by Eno Sarris //
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that there are different results on different types of batted balls, and that across baseball, these results hold steady from year to year.
When a pitcher has allowed a line drive this year, the batter has put up a .732/.730/.997 batting line.
When a pitcher has allowed a flyball this year, the batter has put up a .226/.220/.595 batting line.
When a pitcher has allowed a groundball this year, the batter has put up a .219/.219/.238 batting line.
Unfortunately for pitchers, there is little evidence that they can control line drives from year to year. Fortunately for pitchers, there is evidence that they can control the other two. Take a look at the slugging percentages on groundballs versus flyballs in particular.
This brings us to Chris Volstad, a pitcher that is owned in virtually no leagues – at the time of this writing, he was available in 97% of Yahoo leagues. There’s a reason for that. Check out this screen grab from the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools. Volstad is doing very little right this year.
Very little is not nothing, on the other hand. Volstad has one important thing going for him. He can induce groundballs. His career groundball percentage is 50.6% and even in his struggles this year, he’s got a nice 48.2% number. That puts him at 40th in the league, which is not bad in itself. It is early going, though. If he had put up his career groundball percentage last year, Volstad would have been 13th in the league, right behind Adam Wainwright and in good company with Josh Johnson right behind him.
Returning to Steve Slowinski’s piece on the levels at which statistics become significant, we find this about pitchers:
- 150 BF – K/PA, grounder rate, line drive rate
- 200 BF – flyball rate, GB/FB
- 500 BF – K/BB, pop up rate
- 550 BF – BB/PA
We will have to count this as good news in Volstad’s case. He has a career strikeout rate of 5.67 K/9 and this year he’s lagging behind with a 3.47 K/9. Since he’s only faced 102 batters, we can hope the strikeout rate will rise. Derek Lowe was long successful with a 60% groundball rate, 5+ K/9 and a sub-3 BB/9, and these are all levels that Volstad could reach with a little work.
It can be tough to try and dominate your fantasy league with a groundballer, that much is true. Especially the groundballers that don’t strike people out, since strikeouts are a category in almost any league. There are also better groundball pitchers than Volstad out there, and RJ pointed out a couple of them just last week. Volstad’s contact rate (88.1% this year, 83.4% career) actually sits in between the two pitchers RJ talked about (Mike Leake and Doug Fister), so he’s an interesting test case. He’s the third amigo you could say.
Perhaps you can leave Volstad on the wire for now. But don’t let anyone convince you that he doesn’t do anything well. Watch his groundball rates, and if they rise, and he manages to strike a few out along the way, he could easily make a good pickup in a deep league.
For more on the three amigos, Mike Leake, Doug Fister and Chris Volstad, check out Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools.