The other day, a reader named Jeff asked a question in the Deck McGuire / Matt Harvey post, but instead of answering it there—where it would likely get buried—I figured I'd give it its own post. Here's the question . . .
"I watched the first 5 innings of that game on Friday (via webcast). Does McGuire always give up long fly ball outs? That turned me off a bit. Harvey's stuff looked pretty nasty, especially in the second when he was just blowing fastballs by hitters. Control is obviously the issue with him, but he looked like a first-rounder in that brief look."
I went through McGuire's play-by-play logs and it looks like, so far this year, he's recorded 38 ground outs and 40 flyouts. For what it's worth, the ground outs number includes bunts and the fly out number includes all outs in the air.
Of course, the big problem with that is that it's only about two-thirds of his batted-ball totals for the season. He's also given up 34 hits on the year—26 singles, six doubles and two home runs.
Thanks to my friend Matthew Carruth from FanGraphs, StatCorner and Lookout Landing, I found out that, in the minor leagues from 2007-2009, singles were on ground balls 45-50 percent of the time (45 percent in Triple-A and 50 percent in A-ball, which makes sense—better defense at higher levels). Singles were on fly balls 9-16 percent of the time and on line drives 35-46 percent of the time.
Doubles, on the other hand, came via ground balls between 9-16 percent of the time; on fly balls 43-51 percent of the time and on line drives 37-44 percent of the time.
Obviously the sample sizes of McGuire's batted balls is too small to draw real conclusions from but, just for fun, let's split the difference in those percentages to guesstimate the batted-ball type for his hits this year—which is a pretty big leap to take considering the metal bats and such, but it should give us a decent approximation.
That turns McGuire's 26 singles into 12 ground balls and 14 fly balls / line drives. The doubles are a crapshoot, but six batted balls isn't going to make a big difference one way or another, even with this limited data. So, let's say it was one groundball and five fly balls.
I'd be a lot more confident with the assessment if I heard it from a scout, if we had a larger sample size from which to draw or if we had a better understanding on the relationship between how college batted ball rates carry over to the pro game for pitchers.
Recommended reading: "Education of a pitcher" by Jeff Sackmann of CollegeSplits.com
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