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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Gentile: Do Pitchers Induce More Ground Balls in Double Play Situations?

Cues “Galop Infernal”...as MLB announcers lemmingly fall off cliff one by one.

Earlier this week I was gallivanting around Fangraphs’ criminally underused Q&A section when a user caught my eye with this question for the saber world: “Does a batter’s GB% raise, drop or remain even with a runner at first?”

Seems like a reasonable assumption, right? In bases-empty situations, a pitcher may not concern himself so much with inducing a ground ball as opposed to simply just working an out by any means necessary. But, with a runner on first, of course, a ground ball out becomes especially attractive as it creates the opportunity for the ever-valuable double play.

I ran the data and found that since 2002, GB% (as in GB/batted balls) with Bases Empty was 44.9% across the league. With a runner on first and the double play now a possibility, that number actually drops to 43.7%. Now, I’m going to ignore the drop and assume its just noise, but I will admit to being mildly amused by this. (This is using retrosheet’s definitions of batted ball types, keep in mind, and BIS data may differ.)

Curious, I then ran the data again and included only situations with less than 2 outs, when the double play would be beneficial. But even then there was no change:

Repoz Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:25 AM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Toby Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4228217)
Well, the batters are trying to NOT hit a ground ball in those situations. In fact, lineups may be constructed to make sure that the batters who bat in those situations tend to be batters who are less likely to hit a ground ball in those situations.
   2. marty Posted: September 06, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4228335)
Well, the batters are trying to NOT hit a ground ball in those situations. In fact, lineups may be constructed to make sure that the batters who bat in those situations tend to be batters who are less likely to hit a ground ball in those situations.


Weird, I would have expected the article to address th-

I have little doubt there is a deliberate effort on the pitchers part to induce grounders when they can benefit them the most. But what we may be witnessing in these tables is the opposing efforts of the hitter responding to the situation as well, counteracting and neutralizing that deliberate effort.
   3. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 06, 2012 at 01:18 PM (#4228347)
As a scientist I need to give Gentile some advice on how to present your findings to sound most interesting. Perhaps his initial hypothesis was that pitchers can choose to induce ground balls, and this was proven wrong. So switch it to say that your hypothesis was that hitters can choose to hit less ground balls, because then you're proven right!
   4. Mike Emeigh Posted: September 06, 2012 at 03:30 PM (#4228515)
One of the things that I would like to see is a Pitch F/x analysis of the differences in a pitcher's pitches when he pitches from the windup vs pitching from the stretch (in terms of movement and location). It's entirely possible that a pitcher IS trying to induce a ground ball but is also less capable of doing so when pitching from the stretch.

-- MWE
   5. Sunday silence Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:17 PM (#4228882)
wish someone would do a study on whether pitchers pitch to avoid hitting ground balls to Jeter.
   6. jdanger Posted: September 07, 2012 at 12:43 PM (#4229374)
One of the things that I would like to see is a Pitch F/x analysis of the differences in a pitcher's pitches when he pitches from the windup vs pitching from the stretch (in terms of movement and location). It's entirely possible that a pitcher IS trying to induce a ground ball but is also less capable of doing so when pitching from the stretch.


This is really great.
   7. Mike Emeigh Posted: September 07, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4229406)
wish someone would do a study on whether pitchers pitch to avoid hitting ground balls to Jeter.


Whether pitchers actually pitch that way or not, the distribution of ground balls against the Yankees is such that there truly are fewer ground balls hit in Jeter's vicinity, relative to the total number of ground balls hit against the Yankees, than there are for other teams (at least through 2009 which was the last time I looked at it).

-- MWE
   8. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4229557)
wish someone would do a study on whether pitchers pitch to avoid hitting ground balls to Jeter.


Yasumitsu Toyoda was a Hall of Fame shortstop in Japan, who played from 1953 to 1969. He was an excellent hitter, hitting 263 home runs lifetime. He was a terrible fielder, which is not good if you're a shortstop. He made 45 errors as a rookie, and topped 27 errors eight times. He ended up being moved to first base. Tokuji Kawasaki was the veteran ace pitcher for Nishitetsu during Toyoda's early years, and he revealed that his pitching strategy was to pitch the batter so that they would hit the ball anywhere but shortstop. This admission caused quite a bit of resentment on Toyoda's part...

BR bullpen article on Toyoda

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