I try to avoid analyzing small sample sizes, but I feel a pitcher’s small sample is significantly more insightful than a hitter’s. Well, at least if you are looking at the correct statistics. Obviously, ERA isn’t one of them. Strikeout percentage is though, as it could be the result of increased velocity, altered mechanics or a change in pitch mix. With this in mind, here are a smattering of pitchers whose appearance on the last-30 day K% leaderboard may surprise you.
Todd Redmond | 28.9% K%, Ranks 2nd
The 28-year-old Redmond has been a journeyman, as his current Blue Jays squad is his fourth organization since debuting with the Pirates down on the farm back in 2006. His minor league track record has been respectable, but pretty meh. The type that solely looking at his statistics might lead one to label him a future 4th starter. It’s a small sample for sure, but something happened during his time with the Jays Triple-A club this year as his K% shot up to 26.6%, well above his previous career best of 22.5%. It came in just 26.2 innings, but it looks meaningful now given his K% with the Blue Jays.
He possesses below average velocity on his fastball (just 90.4 mph), but in conjunction with his slider, has generated a pretty good SwStk% of 10.0%. I couldn’t find any news that provides an explanation for the sudden strikeout rate surge, but perhaps the increased fastball velocity (1 MPH higher than last year) has helped.
Erik Bedard | 28.7%, Ranks 3rd
Erik Bedard lives! That 30-day K% compares to just a 21.2% mark for the entire season. So that’s quite the surge. His velocity isn’t the answer here as it has been up and down all season. If you check his SwStk% in his game logs, you wouldn’t be impressed either. Just twice in five starts did he exceed the league average SwStk%. He induced a ton of swinging strikes during his game against Seattle four starts ago, which resulted in a 41.7% K%. It seems like that game alone is inflating his 30-day K% and his lack of swinging strikes in all other games makes me think this is just a short term fluke.
Chris Tillman | 26.1%, Ranks 5th
Tillman’s velocity has also remained relatively stable all year. His 30-day window only encompassed four starts and in those four, his SwStk% was above 12% in three of them. Those have been the only three starts above 12% all year. His pitch mix hasn’t been all that different in those starts, though depending on whether you rely on BIS data or PITCHf/x, he may have scrapped his cutter recently in favor of his curve and change-up. His cutter hasn’t been all that good a pitch for him, with a low SwStk% and K%, so perhaps this forms some of the explanation.
Erasmo Ramirez | 23.5%, Ranks 8th
This isn’t too surprising, but including him here was mostly just an excuse to write more about him. Ramirez’ ERA sits at a ghastly 7.06 after Eno Sarris and I have talked a lot about him throughout the season and before his call-up. Obviously, I expected better. But don’t give up yet! His SIERA stands at a much more respectable 3.81, his SwStk% is healthy at above the 10% mark and he passes the eye test in terms of possessing quality stuff.
He has endured poor fortune in all three luck metrics, but this is essentially the same pitcher who intrigued us all last year when he posted a 3.36 ERA over eight starts and 59.0 innings. His biggest problem so far has been his slider, as it seems to lack some movement and he has been missing his spots. It would explain the nearly 43% HR/FB rate he has allowed on the pitch. He was much more effective throwing that pitch last year though, so this seems like a fixable issue.