Double Play grounding

Rany Jazayerli twooted something this morning that caught my eye: Billy Butler had grounded into 16 double plays in his team’s first 59 games. That is a blistering pace (in fact, he’s now up to 17 in the first 60 games) that has been beaten only three times before (presumably during the Retrosheet era). Three Red Sox have been more ground-outier at this stage of the season: Jim Rice in 1984 and 1985 and Carl Yastrzemski in 1964.

Everyone knows that Rice ground into a lot of double plays, of course. His recent Hall of Fame induction saw to that. But consider the following all-time leader list (courtesy of Baseball Reference):

Player (age)          GIDP   Year
Jim Rice+ (31)          36   1984
Jim Rice+ (32)          35   1985
Ben Grieve (24)         32   2000
Jackie Jensen (27)      32   1954
Cal Ripken+ (24)        32   1985
Miguel Tejada (34)      32   2008
Tony Armas (29)         31   1983
Bobby Doerr+ (31)       31   1949
Jim Rice+ (30)          31   1983
Ivan Rodriguez (27)     31   1999

All the leaders are stacked at 31 and 32, while Rice leaps ahead by several GIDP’s. This isn’t Chief Wilson, Triple Outlier, territory, but it’s pretty impressive. Most records are just barely set. Rice tore through his.

Which brings me back to Butler. At his current pace, Butler will ground into 46 double plays by the end of the year. 46. What’s more, Pablo Sandoval is on pace to ground into 42. (Throw in obligatory regression to mean footnote, yada yada yada). That is impressive and points to a more significant underlying trend: batters are grounding in double plays more often.

Here’s a graph of GIDP per game played each season since 1960 (not including this year—on a five-year running average to smooth out the line):

image

There have been a number of ups and downs in baseball’s past, but there has been a definite upward trend since 1990. In fact, current rates are higher than they’ve been in the past 50 years.

So I’m going on record here. Someyear soon, someone will break Jim Rice’s impressive feat of grounding into 36 double plays in a season. I don’t know if it will be Butler or Sandoval (though I wouldn’t bet against them). I don’t know if it will be 2010 or 2015. But I’m pretty sure that record will fall.

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