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High Called Strike Rate, Low Swinging Strike Rate

What’s the first thing you do when you get a new spreadsheet? My answer; sort ascending, sort descending. That’s what I did on the 2021 pitching leaderboards. I looked at the plate discipline metrics for qualified pitchers and sorted the sheet by descending swinging-strike rate (SwStr%). The names I saw were not surprising. Corbin Burnes leads the group at 16.6%. He’s followed by Max Scherzer (15.9%) and Robbie Ray (15.5%). José Berríos is not in the top 30. In fact, when you sort the same list by ascending swinging-strike rate, he’s in the top 10, meaning he had one of the lowest swinging strike rates in the league (9.9% to be specific). The lowest swinging strike getters in the league this year were Adam Wainwright (8.1%), Chris Flexen 플렉센 (8.6%), and Dallas Keuchel (8.7%).

Now, do the same sorting exercise on called-strike rate (CStr%) and you’ll find the opposite pattern. José Berríos has the third-best called-strike rate (19.2%) among 2021 qualified starters behind Adam Wainwright at first (21.6%) and Lance McCullers Jr. (19.8%) at second. Does that seem strange? What qualities do pitchers who get a lot of called strikes and very little swinging-strikes have? To answer that question, let’s start by looking at starters with at least 100 IP in 2021 who have the largest differentials between their called-strike rate and their swinging-strike rate:

Called Strike/Swinging Strike Diff
Name Swstr% Cstr% Diff
Adam Wainwright 8.1 21.6 13.50
Alec Mills 7.4 18.4 11.00
Paolo Espino 8.5 19.3 10.80
Rich Hill 9.8 20.5 10.70
Chi Chi González 6.8 16.8 10.00
Brady Singer 10.2 20.1 9.90
Jorge López 8.3 18.1 9.80
Martín Pérez 8.3 18.1 9.80
Kyle Hendricks 8.9 18.6 9.70
Kyle Freeland 8.5 18.1 9.60
José Berríos 9.9 19.2 9.30
Hyun Jin Ryu 류현진 9.7 18.8 9.10
Tyler Alexander 7.9 17.0 9.10
Mike Foltynewicz 8.1 17.2 9.10
Steven Matz 9.4 18.4 9.00
Among starting pitchers with at least 100 IP. (League average CStr% = 16.4%)

Is that good? Well, you certainly would rather have a guy who can do both. If we look at pitchers from the same group of 2021 qualified starters who have very little difference between the two rates we would see guys like Robbie Ray (15.5% SwStr%, 14.1% CStr%) and Lucas Giolito (15.3 SwStr%, 14.5 CStr%) and Clayton Kershaw (16.6 SwStr%, 16.0% CStr%). Doing both is good, but there’s more than one way to add strikes. José Berríos likes to do it with the curveball like this…

and with the sinker, like this…

Pretty incredible-looking stuff. One goes this-a-way and one goes that-a-way. But, why no takers? Is the late break fooling batters? Why is it that when they do swing, they make contact? Berríos isn’t missing bats, his contact rate was higher than the league average of 76.9%, as batters made contact on his pitches 78.9% of the time. Does a high called-strike rate correlate with anything in particular?

Called Strike Correlations
CStr%
O-Swing% -0.31
Z-Swing% -0.86
Swing% -0.58
O-Contact% 0.10
Z-Contact% 0.35
Contact% 0.22
Zone% 0.03
F-Strike% 0.10
SwStr% -0.38
CStr% 1.00
CSW% 0.39
W 0.37
ERA -0.09
H -0.21
ER -0.09
BB -0.11
SO 0.01

Called strike rate has a large negative correlation with the zone swing rate. Duh. It has some correlation with CSW, Alex Fast’s new metric that encompasses both called strikes and whiffs. But, none of this really pops off the page. If we look back at the pitchers in the first table, we can start to develop some commonalities amongst the pitchers on the list. Many of them have a positive PVal on their curveballs (Wainwright, Espino, Hill, Freeland, Berríos) or a positive PVal on their changeup (Gonzalez, Matz, Lopez, Ryu) and some have both.

Is called strike rate related to the value of a breaking pitch? Maybe. If you can throw curveballs and changeups in the zone that fool hitters, you’re going to bump up your called strike rate. But, if you are doing it more and more often, hitters are likely to pick up on that and start taking hacks. Some pitchers might get hit pretty hard, others may be able to limit contact, or perhaps, limit quality contact. If we refocus our attention on 2021’s qualified starting pitchers and we compare Hyun-Jin Ryu and José Berríos, we see that these two pitchers finished the year in a similar fashion.

