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Thread: Hart, Locke and Ground Ball Rate

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    Default Hart, Locke and Ground Ball Rate

    "One prospect who I feel has been mostly underrated by Pirates fans is Jeff Locke, acquired in the trade that sent Nate McLouth to Atlanta in June of 2009....
    It is clear that Locke has consistently outpitched his ERA over his career. Again, this was just from a quick glance at his stats. However, I recently began looking deeper, and it dawned on me that the majority of his FIP-value came from an absurdly low home run rate. He allowed only five home runs in 127.1 total innings last season, and he has served up just 17 long balls in his entire professional career. In addition, he has allowed an unusually high BABIP every year, which has likely contributed to his higher than expected ERA’s. After noticing these two facts, I headed over to for some batted ball info. Specifically, I wanted to see his ground ball rate, and I found it to be 51% for his career. (For context, 51% would have been good for 11th place among 75 qualified major league starters in 2009.) That probably explains his high BABIP’s, as loads of ground balls + minor league quality infields + low minors defenders behind him = plenty of hits.....

    According to Rich Lederer, ground ball rate is the third most important statistic for a pitcher, trailing only strikeouts and walks. It seems that Huntington follows that philosophy, as he clearly appears to be targeting pitchers with the ability to put the ball on the ground. If you are wondering why management seems overly interested in putting Kevin Hart in the starting rotation over Daniel McCutchen, the answer probably resides in the numbers above. The four other pitchers who have locked up rotation spots (Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Charlie Morton and Ross Ohlendorf) all have strong ground ball tendencies as well.

    It will always be very difficult for the Pirates to acquire a prototypical “ace” starter, the type of pitcher who can dominate a game from start to finish. Moving forward, they will have to gain value by acquiring a large quantity of number three-type starters, and they must steal some hidden significance that teams fail to appreciate. All teams are looking for pitchers who can miss bats consistently. A high ground ball rate is not as sexy as a huge strikeout total, but it provides considerable value to a team...

    Aaron Pribanic 61.2%
    Bryan Morris 53.6%
    Jimmy Barthmaier 52.3%
    Jeff Locke 51.0%
    Nathan Adcock 50.9%
    Ross Ohlendorf 50.4%
    Charlie Morton 49.2%
    Kevin Hart 48.4%
    Tim Alderson 46.0%
    Hunter Strickland 46.0%
    Jeff Karstens 43.2%
    Brett Lorin 43.2%
    MLB AVERAGE 43.2%
    Donnie Veal 42.9%
    Jose Ascanio 41.7%
    Virgil Vasquez 39.3%
    Daniel McCutchen 39.1%"

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    Default Re: Hart, Locke and Ground Ball Rate

    Pat left out the K/BB numbers for Locke. When I throw up the recent novels I've been putting together it sort of explains my feelings with stats like BABIP and FIP. FIP is more about what the pitcher is doing without the defense, BABIP is what the pitchers results are purely on the defense. It all comes down to really looking at a couple sets of numbers - Hits, Strike Outs, Bases on Balls. Those are the 3 core things that occur for a pitcher that reflect results for every other stat. GB/FB numbers are important, but more important if you know how good or bad the defense is behind it. If you have a GB pitcher and the infield defense is spotty, you can expect bloated H/9, ERA, BABIP numbers for an example..

    The K/BB numbers in this case are important because if the K/9 numbers are low that means he is very defensively reliant. If the BB numbers are high, then he's pitching more with guys on base which leads to more hits and more runs which effects a ton of other end result stats....

    Locke's splits last year show him with a higher (above average K/9) with Atlanta but **** poor control. 8.5 K/9 but a 5.1 BB/9. That BB/9 is ridiculously high. His H/9 was about a full hit less per 9 with the Braves but that gets offset with the higher walk ratwe. Basically a guy is still on base one way or the other........ With the Pirates, his K/9 dropped to 6.2 but his BB/9 rate dropped also to 2.0 which is excellent. Unfortunately, when the K rate drops, the H/9 rate usually increases and it did ballooning to an unacceptable 10.8 H/9.

    That last sentence has more to do with Locke's BABIP numbers. He's allowing more contact which puts more of a toll on the defense. His BABIP numbers with the Braves AND Pirates are consistent. They are high but what I saw looking at these stats was the Pirates pulling a Ross Ohlendorf on Locke. They appear to have been concentrating more on his command and control to bring down that BB/9 knowing that the K/9 and BABIP and ERA would rise in the short term. The next goal in Locke's development since the control aspect appears to be a success (3.1 BB/9 drop) is to get his K/9 back up into the 7's like it had been before he joined the Pirates, maintain the improved control. If Locke does this, his BABIP numbers will go way down, his FIP numbers will improve, his ERA should improve and his H/9 should go down into at least the 9's.
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