Schifman: Why are ground balls hit?

From SABR member Gerald Schifman at The Hardball Times on June 16, 2016:

Zach Britton is MLB’s best groundball pitcher. His groundball rates in each of the past two years—twice eclipsing 77 percent—are the highest figures on FanGraphs’ all-time leaderboard. If you don’t watch many Orioles games, you might assume Britton induces his grounders chiefly with sinkers at the bottom of the strike zone. Keeping the ball down, after all, is the sinkerballer’s credo, but the Orioles closer doesn’t fit into that mold.

Against righties, there are ample pitches at and below the knees, but the thicker clusters are in the heart of the strike zone. Similarly, most grounders coming off lefties’ bats came on middle-middle pitches. What gives? The platitude about keeping the ball down hardly applies to Britton’s grounders, and it might be overblown for other pitchers, too. Many other pitch and contextual factors could play a part in predicting grounders. Which matter most?

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Originally published: June 16, 2016. Last Updated: June 16, 2016.