Berrios – 192 IP, 204 K, 3.52 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3.47 FIP

Ryu       – 169 IP, 143 K, 4.37 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 4.02 FIP

From those lines, Berríos looks much better. But, looking at some of the underlying statistics we see very little difference between the two:

Ryu       – 29.9 Hard%, 35.1 O-Swing%, 71.9 O-Contact%, 85.5 Z-Contact%, 41.1 Zone%, 18.8 CStr%

Berrios – 32.5 Hard%,  34   O-Swing%, 64.1 O-Contact%, 85.6 Z-Contact%,  51  Zone%,  19.2 CStr%

The only telling difference here is that hitters made more contact out of the zone on Ryu than they did Berríos. But, Ryu put the ball in the zone less often. Many fantasy managers may be wondering what happened to Ryu in 2021 and the key is in his changeup. He just didn’t have it. In 2020, Ryu’s changeup PVal was excellent at 7.0. In 2021, it sunk down to 0.2. In 2020, Berríos changeup was valued at 1.1, and in 2021 it soared up to 4.2. These two pitches went in opposite directions. When Ryu was trying to place a good changeup in the zone, he missed or gave up contact. Berríos on the other hand was doing this:


Getting to the point now, if you’re going to be a pitcher who lives in the zone, you have to have good stuff. Does that mean high CStr% pitchers with good stuff should be valued a little higher this offseason? Let’s look at how the top five CStr% starting pitchers (qualified) finished from a fantasy perspective in 2021:

Adam Wainwright – 25th K, 10th WHIP, 11th ERA, 2nd W

Lance McCullers, Jr. – 23rd K, 24th WHIP, 12th ERA, 14th W

José Berríos – 14th K, 12th WHIP, 20th ERA, 20th W

Hyun-Jin Ryu – 31st K, 26th WHIP, 32nd ERA, 11th W

Joe Musgrove – 15th K, 14th WHIP, 14th ERA, 23rd W

None of these pitchers finished the season at the top of their class, but they all did pretty well. When I first started writing this I thought I was going to focus on just Berríos. I had him rostered in one of my Ottoneu leagues and he was awesome. He scored the 12th highest in FanGraphs points among all starters! That’s a little different in a points league but still really great. He also accumulated 192 IP. But, according to Fantasy Pros ADP, he was the 24th pitcher off the board in most leagues with an average ADP of 78. If you were valuing a pitchers’ ability to get called strikes pre 2021, then you likely rostered a few of these pitchers and hopefully, you did well.

As you prep for 2022, you may be able to gain an edge using CStr%. But first, let’s make sure it’s repeatable.

While the data is limited and the 2021/2019 (I removed 2020, maybe you can guess why…) comparison shows a decrease in r-squared, I still like what I see. As fantasy baseball writers and analysts will soon begin making their top 100 lists, I’m going to be looking for a cluster of pitchers in the 20’s and 30’s that have displayed the ability to put good pitches in the zone for strikes. Hopefully, none of my league mates read this.


The 2021 NFBC Unauctioned — Building an Offense, A Review

Yesterday, I reviewed the thrilling $14 offense I built with all hitters that averaged just $1 in auction cost in NFBC leagues as of the beginning of March. Today, I review an even tougher challenge — an offense composed solely of hitters who weren’t purchased at all in the seven auctions that occurred in the month of Feb.

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Paul Sporer’s Bold Predictions for 2021: A Review

Reviewing the Bold Predictions is always a fun time of the year. Sure, it’s great when you hit some homers, but I know a lot of you enjoy looking back at laughing at the huge misses.

Let’s see how I fared! (Here is the original piece if you would like to read the thought process behind these picks)

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Goes .300-35-100

Let’s cut to the chase: this is a loss. Gurriel Jr. went .276/.319/.466 with 21 HR and 84 RBI in 541 PA, so it’s pretty straightforward… however, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how he turned his season around after a hideous 33-game start. He had just a .492 OPS to that point, but if you jumped off at that point then you missed 108 games of .879 OPS with 19 HR and 74 RBI, which would’ve paced to 28/111. Astute readers will notice that even that pace would be a loss, too, but as someone who was heavily bought in on Gurriel Jr., I feel alright about how he saved the last 4+ months of his season.

0-for-1

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Early Projections: Hitting Counting & Rate Stats

In my last article, I focused on the early-season projection accuracy of hitter playing time. Today, the rest of the standard 5×5 Roto hitting stats finally take center stage. Besides the counting stats, I turn each of them into rate stats to help determine projection accuracy. After completing the analysis, three options stick out.

As a reminder, here are the projections I used and some background on the analysis.

