Land Of The Sinker

After three terrific performances to start the year, Tim Hudson finally turned in a stinker last night, giving up four runs on six hits in just three innings of work as the Marlins topped the Braves 6-5. Things had to have looked a little off in the first inning for Hudson, even though he retired the side in order. Hudson got a line out and then a couple of fly ball outs in the first frame, but that’s just not Tim Hudson’s game. When the ball is going in the air, he’s doing something wrong. It’s not a coincidence that he allowed seven fly balls to just two ground balls in his worst start of the season. This is a theme in Atlanta. Here are the pitchers the Braves have run out this year for 10 or more innings, along with their respective GB%:

Tim Hudson: 24 IP, 62.3%
Jair Jurrjens: 18 1/3 IP, 50.0%
Jeff Bennett: 13 2/3 IP, 63.4%
Tom Glavine: 11 1/3 IP, 48.6%
John Smoltz: 11 IP, 57.1%

The league average ground ball rate is 44%. The Braves, as a team, have a ground ball rate of 53%. Not surprisingly, they’ve also allowed just nine home runs to date, which is one of the main reasons they’ve been able to keep runs off the board. Atlanta has quietly been collecting extreme ground ball pitchers for the last several years, picking up undervalued assets such as Bennett and Peter Moylan to complement a rotation of guys who pound the bottom of the strike zone.

With a staff of sinker ball strike throwers, the Braves have the makings of a pitching staff that could give the National League fits this year. While they may stand at 5-9 currently, they’ve shown enough in the first few weeks of the season that New York and Philadelphia should be getting a little nervous about their friends down south. A pitching staff that can induce this many ground balls is a pitching staff they can win with.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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16 years ago

I’m not sure how good the Braves’ infield defense is, but 36-year old Chipper Jones at the hot corner can’t help. Full years of Escobar and Teixeira will though.