.
2006-05-01 12:39:59
29.   Vishal
on the other hand, i felt like the article itself was pretty inconclusive. did you mean to suggest that the jury is out on groundball pitchers, or that it takes a specific type of groundball pitcher to succeed?
2006-05-01 13:36:38
30.   Jon Weisman
29 - The jury is out. I approached the article with the premise that most people think groundball pitchers carry a certain degree of success. My conclusion is that being a groundball pitcher offers no guarantees. My hope was that even though this won't be news for some, that it will be for others.
2006-05-01 13:48:58
31.   Blu2
18. bigcpa
12 Well yeah- how can this end well? Ned wouldn't do it for prospects given Izzy's popularity. I could see Trot Nixon's name in the mix. But Ethier seems to be the same profile player. I could see Matt Clement offered. How about Odalis/Izturis for Clement/something? OP and Clement's contracts offset almost exactly. Change of scenery argument plus Boston is short a lefty with Wells out

Clement/something ?? How about Choi? Here;s a grand plan: Do the above deal; Give Repko left field and make Cruz the fourth outfielder; Ledee hasn't shown me anything, trade him and Martinez and/or Robles for a pitcher or better outfielder; bring up Aybar to replace them. Choi is our alternate firstbaseman and left handed pinch hitter, Saenz is the right-hander; Cruz is fourth outfielder and of course can pinch-hit from either side. Much stronger team.

2006-05-01 22:51:59
32.   coachjpark
31 As much as a return of Choi would make sense, that's the problem... it would make too much sense! And Ned would be admitting that he made a mistake.

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