Models of Efficiency

This week while “researching” my “contributions” to the ESPN “power rankings” I went looking for pitchers of a certain pedigree: I wanted to know how many pitchers featured a K/9 higher than 8 and a ground ball rate greater than 50%.

If you search for such pitchers, you end up with a pretty exclusive group. As one would expect, Phillies dominate the list with Halladay and Lee right at the top. Red Sox ace Jon Lester is there despite an ordinary (by his standards) start to the season. Josh Johnson and Edinson Volquez don’t have the innings to qualify but the count all the same. Jamie Garcia of the Cardinals is quietly putting together a great year while Jays ace Ricky Romero just misses after his 4 strikeout start in Atlanta.

My ground-shaking conclusion: there is a lot of value in pitchers who induce both ground balls and strikeouts. If framed these numbers in a per batters faced basis, what kind of results might me see?

Using the Phillies model rotation as my, erm, model; I looked at four distinctly different pitchers to see how these numbers shake out. The results are chartastic!

This represents Halladay’s batted ball information from 2011 as a percentage of batters faced (plate appearances against) which end in each of these outcomes. If you notice the numbers don’t add to 100, congrats. You have too much time on your hands. Also, I didn’t include bunt attempts but did exclude hit batters.

Roy Halladay = very good. We get back to that later. On to the rest.

Remember when I said Cole Hamels was really good? It’s true, he is. Both Halladay and Hamels end more than 60% of their plate appearances with either a strikeout or a ground ball. That, to me, sounds like a sound business plan.

Similar to this postfrom the fall, we see certain kinds of pitchers grouped together by different component profiles. For this group of Phillies starters, let’s look at the total percentage of “safe” plate appearances: strikeouts and ground balls minus walks.

  1. Halladay: 59%
  2. Hamels: 57%
  3. Lee: 50%
  4. Oswalt: 36%

Other noteworthy starters: Romero 49%, Dan Haren 50%, Felix Hernandez 48%, Jamie Garcia 75%, Joe Saunders 35%.

This doesn’t suggest there is only one way to pitch and all should strive to be Halladay clones1, it simply shows how many of the best go about their business. Get ground balls, get strike outs, limit walks. Seems so simple…

1 – This isn’t true. They should all be robotic Halladay clones.