I’ve been out of the baseball loop, focusing on my basketball project. But I still slavishly read Bill James’s site, and he brought up a point relevant to my research on pitcher types. In answering a question about Brandon Webb, Bill said:
I’ve said it a thousand times, but. . .I don’t believe in ground ball pitchers. I don’t trust them, I don’t want them, and I don’t believe one should ever invest money in them. In theory, a ground ball pitcher with a good strikeout rate is the best of both worlds. But the problem is, there just aren’t any pitchers like that who are consistently good; they all either get hurt or they lose home plate. The only pitcher like that who has had a great career in the last 30 years was Kevin Brown. The overwhelming majority of the consistently good pitchers are the guys who live off of the high fastball—Clemens, Schilling, the Unit, Pedro, Santana, King Felix, Verlander, Sabathia, etc.
When I left off my baseball research, I left off with a classification of pitchers by the type of pitches that they throw. Dave Allen pointed out that I should look at pitchers who throw two-seam fastballs, as those pitchers have become the subject of much sabermetric discussion. Two-seam fastballs induce ground balls like no other pitch, and the value of ground balls for pitchers has become a hotly debated topic. (By hot, I mean that multiple analysts are competing to show how much value ground balls really have for pitchers.)
I created a new category of pitchers, centered around those that throw a high percentage of two-seam fastballs. Indeed, this category of pitchers had very high ground ball rates (something like 6% higher than average), but also lower strikeout rates (about 0.5 K/9 less than average). I was going to write an article about whether or not this “tradeoff” is worth it.
But Bill James brings up a better point. Who are the great two-seam fastball ground ball pitchers out there?