Hate to break it to you Mr. Rizzo, but...

... groundball pitchers need groundball fielders.

WASHINGTON D.C. – Groundball pitchers are great.  Having a groundball pitching staff is phenomenal.  Keeping the ball on the field prevents a large number of runs, namely those that score on homeruns.  So, for a team like the Nationals, who score a fair number of runs on offense, but give up a lot with their defense, having a groundball staff would be a good move, right?

Well, no.

You see, groundball pitchers rarely strike out hitters, and they of course rarely allow fly balls, so most of the balls are going on the ground.  It follows that the infielders need to be able to field those groundballs.  That’s were the Nationals’ plan hits a snag.

The 2010 Washington projected starting rotation of Jason Marquis, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, and Shairon Martis, contains four primarily groundball starters.  Marquis and Lannan both registered in the top ten list for groundball %.  Wang is widely regarded as the best sinkerball/groundball pitcher in the big leagues if he’s healthy.  And Detwiler has succesfully kept the ball down in limited MLB innings, the only thing he’s done well in the majors.

But as I mentioned before, the infielders must be able to catch these grounders, if they can’t reach ‘em, it’s just as bad as having a staff of flyball hurlers.

There’s nothing to worry about at third base, franchise cornerstone Ryan Zimmerman and his 12.0 career UZR/150 are ready to vacuum up anything that comes to the hot corner.  Washington will probably stow defensive black hole Adam Dunn at first base, luckily not many grounders will go down the 1st base line to the waiting stone glove of the Big Donkey.  It’s down the middle of the field, where most grounders go, where the Nats have problems.  Cristian Guzman, who for some strange reason led off in ’09, is penciled in as either the starting shortstop, or possibly switching to second base.  No matter where he ends up, he’s a consistently bad fielder, with limited range, which will only get worse as the soon-to-be 32 year-old ages.  It’s probably in Washington’s best interest to move Guzman across the bag.  If he stays at short, the Nats will be stuck with average fielders Anderson Hernandez, and Alberto Gonzalez manning the keystone.  However, if they shift Guzman, top prospect Ian Desmond, who has been highly praised for his glove, will play short and provide an offensive and defensive boost to the Washington lineup.

Groundball pitchers make up a good pitching staff, and Mike Rizzo’s on the right track, but for Washington to take full advantage of the plethora of grounders, they need to bring in some players to pick them up.

Cover Photo by: MissChatter


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Arjuna Subramanian

Arjuna Subramanian is an aspiring baseball writer living in the Washington D.C. area.  He started his writing  with his blog Painting The Black on MLBlogs in May of 2009.  He fell in love with the sabermetric movement during the 2008-2009 offseason, and strives to provide balanced articles from both sides of the statistics/scouting divide.  

When not writing, watching/listening to baseball, over-analyzing his Chicago Cubs, staring in disbelief at the writing of Thomas Boswell, or keeping tabs on the latest Milton Bradley blowup, he can usually be found at the DC Fencers Club, where he is a competitive epee fencer.

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