Projections

  • Steamer (FanGraphs)
  • ZIPS
  • DepthCharts (FanGraphs)
  • The Bat
  • The Bat X
  • Davenport
  • ATC (FanGraphs)
  • Pod (Mike Podhorzer)
  • Masterball (Todd Zola)
  • PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus)
  • RotoWire
  • CBS
  • Razzball (Steamer)
  • Paywall #1

To create a list of players to compare for accuracy, I took the TGFBI ADP (players in demand at that time) and selected the hitter in the top-450 drafted players (30-man roster, 15 teams in TGFBI). Generally, all the players were projected with the following exceptions. Rotowire and Pods didn’t have a Josh Rojas projection while Pods also didn’t have projections for Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Mike Brosseau. Additionally, CBS was missing several projections. I am blamed for part of it because I forgot to pull designated hitters and they didn’t project as many outfielders. Finally, I just removed the projection for Yasiel Puig. Read the rest of this entry »


Learning from the Players I Rostered Most

Prior to the season, I wrote up the 12 players (and more importantly, the six types of players) who appeared most often on my fantasy rosters. Those twelve guys, plus a few others I tossed out as “other names” in each category, were a mixed bag this year, and it is worth going back to see if there is anything we can learn from my successes and failures.

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Building a 2021 $14 NFBC Offense, A Review

One of the more enjoyable exercises I performed before this season was building a $14 NFBC offense, using the contests’ average auction values. The idea was to choose from the 59 hitters that averaged $1 in cost and put together an entire legal offense, filling each required slot. Let’s see how this squad performed, with final FanGraphs calculated auction values included.

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2021 Roster Review: Washington Nationals

65-97 (5th in Division; 25th in MLB)

[Previous Reviews]

SP Wins: 42 (17th)

RP Wins: 23 (2nd)

Saves: 36 (22nd)

1+ Save: 4 (Brad Hand 21, Kyle Finnegan 11, Tanner Rainey 3, Paolo Espino 1)

100+ Ks: 4 (Max Scherzer 147, Patrick Corbin 143, Erick Fedde 128, Joe Ross 109)

.260+ AVG (min. 350 PA): 5ish (Trea Turner .322, Juan Soto 313, Josh Harrison .294, Alcides Escobar .288 – in 349 PA, Josh Bell .261)

65+ Runs: 3 (Soto 111, Bell 75, Turner 66)

65+ RBI: 2 (Soto 95, Bell 88)

10+ HRs: 5 (Soto 29, Bell 27, Kyle Schwarber 25, Turner 18, Ryan Zimmerman 14)

5+ SBs: 4 (Turner 21, Soto 9, Victor Robles 8, Harrison 5)

BEST BUY: Lane Thomas

Thomas had a fantastic third of a season after being traded for Jon Lester. He posted a 127 wRC+ with 7 HR and 4 SB in 206 PA and should be in line for a full-time role with the Nationals in 2022. He is 26 with a collection of league average or better skills at the dish as well as plus speed and plus defense in the corners annnd a great opportunity at playing time. Soto is the only locked in outfielder for the Nats heading into 2022.Thomas is a bit platoon heavy favoring his work against lefties, but if he can maintain some at or better than the .715 OPS he had versus righties with Washington, then he can avoid a short-side platoon.

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Projection Accuracy: Early March Plate Appearances

I’ve always wanted to do a projection analysis, especially at different time points. I had it started in 2020 and everything fell apart with the shortened season. I’m starting off simply today by looking at at-bat projections from March 1st with the Wisdom of the Crowds prevailing.

The reason I chose March 1st was that The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) started drafted that day. I pulled all 14 projections that morning. I contacted the paid providers and all but one agreed to have their name associated with the results. They are:

Projections

  • Steamer (FanGraphs)
  • ZIPS
  • DepthCharts (FanGraphs)
  • The Bat
  • The Bat X
  • Davenport
  • ATC (FanGraphs)
  • Pod (Mike Podhorzer)
  • Masterball (Todd Zola)
  • PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus)
  • RotoWire
  • CBS
  • Razzball (Steamer)
  • Paywall #1

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Beat the Shift Podcast – Live Episode from First Pitch Arizona 2021

The Live Episode from First Pitch Arizona 2021 of the Beat the Shift Podcast – a baseball podcast for fantasy baseball players.

Guest: Derek Carty

What’s new in THE BAT X for 2022?

Strategy Section

  • Risk
    • How to deal with injury risk
    • How to discount for binary risk
    • Low risk players / consistent players
      • Injury Guru’s Trivia of the Week
    • Categorical Risk
    • Replacement Level Risk
    • Ace Pitcher Risk – Should you draft pitchers in the first few rounds?
    • Stacking Risk – Doubling up in one league vs. spreading out in two different leagues
  • Auction
    • Spread the Risk vs. Stars & Scrubs
      • League depth matters
      • Grab value in every price tier
    • The value at the corner infield position
    • The Joey Votto nomination strategy

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2021 Forecast — Potential HR/FB Rate Decliners, A Review

Yesterday, I reviewed the eight hitters on my 2021 potential HR/FB rate surger list. Today, let’s once again rely on my xHR/FB rate equation to review my preseason potential HR/FB rate decliners list.

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