Look Up to the Sky

Juan Cruz is a huge fan of aviation. Of all qualified relievers, Cruz has allowed the most fly balls and inversely the least amount of grounders. 30% of Cruz’s batted balls aren’t going for grounders, nope, not 20% either, 15%? A touch high, but essentially equal to Cruz’s 14.7%. Not only is it a career low, but nearly half as many as Cruz allowed just last season. Best I can tell is that the previous lows for GB% with 20+ innings pitched include Mark S. McLemore in 2007, Al Reyes in 2007, and Chris Young in 2008 – who somehow maintained the feat despite starting.

Each of those pitchers finished over 20%, so Cruz is in some historical territory if he somehow keeps on this pace. I wouldn’t put money on him completing the task, but it is interesting to look at Cruz’s steady increase in fly balls allowed over the past few seasons, dating back to when he made the full-time switch from starting to relief duty. Check out his GB/FB ratios:

2004: 1.26
2005: 1.23
2006: 1.07
2007: 0.75
2008: 0.47
2009: 0.23

Most know you should weigh averages instead of expecting trends to continue, but I’m guessing Cruz has tested a few people’s resolve at this point. I would love to give an explanation as to why Cruz is inducing more and more fly balls, but I can’t really find anything. Maybe he’s pitching up in the zone more, or mixing his pitches better, I don’t really know. The only thing different this year is that he’s throwing his change more and his fastball less. That could help explain this year’s raise, but does little to solve the mysteries of the past.

I intend on keeping my eyes on Cruz, much like he seems to enjoy keeping his eye on airplanes.

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The new fly ball approach hasn’t shown up in his home run rates, but he’s still pitching far worse than in years past. In addition, he’s not striking anyone out anymore. Lots of wrong going on for Juan Cruz.