Discussing the Pitcher Z-Contact% Laggards — 8/13/20

Yesterday, I identified and discussed the starting pitcher leaders in Z-Contact%, which is in-zone contact rate. Today, let’s look at the laggards in the metric. I’ll stick with the pitchers who have posted a rate of at least 90%.

Z-Contact% Laggards
Name Z-Contact%
Jon Lester 95.90%
Jack Flaherty 95.00%
Rick Porcello 94.20%
Danny Duffy 92.70%
Randy Dobnak 92.40%
Marco Gonzales 92.20%
Merrill Kelly 켈리 91.00%
Carlos Carrasco 90.90%
Kyle Freeland 90.70%
Dustin May 90.60%

It’s hard to find a better example of how small samples wreak havoc on ratios than with Jon Lester. He has allowed the highest Z-Contact% in baseball, his strikeout rate has plummeted to just 13.6%, and his SwStk% sits at a laughably low 3.9%. And yet, his ERA stands at a sparkling 1.06! Insanity. This compares to an inflated 5.17 SIERA. Obviously, if you own him and can find anyone in your league willing to give you anything of value for him, jump on it before his next start.

Wow, it is shocking to find Jack Flaherty ranking second highest in the metric. Last year, he posted an 80.6% mark, so this is a significant spike. The oddest thing is it hasn’t affected his SwStk%, which sits at an elite 16.9%. That’s because he’s missing bats outside the zone instead. Aaaaaand, I just realized that since the Cardinals haven’t played in forever, this data is all based on….ONE start. Okay, I’m done discussing him now.

Ever since a temporary velocity spike in 2016, Danny Duffy hasn’t been able to recapture the magic and his strikeout rate now hovers around 20%. His velocity is down slightly again this season and now he’s allowing the highest rate of in-zone contact in his career. There’s a good chance he doesn’t even earn positive AL-Only value.

It’s been 48.1 innings now, and Randy Dobnak owns a career ERA of 1.30. This is from a guy who has struck out just 17.5% of batters he has faced, including just 14.5% this year. He was actually league averageish last year in Z-Contact%, but that hasn’t been the case so far this year. As an extreme ground ball pitcher with good control, he’s not entirely smoke and mirrors, resulting in a just below 4.00 SIERA. But, obviously, his current results are rather smoke and mirrorish. And since his strikeout rate is so weak, he’s only a mediocre option in AL-Only leagues.

No one knew what to expect from Carlos Carrasco, or even if he would choose to play this season, after recovering from leukemia. Amazingly, he has been just as good as ever, as if nothing health-wise affected him. The spike in Z-Contact% is a surprise though considering how strong his strikeout and SwStk% rates are. He has made up for it by posting a ridiculously low O-Contact% though. Note that he sports a worse than league average LD% and hasn’t induced a pop-up yet, so his .237 BABIP is completely unsustainable.

Watching Dustin May pitch and seeing the quality of his stuff, it’s shocking that he isn’t more of a strikeout pitcher. How has he only generated an 8% SwStk% this year?! Batters don’t have much difficult making contact on pitches inside the zone, which is surprising. He had been a ground ball pitcher in the minors, but not so much in the Majors, so I’d like to see an uptick in strikeout rate to really get excited about his future potential.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: 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. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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“It’s hard to find an example of how small samples wreak havoc on ratios than with Jon Lester. ”