Pitcher SwStk% Leaders

As I have mentioned many times in the past, SwStk% is highly correlated with strikeout rate/percentage. Of course, as with any pair of metrics, there are always going to be outliers who do not fit the general pattern. Sometimes there is an explanation not captured by the metrics we are looking at, other times it is just a matter of some version of luck that should change soon. The latter case gives us an opportunity to forecast improvement or declines. So let’s take a look at the leaders in Swstk%, matching it with their strikeout percentages to determine if there are any imminent strikeout rate surgers.

Name K% SwStr%
Jeff Samardzija 25.5% 13.3%
Edwin Jackson 22.8% 13.1%
Cole Hamels 26.9% 13.0%
Shaun Marcum 21.4% 11.8%
Justin Verlander 26.6% 11.7%
Bud Norris 23.6% 11.7%
Max Scherzer 24.7% 11.7%
Johan Santana 25.4% 11.4%
Anthony Bass 23.8% 11.2%
CC Sabathia 24.7% 11.2%
League Average 18.4% 8.3%

As Bradley Woodrum told us early on and Chris Cwik reminded us a month later, Jeff Samardzija is no fluke. Since I own him in all of my leagues, I have made sure to watch him pitch in most of his starts. What makes me scratch my head is how he didn’t consistently post eye-popping strikeout rates in the past. His stuff is truly fantastic and both the eye test and a league best SwStk% backs it up. The only remaining concern is his control, which has been problematic in the past. However, he is sporting a better than league average F-Strike% and has only walked more than two batters in a game once. I hate cliches as much as every other stat nerd, but he may be one of the few true examples of someone who has transformed from a thrower into a pitcher.

It’s questionable what is leading to Edwin Jackson‘s SwStk% spike, as his pitch selection is essentially the same and his fastball velocity is actually down. That said, the underlying metrics do suggest that if he can maintain a SwStk% this high, his strikeout rate should rise, as it sits at just 8.0 per nine. He is also throwing first pitch strikes more frequently than ever before. It’s actually the first time it has been over even 58% since his debut in 2003. He is not someone to sell high on, and in fact given his only one win and his inconsistent history, might be a profitable target to acquire.

Cole Hamels is good.

Shaun Marcum is one of the exceptions who typically posts excellent SwStk% marks but whose strikeout rate does not quite match up. The only explanation I can find is that he generates fewer foul balls than the average starter. Whether that is a true skill or just a fluke, I do not know. But since he has consistently posted lower strikeout rates than his SwStk% suggests, I would expect that trend to continue without much deeper digging.

The world wants to know Mr. Justin Verlander what it is you are doing to allow just a .219 BABIP while pitching in front of such an atrocious defense. Please, please share your secret. We know you’re good even if you posted a league average BABIP. However, you morph into other-wordly status when you refuse to allow hits at a normal rate as well, despite a league average line drive rate against.

Bud Norris‘ fastball velocity is down for a third straight season, but when you’re throwing sliders over 30% of the time, it doesn’t matter much. I would be shocked if Norris didn’t miss significant time with an elbow injury sometimes in the next couple of seasons. Don’t be fooled by another apparent step forward with his control. His F-Strike% is nearly identical to last year and below the league average. I would be surprised if his walk rate finished below 3.00.

Wow, I cannot wait to see how high Max Scherzer‘s SwStk% jumps after yesterday’s masterpiece. If you hadn’t bought low already, say goodbye to your chances now!

Though it’s still not vintage Johan Santana, that SwStk% is nothing to sneeze at. For comparison, at peak form he was posting marks between 13% and 16%, which is truly amazing. It’s pretty remarkable that he continues to be so effective given that his fastball is now down to just 88.4 miles per hour. The only concern remains how many innings he’ll be able to pitch this season. For that reason alone, it couldn’t hurt to see if you could get an equivalently valued starter or a hitter for him. Just don’t trade him thinking he’ll suddenly see a performance decline.

I always get confused when pitchers post much better peripherals in the Majors than they did in the minors, so I really have no idea what to expect from Anthony Bass going forward. So far, his underlying skills suggest that he is for real, and he has even induced grounders at over a 50% rate. But he only threw 10.2 innings at Triple-A and wasn’t overly impressive at the lower levels. It’s doubtful you can get enough to try selling high, so might as well hold on and hope he’s one of the many pitchers each year who comes out of relatively nowhere to surprise. Quick note: I’d like to see he, Mike Trout and Tim Salmon come together for a fishy afternoon. Can we invite any others to this party?

CC Sabathia is no stranger to this list, nice to see another familiar name.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


14 Responses to “Pitcher SwStk% Leaders”

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  1. Don’t forget Mike Carp!

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  2. Locust says:

    …or Fernando Rodney (aka…fluke)

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  3. Stuck in a slump says:

    I’m curious as to where Gio Gonzalez would rank on SwStk%. He has a higher K% than anyone you listed, so I’d have to assume that he’d be way up there in SwStk% as well. Was he left off the list because he looks to continue his nearly 31% K%? Or is he getting a ton of called strike threes?

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  4. kid says:

    Samardzija… going from fringe-level reliever to a starter posting a 9.35 K/9 and sub-3 BB/9 through the first 50 innings of 2012… pretty freakin’ incredible.

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  5. acb says:

    Even after his atrocious start against Seattle, Christian Friedrich’s swstrk% is 11.5. Small sample size, but still…

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  6. Joe says:

    J Sam initially had great velocity in 2008 but lost it. He gained it back during last year after the first 2 months and became a very good reliever after that point.

    He’s been good with his velocity, bad without it.

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  7. SteveJobs says:

    After yesterday’s 15 swinging Ks, Scherzer is up to 28.6 K% and 12.5% SwStr%.

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