June 26th, 2013

Today's slate.

The Big Hurst - Jordan Zimmermann

skoormit - Clayton Kershaw

La Osa Rosa - Felix Hernandez

La Osa Rosa: I’ll pick Felix Hernandez of the Maritime Marliners. I thought about picking Jeanmar Gomez because he’s a Pirates pitcher and I do love those. And because he has a pretty awesome name. But then I was looking at Wikipedia and it says that Gomez is a “sinkerballer.” From as best as I can gather, that seems to mean that he makes the batter hit groundballs, rather than getting a lot of strikeouts. I’m confused as to how this would make him a good pitcher or why this is a good strategy. I understand that he’s eliminating batters from getting homeruns, but isn’t a groundball kind of a good thing for the batter? If a batter gets a fly ball, that’s usually going to get caught. If the batter hits a ground ball, he seems more likely to get a single or double or triple. Do groundballs have more errors associated with them than fly balls? It seems like they would because the ball is bouncing around in the dirt and nobody can catch it and then everyone has to scramble to throw it to the right person. Rather than a fly ball, where they just stand under it with their glove above their head (I just got a mental image of myself shielding my head with a baseball mitt and squealing like a girl while a fly ball almost clobbers me in the head. But then I catch the ball and win the game for my team, the “Sparkle Unicorns”). Anyway, regardless if it’s a good pitching strategy, Gomez does not seem to be the best pitcher for Game Score Bingo because he won’t have many strikeouts and he’ll have lots of hits against him. Maybe one of you can explain to me the strategy of “sinkerballers.” Or maybe I’m so baseball knowledge poor that I’ll never understand. Much like how I cannot, for the life of me, remember what a pinch hitter is and how it differs from a designated hitter. Or how I can’t keep straight the difference between a “double” and a “double-play.” Baseball be hard. But I’ll pick Felix Hernandez today and if Jeanmar Gomez gets a good game score, I’m going back to picking solely based on names and cute smiles.
skoormit: You are correct that sinkerball pitchers tend to produce fewer strikeouts. So, for Game Score Bingo, that's a factor against picking someone. But for the pitcher's team, groundballs are good. Groundballs turn into outs at about the same rate as fly balls. When they don't turn into outs, groundballs are almost always singles, very occasionally doubles, almost never triples, and literally never home runs. Fly balls, on the other hand, are the ones that, when they do not turn into an out, will often turn into an extra base hit. Also, groundballs turn into double plays far more often than fly balls. For those reasons, all other things being equal between two pitchers, MLB teams will prefer the pitcher that gets more groundballs.
The Big Hurst: I expect some friendly blowback today for picking against the D-backs. Meanwhile, Miss Paddington von Bearington raises some cool points.  Is a certain kind of pitcher more likely to get good Game Scores?  Is it a different kind of pitcher than we normally think of as a quality pitcher?  Is there any disconnect?  Sinkerballers can be good pitchers if they prevent hits and walks, just like anyone else.  I did a quick, back-of-the-envelope study the other day for the last couple of years and found that pitcher ERA seems to tend to correlate with pitcher Game Scores, so picking based on ERA isn't wholly inappropriate.  But it wasn't entirely correlative, and there were some notable outliers (Kazmir, Masterson, Scherzer, Freddy Garcia, and Cueto).  I don't know if there's a reason for this, or if they're just odd points in an incomplete study.  I've wondered whether I should be picking on some combination of Innings Pitched/Games Started (endurance) and Strikeouts/Inning (stuff).  But that sounds too complicated to worry about every day.  I also think there's a thirty year (or more) debate - still not completely settled - about the value of a strikeout as opposed to a out made in play.  Pitchers who strike out lots of guys tend to be better for longer, so they're "better" in baseball terms.  But in other contexts, the value of a strikeout might be debatable.  Ask Adam Dunn, Mike Napoli, or Dan Uggla.


The Big Hurst: GAME SCORE BINGO for skoormit!  5th, 6th, & 7th?  That's pretty good.  I thought I was doing well, until Kershaw pitched.  I've got four of the top five pitchers here pitching against very good offenses.  I root for him, but that Dickey gem seems pretty unlikely.


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