Davenport on pitcher control of balls in play
As a sort of follow-up to the Franklin arguments we’ve had here lately (summary: “Pitchers have an extremely limited ability to affect whether a ball is put into play and becomes an out or a hit”), I wanted to bring this up. One of the theories on why major league pitchers differ so little in hit prevention is that they’re selected for this ability as they advance — pitchers who aren’t good at this don’t advance.
Conveniently, Clay Davenport looked at this throughout the minors today, while the argument’s still fresh.
The pitchers who made the major leagues are, not surprisingly, better than their counterparts who did not, by every measure of pitching you may desire–including giving up fewer hits per ball in play.
Pitchers who aren’t any good at getting outs when a batter makes contact (their fastball is straight, or they’re no good at changing speeds — whatever) don’t advance, not only because they get shelled continually, but because as a group, their strikeout, home run, and walk rates aren’t as good.
This doesn’t answer a new question (why is the variation in a pitcher’s ability to prevent hits on balls in play so small at the major league level, while strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate have a wide variation) but it’s an interesting addition to the puzzle.