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Democratic and Fascist Pitchers

As we all know from the movie Bull Durham, strikeouts are fascist and groundballs are democratic.  So, I want to set out to find the most democratic pitchers and the most fascist pitchers out there.  Luckily, FanGraphs offers a custom leaderboard page that includes batted-ball data.

I set the filters to allow a K/9 rate of 5 or less in a game, a groundball percentage of 50% or greater, and a minimum innings-pitched threshold of 500 innings from 2002-2013.  I realize that five strikeouts a game is kind of arbitrary but I wanted to focus on pitchers who were striking out a batter about every two innings.  You can see the leaderboard for the most democratic pitchers from 2002-2013.

Based on that leaderboard, Aaron Cook should be considered the most democratic pitcher of the twelve-year span, based on his 3.7 K/9 and 57.5% groundball rate.  So, there’s that on his mantle.  Although, I still get confused trying to figure out how Cook was successful. Some other options for most democratic pitcher could be Jake Westbrook and Chien-Ming Wang.  Westbrook had a higher K/9 than Cook but also a higher GB%.  Wang was only slightly higher than Cook on his K/9 but induced groundballs at a slightly higher rate, too.  If you want to say Wang should be more democratic than Cook, far be it from me to stop you.

But, I also wanted to look at pitchers who have had democratic seasons during the span.  So, I created another leaderboard.  Not surprisingly, Cook appears near the top of the leaderboard in terms of value for his democratic season.  Tim Hudson had the most valuable democratic season in 2004, having an fWAR of 4.9.  The difference between 4.9 and 4.5 fWAR, that Cook put up in 2008 is probably not statistically significant.  I feel confident in saying that Aaron Cook is the most democratic pitcher for which we have comprehensive data.

On the flip side of this, I wanted to see who would be considered the most fascist pitchers for which we have data.  To set the parameters, I chose a K/9 of greater than or equal to 10.8 (represents 40% of 27, or how many outs a pitcher can get in a ball game) and a GB% of less than 40% with the same innings requirement as before.  The leaderboard can be found here.

Based on the leaderboard, there are only two fascist pitchers out there: Octavio Dotel and Carlos Marmol.  For some baseball fans, they are essentially the same pitcher and based on the rate stats it is hard to tell them apart.  Dotel was more valuable somehow being able to register a lower FIP than Marmol and pitching about 70 innings more.  So, Dotel is probably a little more fascist based on this stat.

Looking at individual seasons, I chose the same rates but with a minimum of 60 innings pitched.  The leaderboard for individual seasons has a handful of seasons registered by starting pitchers.  By and large, though, these types of seasons are usually only put up by relief pitchers.  Max Scherzer, Rich Harden, and Oliver Perez had more or less the same season in terms of value.  But Rich Harden’s season in 2008 is absolutely stunning.  Look at that low GB%, look how fascist it is.  There are a couple of pitchers on the individual-season list who don’t meet the 500-innings mark in Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen who could also be in the running for most fascist pitchers.  Harden’s individual season was the most fascist, for the purpose of this exercise.  It seems unlikely that a starting pitcher can survive with such a low GB% or keep up such a high K/9 over the course of his career, or a number of seasons.