There I was minding my own business monitoring Tuesday's Angels game via Gameday as I pretended to work. As chance would have it, Howie Kendrick came up to the plate against Aaron Cook with a runner on first base and nobody out. What followed was the most predictable GIDP possibly in history.
Everyone who pays even a little attention to the Angels saw it coming because Kendrick leads the free world in GIDPs and GIDP%. But it was made even more unavoidable because Kendrick was facing Aaron Cook, who entered the game with 2.93 GB/FB ration, which would lead all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. For his part, Kendrick had the fifth-highest GB/FB ratio of all hitters in baseball. The only real surprise is that the combination didn't lead to Kendrick simply smacking the baseball straight down, through the Earth's crust and halfway through the upper mantle.
The play was ultimately inconsequential, but I couldn't help but wonder why such an obvious end result couldn't have been avoided. No, seriously, why was premier groundball hitter Kendrick allowed to face premier groundball pitcher Aaron Cook?
It isn't that hitting grounders are necessarily a bad thing, Derek Jeter is having a good year and he had almost double the GB/FB ratio as Howie. However, grounders do limit a player's ability to drive the ball. Plus, common sense suggests that by sending up a groundball-heavy hitter against a groundball-heavy pitcher is only playing right into the hands of said pitcher, which is never a good thing. Perhaps there is some extensive statistical study that debunks this (and please send it my way if you know of one), but the only logical conclusion I can come up with is to begin platooning Kendrick against groundball pitchers.
The stats certainly suggest that it would be a smart move since Kendrick has a career tOPS+ of 82 against groundball pitchers. I'm sure a lot of players have a below average tOPS+ on that split, but that is a stark drop from his normal production. He hits for a lower average, less power and he even walks less against groundball pitchers. Like I said, he is playing right into their hands.
You know who wouldn't play into their hands? Maicer Izturis and his career 1.26 GB/FB ratio. He also has a 112 tOPS+ against groundball pitchers. All things being equal, Kendrick is a superior hitter than Izturis, but such an arrangement would maximize the strengths of each player and lead to an overall improvement in production from the second base position in Anaheim. And it isn't like it would relegate Kendrick to the bench that often as the Angels typically face a groundball pitcher in a quarter of their plate appearances in a normal season.
I can't say that I've seen such an arrangement in the majors before, but it makes a lot of sense in this isolated case. There will surely be some kinks to work out as far as what the GB/FB cut-off is for when to play Izturis over Kendrick, assuming it is stat-based and not scouting report-based, but I think it is a novel idea that deserves a shot.
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