Every so often, I take a look at the SwStk% leaders and compare those marks to the pitchers’ strikeout rates. Since the two metrics are highly correlated, for obvious reasons, a high SwStk% that does not match up with a corresponding strikeout rate may suggest a surge is imminent. Here are a couple of pitchers whose Swstk% hints at strikeout rate upside for next year. Keep in mind however that SwStk% itself will vary year to year and so this assumes a similar level. For context, the league average for American League starting pitchers with a minimum of 120 innings pitched this year is a 7.0 K/9 and 8.5 SwStk%.
Jarrod Parker | 9.7% SwStk% | 6.7 K/9
Parker has had an excellent rookie season on the surface, posting a 3.40 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, but with a SIERA above 4.00, he could be drastically overvalued next season. However, that assumes his peripherals remain static. With a SwStk% well above the league average, there is no reason to think that he should be posting a strikeout rate so mediocre. So we should expect his strikeout rate that jump above 7.0 at the very least, but we might very well see quite a shift in all of his peripherals. Given his minor league history, his inflated line drive rate should decline and those liners should become ground balls. That would be a very good thing. In addition, his F-Strike% is quite low, and suggests a worse walk rate than he has posted. So the 2013 Parker may very well be a good source of strikeouts with a high ground ball rate, but merely acceptable control.
Tommy Milone | 8.8% SwStk% | 6.5 K/9
And here is yet another Athletic. Given the SwStk% and K/9 match, Milone doesn’t seem nearly as ready for a surge as Parker does, but his SwStk% is still above the league average, while his K/9 is below it. At Double-A and Triple-A, he showed excellent strikeout potential and I’m not sure that the promotion to the Majors and move to the American League is completely behind his drop in strikeout rate. While his strikeout rate did increase in July and August, hinting at true breakout potential, it has fallen back to just 5.9 in September. I rarely look at monthly trends, so that isn’t very meaningful to me, but it was interesting to note simply because I remember him streaking in the category recently. With his sterling control, he should continue to be an asset in WHIP and could be a very solid mixed league starter if his strikeout rate does increase.
Jose Quintana | 8.2% SwStk% | 5.3 K/9
Now, it’s questionable as to whether Quintana even opens next season in the White Sox rotation. He hasn’t even pitched an inning at the Triple-A level and has posted a 4.99 ERA since the beginning of August. But, he has displayed a ground ball tendency and pretty strong control. His minor league history also showed solid, albeit unspectacular, strikeout rates. His fastball velocity isn’t great at 90.4 miles per hour, but acceptable for a lefty, and is likely a good reason why he only throws it a bit more than 50% of the time. While it would take a higher SwStk% to expect a real beneficial strikeout rate for fantasy owner, he should at least be able to post a 6.0 K/9. With that increase combined with good control and ground ball rate, he could get his SIERA down to around the 4.00 range, which would generate some legitimate (not luck-aided like this year) AL-Only value.