Rockies Pitchers Are Wormballing Their Way to Success

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When pitching half of one's games at Coors Field, it's usually a good idea to induce as many ground balls as possible and keep fly balls to a minimum. That's good for new Rockies manager Jim Tracy who can brag that he has three of the best ground ball pitchers in the National League this year.

With some neat stats via Fangraphs, here are your top pitchers in the National League as measured by ground ball-to-fly ball ratio:

FellaTeamGB/FBFIPK/9IP
Joel PineiroSTL2.773.043.84
Aaron CookCOL2.404.594.59
Jason MarquisCOL2.204.204.20
Ubaldo JimenezCOL2.053.247.40
Mike PelfreyNYM1.904.284.11

First, the non-Rockies on the list. Pineiro's success is obviously not his ability to punch out hitters with the high heat. But his sinkerball is inducing a bevy of groundballs that the Cards infielders are eating up and throwing across the diamond to Gold Glove guy Albert Pujols. He's also giving up just over one walk per nine innings pitched, one of the best rates in the game and good enough to keep runners off base when he gives up the rare tater tot.

We already know from the Mets-Brewers liveglog from yesterday that Mike Pelfrey has the ability to draw a GIDP when in trouble, and when he's walking almost as many guys as he's striking out, he's going to be in trouble a bunch. The Mets are among the worst defensive teams in the majors, mostly because half of their starting lineup lately are playing out of position. Otherwise, Pelf's ERA would be a lot better.

As for the Rockies threesome, Cook's FIP is so high because he's giving up a bunch of home runs. More than 15% of fly balls hit off of him go for tater tots, versus just 5% for teammate Ubaldo Jimenez, but Cook still has a 3.77 thanks to leaving over 77% of his runners on base, one of the top ten rates in the NL. Jimenez also strikes out a ton of dudes.

I can't explain Jason Marquis' success as a Rockies pitcher without delving into the dark arts. However, the other two pitchers in the rotation, Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel, boast sub-4.00 FIPs thanks to K/9IP rates over 6.0 and HR/9IP rates under 1.0.

So while the Rockies are just middle of the pack when it comes to both fielding percentage and UZR metrics and none of the Rockies infielders are among the top three players at their position in the National League. Yet since Jim Tracy took over a month ago, the Rockies defense has been converting many more batted balls into outs.

Whether or not it's Tracy's influence on the Rockies infielders to improve their work ethic in the field, the smart fielding is helping the wormballing Colorado pitchers.


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3 Comments

Very interesting. The long-term challenge for Colorado is going to be replenishing their sinkerball guys, since that attribute is now prized at the MLB level.

Photo courtesy of Joe Maddon's flickr page.

It's actually easier to replenish the sinkerball guys because a) they are cheaper than strikeout guys and b) even Joel Pineiro can be taught to be an effective sinkerballer.

Yes, but don't let your sinkerballer run the bases and injure his leg or he might turn into the 2009 version of Chien Ming Tater Tot.

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