Early Pitcher GB% Risers

Ground ball rate is one of the three primary peripherals, or skills as I like to call them, that make up the trifecta (which also includes K/9 and BB/9) I look at first when evaluating a pitcher. Simply from my experience and without the benefit of specific research to back this up, it seems that a pitcher’s GB% is generally pretty consistent from year to year, and certainly more so than his strikeout and walk rates. The only real ways for a pitcher to increase his ground ball rate would be to alter his pitch mix, learn and start throwing a new pitch that induces grounders more frequently or consciously locate pitches lower in the strike zone than in past seasons. All of these methods are difficult and require a pitcher to start doing something differently than he had been doing previously. GB% stabilizes at about 150 batters faced, a level at which the top pitchers in the category have nearly reached. As a result, large increased in GB% should be taken seriously.

I compared the ground ball rates of qualified pitchers this year who also pitched at least 100 innings last year. Below are the 10 pitchers who have seen their GB% rise the most.

Tim Lincecum as an extreme groundballer? That is just not fair. Oh, and his velocity is now at its highest mark since 2008, after two straight seasons of decline. He is throwing his slider and change-up more frequently at the expense of his curve ball, but I am not sure if that change in pitch selection has influenced his batted ball type data.

Jhoulys Chacin‘s strikeout and walk rates are both down from last season, but he has offset his strikeout rate decline with a huge increase in ground ball rate. In the minors, Chacin posted ground ball rates consistently above 50% and even reached 60% several times. Though it is highly unlikely it remains this high all season, it would be no surprise to see it settle above 50%, which means he has real potential to match Ubaldo Jimenez’s performance given the similarities in their skill sets.

I admit it, I have never ridden the Matt Cain bandwagon, annually afraid his mediocre peripherals and apparent good luck would soon lead to an ERA above 4.00. But woah, is that a GB% well above league average suddenly? Even with a K/9 that is down by a full point, his xFIP is below 4.00 for the first time in his career! He has increased his change-up usage significantly, trading in heaters and curves, which might explain the ground ball increase. Showing the best walk rate of his career so far, Cain appears to be continuing his transformation from a fly ball power pitcher to a ground ball guy with good control and the ability to notch the strikeout when necessary. Of course, this potential new Cain might not actually increase his fantasy value or lead to better run prevention for the Giants to benefit from.

Brett Anderson is good. If he could remain healthy enough all year to throw 200+ innings, why can’t he win the Cy Young or at least seriously contend? If Felix could do so with 13 wins, then he may not even need great run support from a weak Athletics offense.

Matt Garza’s season so far has been truly absurd. It is not enough to see the 34 strikeouts in 24.2 innings, but how about the .474 BABIP or the 33.8% LD%? And then you couple that with 0 home runs allowed and it has just been weird to say the least. He has posted as high as a 47.7% GB% back in 2007 and one other year above 40%, so this spike is not totally unprecedented. More ground balls would certainly serve him well though pitching half his games in Wrigley Field.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Dscott
Guest
Dscott

What does a person do with the statistics Garza has posted?? My buddy owns him in our fantasy league and hates him, I am a Cub fan wanting to own a Cubs player. How much would you give up for Garza and what do you all see his value for the remainder of the season?

brad
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brad

Dscott,

I traded Jordan Walden for Garza after his first two starts. Not sure if it helps you figure out his value in your league, but its what I gave up to get him.

Tommy
Guest

Matt Garza is an enigma to me. I thought he’d take a major leap in 2010, but he stalled miserably.

While it’s nice to see his BB rate down over the past several years (the reason I didn’t like him early in his career), there’s no way he continues to have a strand rate in the mid-70s. Then you look at his historical splits between GB and FB, and you can tell there’s no way he continues to keep the ball in the park. 0% HR/FB and only a 20.6% FB rate? Fat chance. Look for him to double his FB rate and normalize to his typical 10% HR/FB as the months warm up and the ball starts carrying further.

And then there’s that 12.4% K rate, which is completely unprecedented for him. That won’t last either.

Matt Garza’s skills are that of a 4.1-4.3 ERA pitcher. If you can use that on your team, sure, go get him.

Travis
Guest
Travis

A LOB rate of mid 70s isn’t outlandish. Also, his strand rates from the last three full seasons (it was 72.9% in a half season in 2007):

2008: 72.9
2009: 75.0
2010: 75.5

It’s currently at 68.3 this season. 68.3 isn’t way outside the norm, either, but to say that there’s no chance he has a mid 70s strand rate, when he’s done it his entire career, is a little odd.

SF Draft Talk
Member
Member

traded Jorge De La Rosa and David Freese for Garza last week.