A Missing Element in Pitcher Batted Ball Tendency?

Often we look at a pitcher's ground ball percentage relative to his fly ball or air ball percentages to look at the dominant tendency his batted balls take. However, not all percentages are of equal importance and that is especially true for low strike out pitchers. By looking at strikeouts in addition to balls in play, we can get a better feel for a pitcher's true batted ball tendency.

For instance, both Adam Wainwright and Carl Pavano both had a ground ball percentage (GB%) just above 51%. However, in 30 less innings last season, Pavano induced 376 ground balls as compared to Wainwright's 319. The difference can be attributed to Wainwright ability to strike batters out.

Dividing strikeouts, ground balls, and air balls (a combination of fly balls, line drives and infield flies) each by the total batters a pitcher faced, excluding walks, we can see a more accurate representation of the type of pitcher one really is. Being limited to the data that was available, I used Dan Szymborski's 2011 ZiPS projections cultivate my results.

These measurements can be  important for a few reasons, but primarily each could be used by teams to evaluate how they allocated resources to defense. The same principle illustrated above at the individual level applies to teams as well, more strikeouts means less balls in play. While the percentage points below might not appear to be significant, over the course of a season the additional hits add up. The Dodgers, who project to strike out the most batters in 2011, could end up seeing approximately 300 less balls in play then the Orioles, who project to miss the least amount of bats. That is roughly 100 more hits that will drop in against the O's in 2011.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that a team that is having its defense challenged by increased balls in play should consider investing more in defense.   

Certainly, having granular data at one's disposal can help smooth out rough edges, but the principle still holds. When considering a pitcher's batted ball tendency be sure to include strikeouts for a clear picture of their true ability. 

 

Team

SO%

BIP%

GB%

AIR%

ARI

20.03%

79.85%

39.37%

40.48%

ATL

23.10%

76.80%

42.96%

33.70%

BAL

18.57%

81.33%

39.96%

41.29%

BOS

22.74%

77.16%

40.03%

36.98%

CHA

22.86%

77.02%

39.20%

37.48%

CHN

23.13%

76.65%

39.07%

37.74%

CIN

22.86%

77.02%

39.12%

37.90%

CLE

20.67%

79.23%

42.82%

36.56%

COL

22.95%

76.94%

40.45%

36.65%

DET

21.17%

78.73%

40.32%

38.27%

FLO

23.03%

76.85%

41.70%

35.15%

HOU

20.11%

79.77%

40.95%

38.98%

KC

19.64%

80.25%

40.65%

39.91%

LAA

22.18%

77.71%

40.73%

37.14%

LAD

23.78%

76.10%

41.04%

34.98%

MIL

23.64%

76.25%

39.65%

36.91%

MIN

20.28%

79.60%

38.04%

41.48%

NYA

22.78%

77.10%

40.70%

36.48%

NYN

20.36%

79.55%

40.70%

39.05%

OAK

22.56%

77.35%

37.36%

39.92%

PHI

21.70%

78.19%

43.62%

34.40%

PIT

18.81%

81.09%

41.03%

39.98%

SD

23.45%

76.52%

39.45%

36.90%

SEA

20.53%

79.35%

41.54%

37.73%

SF

22.81%

77.09%

39.68%

37.20%

STL

19.53%

80.35%

43.62%

36.65%

TB

22.03%

77.85%

37.79%

39.90%

TEX

22.03%

77.86%

40.03%

37.83%

TOR

22.45%

77.45%

39.46%

37.98%

WAS

20.11%

79.77%

43.20%

36.57%

League AVG

21.66%

78.23%

40.46%

37.76%

 

JD Sussman is full time law student and co-founder of Bullpen BanterHe can be reached at JDSussman@bullpenbanter.com or via twitter.

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