As intuition would suggest, F-Strike% has a high correlation with a pitcher’s walk rate (though I can’t seem to find the article that studied the relationship). One of the obvious reasons is because a first pitch strike is a strike, so you already know the pitcher is starting with an 0-1 count. Whenever I analyze a pitcher, I like to compare his F-Strike% with his BB/9 or BB% to see if those last two numbers are sustainable. Today I look at the leaders in F-Strike%. These are the guys who should also be atop the leader boards in walk rate. This is where we search for those who may see an improved walk rate in the future.
Always a strike throwing machine, Cliff Lee has taken it to an even higher level. And he has 0 wins! Seriously, 0 wins through 8 starts with a 3.00 ERA. Why oh why does anybody ever quote a pitcher’s win total like it actually has any meaning?
To offset his underwhelming stuff and generating only about a league average percentage of ground balls, Kyle Lohse has decided to just throw a ton of strikes to keep his walk rate down. Unfortunately, it still hasn’t been enough to push his SIERA below 4.00. For someone who has never posted a walk rate below 2.0, it is hard to believe he can sustain one below 1.5, but so far he hasn’t fluked his way into such elite control. I don’t see much regression there, but his ERA is still due to rise anyway.
Jordan Zimmermann always displayed good control in the minors, but never this good. That said, he posted a BB/9 last season close to what he has so far this year, but with a F-Strike% much lower. So similar to Lohse, it is always a better bet to expect some regression without many years of established sub-1.5 control levels, but so far it has not been a fluke. I do wonder why he isn’t striking out more batters though and generating more swinging strikes. His stuff certainly looks better than his strikeout rate suggests.
Colby Lewis is doing his best to ensure the home runs he allows are mostly solo shots. He showed pinpoint control in Japan before he came back over to the States and posted a high SwStk% last year as well. Expect his walk rate to increase some since it’s currently ranked second in baseball, but he could very well sustain a sub-2.00 BB/9.
Philip Humber is our first major improvement candidate. Sometimes I notice that when a pitcher’s F-Strike% does not match his BB/9, his Zone% is low and may be the explanation. Not here though, as Humber’s is well above average as well. The sudden fly ball tendency is a clear negative, but he looks like an excellent buy low guy in AL-Only leagues right now. It shouldn’t cost much to acquire him.
And we have our second potential improver in Chris Capuano who also posted a strong F-Strike% last year. His career BB/9 is about 3.00 and he posted a 2.6 mark last year, all positive signs that his walk rate should indeed improve. That should bring his SIERA down closer to his ERA, but there’s no denying that he has been quite fortunate so far with a .236 BABIP.
For whatever reason, Wandy Rodriguez has replaced some strikeouts with better control. He has thrown his change-up more often in place of his curve, but aside from that, there doesn’t appear to be any obvious explanation for his decline in strikeout rate and SwStk%. Though his overall skill profile has changed a bit, his SIERA remains right where it has always sat, but he has enjoyed some good luck this year. I have to think the strikeout rate and walk rates are both going to rise a bit over the course of the season.