Derek Lowe

Bill James thinks Sabermetrics has overrated ground ball pitchers

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Rob Neyer expounded on a Bill James piece (here, behind a paywall) at SB Nation in which James says that proponents of Sabermetrics have “horribly overstated” the case for ground ball pitchers. He cites a handful of elite pitchers — Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Randy Johnson, Justin Verlander, among others — and points out that they weren’t very good in the ground ball department. He also cites a handful of ground ball pitchers — namely Chien-Ming Wang and Brandon Webb — who have had serious issues with injuries.

What I have never understood about ground ball pitchers, and do not understand now, is why they always get hurt. Show me an extreme ground ball pitcher, a guy with a terrific ground ball rate, and I’ll show you a guy who is going to be good for two years and then get hurt.

[snip]

They’re great for two years, and then they blow up. Always.

The one exception to James’ analysis is, of course, Derek Lowe, who made at least 32 starts in each season from 2002-11.

I don’t think we have the capability to make a strong conclusion one way or another based on the quality of data we have right now. Presently, there is no differentiation between types of batted balls. There is a vast difference between a dribbler down the third base line and a screamer up the middle. FanGraphs differentiates between infield and outfield flies, which has helped us to better appreciate pitchers like Matt Cain and Jonathan Papelbon. No such distinction is made for ground balls.

There is no way of knowing now, of course, but there may be a link between injury risk and the types of ground balls a pitcher induces. Basing analysis on data that utilizes binary qualitative groups — “on the ground” and “not on the ground” — is far too broad.

(Tip of the cap to David Schoenfield at ESPN Sweet Spot for directing me to Neyer and James.)

Play of the Day: Fan reaches over second deck railing, catches foul ball with her hat

MILWAUKEE, WI - JULY 28:  Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits a single in the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 28, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Today’s play of the day wasn’t made by a professional athlete. Rather, it was made by a fan in the second deck on the first base side at Miller Park during Thursday afternoon’s game between the Diamondbacks and Brewers.

Phil Gosselin fouled off a 1-1 fastball from Will Smith to the right side. A fan wearing purple — perhaps in support of the D-Backs? — leaned over the railing of the second deck and snagged the ball with her bucket hat.

The Brewers beat the Diamondbacks 6-4. They took three games out of the four-game series. Heading into the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline, they’ll host the Pirates for three games.

Royals place Luke Hochevar on the disabled list

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 29: Reliever Luke Hochevar #44 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on June 29, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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The Royals announced on Thursday evening that reliever Luke Hochevar has been placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to July 25) as he’s showing signs of thoracic outlet syndrome, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports. Reliever Brooks Pounders has been recalled from Triple-A Omaha.

Thoracic outlet syndrome, simply put, is the compression of blood vessels and nerves between the neck and the shoulder. As we’ve seen lately, the fix for this often involves surgery to remove the pitcher’s upper rib.

Hochevar, 32, has compiled a 3.86 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings. The right-hander, who can become a free agent after the season if either he or the Royals decline his 2017 option, was a potential trade candidate recently mentioned by Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.