Mains: Should we want anything to do with groundball pitchers?

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on June 13, 2016:

Bill James is not a fan of groundball pitchers. This is not new news; he’s written about them in the past on his site, Bill James Online. His most recent thoughts on the subject came last month in an essay entitled Two Bits, Four Bits. He addressed four separate topics:

1. The oddity of teams’ no. 1 starter being referred to as “not a true number one starter” when one never hears, say, a cleanup hitter being referred to as “not a true cleanup hitter”

2. The value of groundball pitchers vs. flyball pitchers

3. Whether facing a knuckleball pitcher screws up opposing hitters’ timing in the following game

4. How the ascendancy of Donald Trump indicates a challenge for the Republican Party

I’ll give you three guesses as to which topic drew the vast majority of the 64 comments that the post generated.

I’m going to focus on the second point. He ranked the 200 pitchers who faced the most batters since 1950 by groundball tendencies and concluded,

You don’t want ground ball pitchers. Ground ball pitchers suck. Ground ball pitchers are Jamey Wright and Mike Morgan. Fly Ball pitchers are Sandy Koufax and Dennis Eckersley…If you like Ground Ball pitchers, you’re welcome to them. I don’t want nothin’ to do with them.

Well, I thought, this goes against sabermetric orthodoxy, doesn’t it? I mean, in the BP Annual, groundball percentage is one of the 19 stats listed for every pitcher. Flyball percentage isn’t. And valuing groundball generation isn’t a new thing. So what are we all missing?

Read the full article here:

Originally published: June 13, 2016. Last Updated: June 13, 2016.