Chad Jenkins

If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I like groundball pitchers. Due to the emphasis placed on strikeout rates as a predictor of future success, too many sinkerball strike throwers have been overlooked as prospects on their way to success on the majors, and too often, their ability to get outs is dismissed as a fluke because they don’t generate an above average amount of swinging strikes. However, when you see guys like Aaron Cook, Jake Westbrook, Paul Maholm, and John Lannan consistently keep runs off the board, it becomes easier to realize that there’s a path to success that doesn’t involve high strikeout rates.

However, there’s a downside to being an extreme groundball pitcher. Most of the guys who rack up tons of groundballs rely heavily on their two seam fastball, and as Dave Allen showed with Pitch F/x data, the two seamer has the largest platoon split of any pitch in baseball. It is a terrific pitch against same-handed hitters, but it’s not much of a weapon against opposite handed hitters. Scouts have intuitively known this for a long time, which is why so many sinker-slider guys gets pigeonholed as relievers, where they can be used in situations where the platoon problem can be minimized.

If a groundball pitcher has a good change-up (or split finger, or even a curve in some cases – vertical movement is the key), he can neutralize opposite handed hitters and be an effective starting pitcher. However, without that off-speed pitch, he’s probably destined for the bullpen or a Vicente Padilla career path (check out his career L/R splits some time).

So, all that said, this post is actually about Chad Jenkins, the Toronto Blue Jays first round pick in last week’s draft. Jenkins was one of the more interesting pitchers in the draft for me, because I’m really curious to see how well his repertoire translates to professional baseball. The scouting report on him gives him a 90-94 MPH heavy sinking fastball, a potentially plus slider, and an average change-up. Given those pitches, we’d expect him to be a groundball guy with potentially a platoon problem.

Thanks to the work of Kent Bonham and Jeff Sackmann, we have split data for college players. How well does the data line up with our expectations based on the scouting report?

Vs RHB: 56 2/3 IP, 1.27 BB/9, 11.28 K/9, 1.75 G/F
Vs LHB: 28 1/3 IP, 2.22 BB/9, 7.62 K/9, 1.72 G/F

He destroyed right-handed bats, holding them to a .200/.230/.259 mark, but wasn’t nearly as good against lefties – .287/.341/.344. He still managed to get LH hitters to pound the ball into the ground, but his fastball/slider don’t work as out pitches against opposite handed hitters, and his change-up looks like it could use some work, based on both the scouting report and the data.

The Blue Jays love groundball pitchers almost as much as I do, but the ones they’ve had success with have developed good secondary stuff. That’s going to be the key for Jenkins as he gets into Toronto’s system. If he can refine his change-up and make it a real weapon against lefties, he has a chance to be one of my favorite pitchers in a few years. If he can’t, I hope he likes hanging out in the bullpen.



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Christian
Guest
Christian
7 years 3 months ago

It seems like there are 2 sorts of 2 seams, a 2 seam that’s a true sinker, and a 2 seam fastball that is utilized as a fastball with movement (Aaron Cook vs Tim Lincecum). Would a 2 seamer that isn’t quite a sinker have the same sort of platoon splits?

Joe
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Beckett seems to have a great two-seamer against lefties when he uses it. Any more evidence on that?

FishFrenzy
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

I’ve always been intrigued by the sinkerballer. I wondered often whether that type of pitcher still has to miss a ton of bats to be effective or whether the higher propensity of grounders (and an accompanying higher number of grounders that are easily fielded) made him better without being visibly better with fielding independent measures.

This pitch type data makes for some interesting figures. I personally wonder how well true sinkers like those of Webb and Lowe do vs. same-handed, whether their increased movement helps any over a 2-seamer. Interesting study to be had.

Fresh Hops
Guest
Fresh Hops
7 years 3 months ago

Dave: if you like Jenkins, you’ll love Alex White.

http://aluminum.minorleaguesplits.com/draft09/whiteal42-p.html

He’s a righty who did far better against LHB than RHB. Amazing rate of ground outs to fly out against LHB and control and Ks as a bonus. I think the Inidans are making a huge mistake moving him to relief immediately.

Glen L
Guest
Glen L
7 years 3 months ago

Guess that’s part of what makes Halladay so dirty .. his use of a 2 seamer on righties and a cutter on lefties

wpDiscuz