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Friday, December 30, 2005


You're Grounded: Cards' Pitchers and the Ground Ball

I wanted to say that there's not much to write about now, but then the writer's conscience starts whispering to me, "good writers can always find something to write about." Ugh. I've said before that I think the Cardinals look at a pitcher's propensity for the ground ball as part of organizational philosophy. In fact, I think our management is more selective of ground ball pitchers than lots of the organizations that pitch in the band boxes across the league. It may seem boring to the fantasy leaguer, but finding ground ball specialists when seeking out pitchers is a pretty solid approach for a major league team. The ground ballers minimize damaging homeruns, allow the defense to stay sharp and get two outs instead of just one, they allow a minimal number of runners to get on base, make for an inexpensive way to acquire more modestly talented hurlers for the rotation, and take away the physical impact of forcing more expensive arms to throw hard fastballs over and over again to get a strikeout (i.e. the Dusty Baker, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior law). You can add other reasons to the list that make the case for insisting on a good G/F ratio from your pitchers. What I wanted to do in this last weekend of 2005 is to see just how this theory applies to the team by taking a look at the emphasis on the ground ball/fly ball ratio of each pitcher. Today, I went through the Cardinals 2006 staff for a review of their G/F ratio compared to their K/9 ratio. Image Hosted by ImageShack.us What the numbers here seem to indicate is that LaRussa and Duncan place an overt emphasis on inducing the ground ball out. Duh. That's nothing we didn't already know via every announcer that has ever covered a Cardinals game. What I do find interesting here is that each pitcher (Ponson & Reyes excluded) has seen an increase in their G/F ratio with the Cardinals over their career G/F ratio. The numbers confirm what you thought might be just banter from the media types. Interestingly enough the numbers above also show that emphasizing the ground ball out does not come at the expense of the strike out. Carpenter and Supe have experienced increased K/9 ratios since joining the Cards. Marquis' K/9 ratio and G/F ratio in 2004 were way above career numbers, but took a huge hit in 2005 as the kid experienced a pretty rough season until relatively late. Mulder's a little bit of an exception. He experienced great success with the G/F ratios, but his K/9 declined for the third year in a row. Mulder's fate this year largely rested on the ground ball. It is safe to say that more than a few of Mulder's ground ball outs happened as a result of lucky grabs by the fielders behind him. And here's the rub with a good G/F ratio: I, along with some actual baseball experts, tend to think that a pitcher has have a higher K rate to be effective, 'cause if that luck runs out... A pitcher also needs to be able to dependably employ the strike out as an outcome against the hitters they face. Mulder's never been a big strike out pitcher; his career K/9 was 6.90 in 2002. I don't believe that the organization should make a long term deal with him if he can't start striking out batters again. Anyway, there's a look at the starters for 2006. The jury's out on Ponson and Reyes, but Duncan's success with those two will in part be measured by his ability to get them to induce ground ball outs. Ponson has show an ability to do this in past. As for Reyes, he's certainly more of a power, strike out pitcher, and it will be interesting to see what his G/F looks like as he progresses in the major leagues. [side note: if anyone knows where I can find career minor league numbers for G/F, let me know, even if it's a pay site. I got the 2005 numbers from Baseball America. Thanks.] I have a chart for the bullpen, and I'll post that here later today, as soon as I finish updating it. Through the weekend, I will compare our starters to the staffs on other teams.
Great post, Ryan. I was considering doing something similar, but you beat me to it! You make a good point in that groundballers also need to be able to miss bats fairly occasionally. Perhaps that's why Burnett got the cash that he did from Toronto; in 2005, he whiffed better than eight guys per 9 IP and turned in a G/F ratio of 2.42.
Sorry for the inconvenience everyone, but F*** Your Couch has been defunctified. After much pressure and goading, the title has been tamed down and I now present you with the tamer, more work friendly blog:

The FYC (http://thefyc.blogspot.com)

It's the exact same thing, just without having to minimize the window when it loads, keeping your co-workers from noticing the fact that your looking at some vulgarity instead of doing your scheduled collating.

Again, sorry for the inconvenience, but this should work out best for everybody. Or maybe that's just this massive bottle of Tylenol Nighttime Medicine doing the talking for me. Whatever.

Happy New Years

Jeff - I saw that about burnett and really thought that's why they were so interested in him, too.

FYC - glad to hear about the update. i always liked the f-word in the title too.
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