Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Ground ball pitchers don't get a lot of street cred for their skills, but many of them have gone on to have very good (and even great) success at the major league level. Some of the most recent big name ground ball pitchers include Greg Maddux, Brandon Webb, Chien-Ming Wang, Derek Lowe, Fausto Carmona, and Justin Masterson just to name a few. The rising class of minor league ground ball pitchers looks to be just as impressive.
(Note: Players with no experience beyond A ball are ranked more conservatively than other pitchers unless they had over 200 total innings pitched. While ground ball rates tend to stay in a relatively small range throughout a pitcher's career, minor league rates at A ball can be overly inflated on occasion, especially in small sample sizes.)
1. Zach Britton -- Oriole Park at Camden Yards had the highest home run factor of any major league park in 2008 (1.359), so it's easy to see why a big time ground ball pitcher could be a welcome sight for the Orioles faithful. With a total of 245 innings under his belt, Britton has averaged a ground ball rate of 63.8% in the minors, with a high of 71% last year in April.
2. Jhoulys Chacin -- Like the Orioles, the Rockies need every ground ball they can get. In 2008, Coors field came in as the 3rd most home run friendly park in the nation, posting a home run factor of 1.299. Chacin has a career ground ball rate of 62.5%, helping him to post a 2.31 ERA last year in the hitter friendly California League.
3. Trevor Cahill -- The Athletics have done a great job teaching their young pitchers the importance of efficient pitch counts and keeping the ball on the ground, and Cahill is a ground ball champ. At just 21 years old, Cahill will most likely spend the majority of his season at the major league level, taking his 61.3% ground ball rate with him.
4. Rick Porcello -- Porcello actually has the highest career ground ball rate of all the pitchers on this list (65%), but with just one season under his belt, he conservatively projects as a 60% plus pitcher, thus the #4 ranking.
5. Brett Cecil -- With one of the best major league defenses behind him, Cecil is set to make a big impression when he takes his 60.2% ground ball rate with him to Toronto later this year.
6. Brett Anderson -- Anderson is just one more example of why Oakland is able to compete year in and year out. Like Cahill, Anderson will likely spend the year at the major league level at the ripe old age of 21, putting his 59.5% ground ball rate to work for the A's.
7. Evan Anundsen -- A bit of a sleeper prospect, Anundsen kept the ball on the ground 61% of the time last year at A ball, good enough for #7 on our list.
8. David Robertson -- After posting a minor league career ground ball rate of 58.2%, Robertson saw that number drop to just 44% last year with the Yankees. Look for him to rebound in 2009.
9. Jordan Walden -- The Angels should be very happy with Walden's progress up to this point, keeping the ball on the ground 57.7% of the time.
10. Clayton Mortensen -- Prior to posting a 48% ground ball rate at AAA last year dropped his career average down to 57.3%, Mortensen had a career ground ball rate of over 60%.
Other ground ball gurus:
Nick Barnese - 55%
Bryan Augenstein - 57.3%
Jairo Heredia - 57%
Eammon Portice - 58.7%
Scott Diamond - 56.7%
David Price - 55.9%
Vin Mazzaro - 55.9%