Sunday, December 29, 2013

Who is the Best Ground Ball Pitcher in Baseball?

Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is excellent at getting outs on ground balls
(Photo Credit: USA Today)

In an earlier post, I examined the performance of major league pitchers on ground balls in 2013 and learned that the Tigers staff had the highest Batting Average Against (BAA) on grounders.  The theory was that their generally immobile infield defense was giving up a lot of hits, but it did not seem to have affected all pitchers the same way.  While the staff had a .278 average on ground balls (versus an MLB average of .241), Anibal Sanchez was apparently unaffected posting a .243 average.  So, I was curious to see what other pitchers in the majors had better than expected results on ground balls.

One year of data doesn't give us a good sample of ground balls to work with for individual pitchers, so I expanded to three years (2011-2013).  Table 1 below shows the top ground ball BAAs for pitchers allowing at least 400 ground balls from 2011-2013.  The leader was Rockies right hander Jhoulys Chacin at .176 (He was also the leader when I did this  previously for 2010-2012).  Chacin was a moderate ground ball pitcher during the period with a 49% ground ball rate on batted balls.  Given that Chacin played half his games in Coors Field, a power hitter's paradise, his ability to gets outs on ground balls was certainly advantageous. 

Table 1: Batting Average Against on Ground Balls, 2011-2013

Pitcher
GB
H
BAA
Jhoulys Chacin
709
125
.176
Scott Feldman
516
99
.192
Johnny Cueto
651
130
.200
Henderson Alvarez
677
136
.201
Mike Leake
846
170
.201
Jeanmar Gomez
402
81
.201
Jered Weaver
570
116
.204
Ricky Romero
681
139
.204
Jordan Zimmermann
767
157
.205
Brad Ziegler
432
89
.206
Hisashi Iwakuma
490
102
.208
Tim Lincecum
772
161
.209
Jarrod Parker
493
104
.211
Shaun Marcum
454
96
.211
Luke Hochevar
632
134
.212

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet.

Some pitchers benefited from better infield defense than others with team ground ball BAAs ranging from .230 for the Reds to .266 for the Tigers.  That is not necessarily all defense of course.  It could have been that some staffs allowed harder hit ground balls than others.  Over three years, however, I would guess that averages would even out enough to suggest something about team defense.  I attempted to adjust for differences in infield defense by calculating the ground ball BAA of other pitchers on the same staff.  For example, Chacin had a .144 BAA in 2011 compared to .251 for other Colorado pitchers.  So, his BAA was 43% better than the average pitcher giving him a BAA+ of 143 that year.

Chacin's numbers in 2012 and 2013 were 121 and 114 respectively and the weighted average of all three years was 128.  Thus, he was 28% better at avoiding hits on ground balls than the average pitcher.  Table 2 below shows that this was also the top BAA+ on ground balls in the majors.  The worst pitcher at preventing hits on ground balls was former Yankees' right hander Phil Hughes at 72 (28% worse than average).     

Table 2: Adjusted Batting Average Against on Ground Balls, 2011-2013

 Pitcher
GB
H
BAA
BAA+
Jhoulys Chacin
709
125
.176
128
Luke Hochevar
632
134
.212
120
Scott Feldman
516
99
.192
119
Lucas Harrell
508
109
.215
118
Chris Sale
590
128
.217
117
Jeanmar Gomez
402
81
.201
116
Hisashi Iwakuma
490
102
.208
116
Johnny Cueto
651
130
.200
116
Brad Ziegler
432
89
.206
115
Hiroki Kuroda
924
205
.222
115
Henderson Alvarez
677
136
.201
115
Mike Leake
846
170
.201
115
Jordan Zimmermann
767
157
.205
115
Scott Diamond
613
137
.223
114
Justin Verlander
791
184
.233
114

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet.

Looking at Tigers pitchers, Verlander's 233 BAA did not make the top 50, but his 114 BAA+ was 15th in baseball as he was better at preventing hits on grounders than other Tigers pitchers.  Conversely, Max Scherzer was one of the worst in the majors with an 85 BAA+.  So, it's good that he is an extreme fly ball pitcher as well as a strikeout artist.  Other current and former Tigers pitchers include Doug Fister (109), Anibal Sanchez (100) and Rick Porcello (98).  Note that Sanchez's statistics also include time with the Marlins. 

I put the numbers for all MLB pitchers in 2011-2013 into a Google spreadsheet.

5 comments:

  1. I am disappointed no comments. This is labor intensive and meaty. And the FPress link. What gives?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I only didn't comment cause Fister didn't make the list thus I didn't have any additional ammo to complain about the Fister trade, heck this chart arguably supports the Fister trade!

      And maybe Lombardozzi is proficient at fielding ground balls as well as Chris Davising his way to the HR title. What a great trade that would be! Well that's all I got for you to ponder on, I hope it's enough. :)

      Delete
    2. Also I noticed Ian Krol was .242, Fister was .238.

      Delete
    3. Oops, forgot to mention Krol's BAA+ was 104, Fister was already listed above as 109. Sorry I'm new to his emerging stat!

      And I bet in 10 years we will have this data on Minor League players too.

      Delete
  2. There were some comments here: http://www.detroittigertales.com/2013/12/when-tigers-pitchers-allowed-ground.html

    For what it's worth, there were a lot of comments at the Freep site

    ReplyDelete

Sabermetrics Book

Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Blog Archive

Subscribe

501 Baseball Books

501 Baseball Books
Recommended by Tiger Tales

Stat Counter

Site Meter