Jon Garland has always had the reputation of a “sinker-ball” pitcher.
Using the two-seamer to induce ground balls and create opportunities
for his defense to convert the ball in play into an out.
But Keith Law in a recent chat dismissed this as fiction at this stage in Garland’s career.
So I figured that I would wrestle around with some numbers until I came up with my own conclusion.
Garland’s GB% (percentage of batted balls on the ground) was at 49.9%
in 2008. This was high enough to qualify for 14th in all of baseball.
Which means that his reputation would have been accurate for at least
this past season.
Garland was 12th in GB/FB, another reason to believe that at least in 2008, Garland was a “groundball pitcher.”
If one were to research just a little further back though, then
Garland’s rep for keeping the ball on the ground might take a hit.
Garland’s GB% in 2007 was 39.4%. If one were viewing only Garland’s
2007 season, then yes, they would be questioning his way of retiring
batters via the ground. If a pitcher is tied with Tim Wakefield in the
percentage of ground balls induced, then I too would be very skeptical
over how much the sinker was actually “sinking.”
But generally, the year in which things look odd from the rest of the sample, is the aberration…
And that 2007 has clearly separated itself from the rest of Garland’s seasons, in terms of putting the ball on the ground.
The problem with that, is 2006 is also a rather low rate of ground balls per batted ball, not quite as low however.
In the five seasons of data that I have available, Garland has had ground-ball rates better than 45% on three occasions.
Once was it below 40%, and that was during 2007, as I mentioned already.
And then another season it was at 42% (2006).
Garland’s GB/FB had declined during three consecutive seasons. But
then following those years of decline, it rose to its highest.
So I do not know that we can dismiss Garland as a “ground-ball” pitcher
just yet. For his rate was at its peak last season. And while it
makes sense for Garland to induce fewer ground-balls from here on out
then he did in 2008. I can also see Garland maintaining a higher
percentage than he did in the few seasons previous to the last.
As for Garland’s overall decline, that is probably because his K/9
basically decreasing every single year of his career (and in part
because of varying GB rates)
When a pitcher strikes out fewer batters, it is simply harder to be as good as they once were…