- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Staying Grounded

The last two posts have covered the best and worst fastballs when it comes to generating ground balls upon contact. The worst fastballs doubled as the worst pitches overall. Enough foreplay with the fastballs though, it’s time to reveal the best overall pitches. Who had the biggest, manliest, most groundballsiest pitches of 2009? Unsurprisingly, of the top five, four are curves with the misfit being a changeup.

Starting at the bottom of the list, we first encounter Erik Bedard and his curveball. Said pitch racked up an impressive 71% ground ball rate when put in play. Ahead of him is that aforementioned changeup, thrown by the master of the ground ball and the walk, Fausto Carmona. 74% of the time that Carmona’s changeup made contact with a bat, it fell toward the earth in rapid fashion.

We go back to curveballs for good now with our third place finisher, Chris Jakubauskas who, like Bedard, was with the Mariners. Now a Pirate after being claimed off waivers last November, Jakubauskas’ curveball registered a ground ball 75% of the time which is about all he has going for him. Coming out of the desolate wastelands of the Independent Leagues, it’s impressive enough that Jakubauskas has such a good pitch at his disposal.

Tying that mark was another AL West hurler, Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a weird specimen, racking up huge strikeout rates but possessing no ability to consistently find the strike zone. His curve is about his only good pitch at this point, but if he ever manages to cut down his walk rate, he could make a big leap forward.

Finally, atop the leader board is Yovani Gallardo and his curve, which eeked past Gonzalez and Jakubauskas to the 76% mark for ground balls. There’s not much that needs to be said about Gallardo. We all know he’s good, he just needs to stay healthy.