The Groundballingest Groundballer Who Ever Groundballed
You know, I need to apologize to Roy Corcoran – I don’t know that we’ve said more than 20 words about you on the blog this year, and your performance deserves recognition. In a season where few things have gone right, you’ve been a shining beacon of success, and I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to write about you. So, mea culpa, Roy – here’s your post.
Corcoran, a career minor leaguer, has a K/BB rate of 1.27 – that’s not good at all. Anything below 2.00 is usually a problem, and for a quality reliever, the general expectation is closer to 3.00. Shut down late inning pitchers generally throw strikes and miss bats, while Corcoran doesn’t do either. His command isn’t good and he’s a pitch to contact guy, which is generally a terrible combination. However, Corcoran has been extremely effective this year, thanks to one special skill – ground balls.
Corcoran is a ground ball machine. His 70.2% GB% is the highest of any pitcher in baseball with at least 50 IP this year, and it’s not close – Brandon Webb is second at 65.5%. He gets more ground balls than Brad Ziegler, the A’s rookie side-armer who made national news by not allowing a run for the first few months of his career. In fact, the only pitcher who can compete with Corcoran in ground ball tendencies is Chad Bradford, also a side-armer, who is barely edging out Corcoran with a 70.6% GB% (but in fewer innings).
Corcoran gets so much sink on his fastball that the only guys in the majors who induce the grounder as often are guys who release the ball from as close to their shoes as possible. There isn’t another traditional pitcher alive who gets hitters to pound the ball into the dirt with the same frequency. Considering that the average AL hitter has a .499 OPS on ground balls (compared with a .782 OPS on fly balls and a 1.727 OPS on line drives), it’s easy to see why Corcoran has been able to rack up so many outs through sheer quantity of grounders.
Now, like pretty much every other sinker/slider right-handed pitcher, Corcoran isn’t nearly as good as left-handed hitters, and his skill set basically makes him a Sean Green clone – a few more ground balls, a few less strikeouts, but overall, the same package. It’s not the traditional relief ace package, but it works wonders against RHBs, and as part of a bullpen that has situational specialists, it works great.
Corcoran isn’t going to be a star, and because of his lack of a weapon against lefties, he’s always going to be better suited to a role where the manager can use him to face a run of right-handed bats, but don’t let the high walks and low strikeouts fool you into thinking that Corcoran’s getting lucky. He really can get outs with his sinker, and he’s just more evidence that you simply don’t need to spend any real resources to build a bullpen.
With Corcoran, Green, and Putz, the M’s have a very good collection of RH relievers. Don’t let all this talk about them missing Morrow fool you – this organization doesn’t need a classic strikeout reliever who dominates with a high 90s fastball. Just get a good lefty to complement the groundball twins, and you’ll have a great bridge to Putz.