While I don’t believe that ground ball rates are the most important, or even among the few more important things that a pitcher can control, they do help. While ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls, they go for extra-base hits less often, result in more double plays and none of them ever go over the fence for a home run.

Pure ground ball rates for minor leaguers are tough to come by. The official website for Minor League Baseball doesn’t list them. Fangraphs doesn’t have them. Baseball-Reference doesn’t have them. Lesser known First Inning has them, but their numbers aren’t always complete and they haven’t updated their SQL queries to reflect the AZL Reds, so they don’t have any rookie level players rates. Ground ball rates, rather than ground out/fly out, actually can tell us the true effectiveness. GO/FO only tells what happens when a ball is turned into an out. Fly balls are turned into outs about 33% more often than ground balls are, so that stat is missing out on a lot of data. Below, I looked at the pitchers that I included in my Reds Top 40 Prospects from the 2013 Prospect Guide. I sorted them from highest ground ball rate, to lowest ground ball rate. I also included the number of innings that the pitcher threw. Guys without many innings thrown aren’t likely to have their rates be all that reliable. The more innings, they more reliable their numbers become.

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The average Major Leaguer over the past few years has had an average ground ball rate in the 44-46% range. You can obviously succeed being lower than that (Justin Verlander was at 42% last year) and you can be a below-average pitcher despite being above-average at inducing ground balls too (Chris Volstad was at 49% last year and posted an ERA of 6.31).  Studies have shown that generally, as a pitcher advances up the ladder, their ground ball rate lowers by 1% at each level. That doesn’t apply to everyone and there are different reasons for changes (changes in mechanics, improved velocity, improved breaking ball, picking up a cutter/2-seamer, improved control allowing you to pound the bottom of the zone or any other reason you could think of), but is a general guideline to follow.

Anyone who finds themselves in the 50% or higher range is among the better ground ball pitchers in any given league. When a pitcher gets below that 40% range, they are among the worst ground ball pitchers in any given league.

Kyle Lotzkar is on the extreme low end, especially given how many innings he threw and his history of being an extreme fly ball pitcher. Nick Travieso is at the same rate, but he also had a grand total of 66 balls put in play against him. On the flip side, Amir Garrett posted an incredible 59% ground ball rate. However he, like Travieso, had a very limited number of balls put in play against him. Curtis Partch, Chad Rogers and Drew Hayes all being at that 50% threshold with a significant number of innings is impressive.

20 Responses

  1. Billy

    Doug,

    At first look, I love the sight redesign. Looks sharp.

    I’d think that ground ball rate matters more for the Reds than most other organizations. With GABP being so homer-friendly, it would seem that keeping the ball on the ground is nearly a must for success. Definitely makes me a little more leery of Lotzkar, who I thought could be a serviceable middle reliever at some point.

    • Doug Gray

      Billy, thanks for the kind words about the new design. There may still be a slight change here or there (likely on the sidebar with the “popular articles” since they really don’t get much traffic and take up prominent space at the top).

      While the GABP factor is always at play, guys like Arroyo and Harang have had good success (at times) while being big time fly ball pitchers in this park. Obviously, ground balls are preferable though.

  2. jim t

    Doug, had the chance toi watch Amir Garrett play hoops this weekend. Impressed with his atheletic ability but don’t see it transitioning into a pay check in the NBA or overseas at this stage of his basketball career. My hope is he takes a step forward this season in baseball and realizes his calling is in Baseball and devotes to it full time.

    • sultan of swaff

      You couldn’t be more right. Garrett was getting used on D and was pretty lost in the offense as well. He’s a bench guy with no special talent. Surely he sees the writing on the wall. If I were the Reds, I’d delicately tell him the only path to professional sports is baseball……but only if he seizes the opportunity.

      Lotzkar’s extreme flyball rate makes him trade bait in my book.

      Also a bit suprised Corcino’s % is so low since his offspeed stuff is more advanced.

      • Doug Gray

        I think it will be interesting to see what Corcino does this year in regards to his GB rate. Cueto, over his career has added more and more 2 seamers almost every year. Corcino is now working out with Cueto. It will be interesting to see if he too starts adding more grounders.

    • The Duke

      I would definitely like to see Garrett focus on baseball given how much he progressedlast year with so little time devoted purely for baseball. Hopefully, somebody in the Reds makes a big push this year to convince him.

  3. Stock

    Statcorner.com has some good minor league splits. Worth a look. It doesn’t have rookie league stats though.

    • Doug Gray

      To be honest, their stat pages are a mess. I love the effort, but they make no attempt at all to show stats to the “normal” reader. The lack of any rookie ball stats also hurts them.

  4. wanderinredsfan

    Really like the strides that Partch is making out of the pen. I think he, along with Ravin, could make huge strides in the bullpen this season. I think they will have us all clamoring for their arms, perhaps making the likes of Ondrusek, Arredondo, and Simon potential in-season trade-candidates.

    • Doug Gray

      Yeah, it will be real interesting to see how they progress. Partch took a step forward last year. Ravin didn’t really play enough to know one way or the other. He struggled with his control in the regular season, but he also was coming off of the DL while doing it, and only threw 20 innings. Then went to Arizona and had much better control. Maybe it was just one of those small sample size things or maybe he was just getting more used to working out of the bullpen.

  5. Herbie

    Came across an article I think some of you would enjoy. It’s an interview with Brian Cashman about baseball operations.

    *click on “an interview” for the link. How come the hyperlinks aren’t highlighting Doug?

  6. WallyP

    Doug great read on this . I really enjoyed your breakdown and you learn something new everyday

    great job

  7. Dan

    What do you think of Ravin this year Doug? I watched him once in Arizona and the arm strength was incredible. Any chance he makes a big push to the show next year if his control in Arizona wasn’t a fluke?

    • Doug Gray

      With Ravin, his problem has always been control. When he has games where he can consistently throw strikes, guys can’t touch him. If he can put up a 2.0 or better K/BB rate this year, I would expect to see him in the Majors in September. If it is better than that, we could see him before then. Of course that only happens if someone struggles along the way too. If somehow everyone can stay mostly healthy in the bullpen, spots aren’t going to open up even if a minor leaguer is dominating.