The Groundballingest Groundballer Who Ever Groundballed

Dave · August 29, 2008 at 5:20 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.


18 Responses to “The Groundballingest Groundballer Who Ever Groundballed”

  1. Tek Jansen on August 29th, 2008 5:25 am

    Just wait until spring, and I guarantee that media people (radio, TV, or print) will start saying that they have questions about the ‘pen. I amazed that people concern themselves with the ‘pen when, for the last four years, it has been the M’s biggest asset. Plus, a team should never worry about fixing a pen until it has starters capable of not getted shelled routinely and/or an offense capable of scoring.

    Finding guys like Corcoran shows how ill guided ideas like trading Clement for Al Reyes are. At least Bavasi never did that. I forget who suggested that move might have helped the M’s make the playoffs?

  2. edgar for mayor on August 29th, 2008 6:44 am

    I noticed this about him some time last week. Pretty awesome when you think about it. Its funny, our TV guys continue to call Silva and Batista groundball machines, yet they haven’t even noticed or mentioned Corcoran.

  3. Adam S on August 29th, 2008 7:37 am

    Does Lowe fit in the mix? Or is he simply a different pitcher post-surgery?

    People always question the unknown or “unproven”, like no names in the bullpen, and then are surprised to look at the league save leaders and see a bunch of these “no names” mixed in with the “star closers” even though it happens every year. This year Brian Wilson (such a no name that I had to look up his first name), Joakim Soria, George Sherill (a “no name” outside of Mariners fans), and Kevin Gregg are in the top 10 in saves. Putz is only a couple years removed from being a no name himself.

  4. Steve Nelson on August 29th, 2008 8:07 am

    I remember thinking WTF when Corcoran was called up from Tacoma. Then I realized that he’s surprisingly effective.

    It’s another piece of information showing that for as much as folks like to bash the Mariners organization, they actually do have ability to see things in players that are readily apparent.

    The organizational problem that the they layer over those operational skills with some defective general premises and conclusions.

  5. killer_ewok18 on August 29th, 2008 8:15 am

    Now if Putz would just start being Putz, we’d be in great shape…

  6. Go Felix on August 29th, 2008 8:20 am

    For some reason I imagined Dave’s post being read by the Budweiser “Real Men of Genius” guys.

  7. ChicksDigtheLongBall on August 29th, 2008 9:44 am

    I ask this completely out of ignorance, but….how much of the performance of a guy called up from AAA has to with the quality of scouting/video in the big leagues? I guy like Clement comes up, nobody knows how to pitch to him or at least they’re in doubt…then they get a few days/weeks worth of video and discover the flaws in his swing and voila, he can’t get a pitch he can hit for a month…until he adjusts. Same for pitchers? Nobody has a “chart” on Corcoran so he’s pretty effective….until the library of video on him gets big enough, then he starts getting hammered. What do you guys reckon? Is the difference in scouting worth so little that it’s insignificant? Is this just small sample sizes at play? Just wondering….

  8. Red Apple on August 29th, 2008 10:39 am

    Could you imagine Corcoran pitching to Yuni? Why, the grounder he’d induce would burrow into the infield like a mole on steroids!

  9. Dobbs on August 29th, 2008 10:48 am

    Isn’t Josh Fields supposed to be the strikeout reliever the team needs? I still don’t understand the pick, perhaps they’ll just not sign him and get compensation to make a better/smarter pick next year?

  10. Red Apple on August 29th, 2008 10:53 am

    Not understanding why a team would use a first round pick on a reliever means that you’re sane.

  11. Breadbaker on August 29th, 2008 10:55 am

    Roy the Innings Eater is a perfect example of cheap, effective bullpen performers. Can we spend some money on a middle infielder or centerfielder who has power?

  12. gwangung on August 29th, 2008 11:10 am

    Can we spend some money on a middle infielder or centerfielder who has power?

    I’d settle for competent fielder with league average offense.

  13. joser on August 29th, 2008 11:30 am

    Speaking of which… note that the effectiveness of a groundball pitcher is highly dependent on the quality of the infield defense behind him, especially the middle infielders. Yes, Betancourt, we’re looking at you (and you’re looking at the dugout, wondering where that ball you threw actually went)

  14. TumwaterMike on August 29th, 2008 1:23 pm

    I say we trade Betancourt during the off-season. He does have some market value. Then try Navarro at short. He doesn’t hit much so might fit well into this lineup- Has anyone seen him play at Tacoma? How’s his defense?

  15. skipj on August 29th, 2008 7:27 pm

    RE: Main Post

    The broadcast of the game just ran a graphic of Corcorans GB/FB outs. Think they read USSM?

  16. DAMellen on August 29th, 2008 7:29 pm

    I hear Arthur Rhodes will be available. I wonder what we can trade him for next year…

  17. msb on August 29th, 2008 10:33 pm

    The broadcast of the game just ran a graphic of Corcorans GB/FB outs.

    I did think Sims was going to call him The Groundballingest Groundballer Who Ever Groundballed 🙂

  18. John D. on August 30th, 2008 6:37 pm

    Re: # 13

    Speaking of which… note that the effectiveness of a groundball pitcher is highly dependent on the quality of the infield defense behind him, especially the middle infielders.

    I was thinking the same thing, what good is a pitcher with a high GB/FB Ratio with this porous infield defense?
    Wouldn’t the Mariners be better off with a pitcher with a high FB/GB ratio?

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