Hitter Strikeout Rate Regressers by Mike Podhorzer April 26, 2016 Yesterday, I shared a list of the 11 hitters who have enjoyed the most sizable improvement in strikeout rate versus last season. If sustained, there’s a good chance that each of the hitters produce a sweet profit for their owners. On the other side of the coin are the hitters whose strikeout rates have increased the most. This is the danger zone. Let’s dive in. Strikeout Rate Regressers Name 2016 K% 2015 K% Diff Justin Upton 41.1% 25.6% 15.5% Leonys Martin 36.4% 22.3% 14.1% Brad Miller 32.1% 20.3% 11.8% Mitch Moreland 33.3% 21.7% 11.6% Yoenis Cespedes 31.8% 20.9% 10.9% Brian McCann 28.8% 18.1% 10.7% Alex Gordon 32.4% 21.8% 10.6% Edwin Encarnacion 26.2% 15.7% 10.5% Lorenzo Cain 25.3% 16.2% 9.1% Jason Kipnis 25.7% 16.7% 9.0% Carlos Beltran 25.0% 16.0% 9.0% It’s going to be hard for Justin Upton to lead the league in runs scored, as I boldly predicted, while striking out 40% of the time. And to add to the misery, his walk rate has tumbled to a pathetic 4.1%, less than half his previous career low. Hey, at least he’s hit line drives at a 30% clip and has yet to pop up! His SwStk% is up, but it’s not absurd and certainly doesn’t match with the strikeout rate. Obviously, he’ll get better, but this is worrisome, to say the least. And that he hasn’t even attempted a steal yet, which fueled a chunk of his value, is a concern. Leonys Martin is already 60% of the way to his 2015 home run total and nearly half his 2014 mark. Is he selling out for power? The stats certainly suggest so — his Hard%, FB%, SwStk%, and K% have all surged. I have no idea if Martin 2.0 is here to stay or if this is just a one month blip. It will be interesting to see how he continues from here though. Brad Miller is doing his best to once again fail to break out, ensuring he makes next year’s sleeper lists…again. We knew the move to Tampa Bay wouldn’t exactly be a boon for his fantasy value, but he owns some decent skills that with just marginal improvement could have resulted in a nice fantasy season. Somehow, his strikeout rate is through the roof, despite a SwStk% that’s actually down from last year and a Swing% that’s up. Plus, his Contact% is actually above his career mark. This slow start in the strikeout department looks to be a fluke. I would suggest him as a decent trade target in AL-Only leagues, but I feel like he doesn’t possess a whole lot of job security. So if his struggles continue, he may be out of a starting job. Most of Mitch Moreland’s underlying skills are normal, aside from the fact that he has suddenly refuses to go the opposite way, instead opting to pull everything. But he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone far more, and making contact less. He’s even whiffing inside the zone more frequently, as his overall SwStk% is up significantly. For the sake of my sad Tout Wars team, my fingers are crossed that he’ll snap out of this swing and miss funk soon. Yoenis Cespedes is hitting the ball harder than ever before (career best Hard%), while also hitting a ton of fly balls. Paired with the high strikeout rate, it seems he’s doing his darnedest to ensure he exceeds 30 homers again. Since his walk rate sits at a career high, this version of himself isn’t so terrible. But that batted profile in no way supports a .364 BABIP. What happens when a slow-footed catcher with a career .279 BABIP suddenly sees his strikeout rate shoot beyond the 20% mark? Bad things. You wouldn’t know it thanks to an inflated .367 BABIP at the moment, but if Brian McCann doesn’t get that strikeout rate back down, there’s a real risk he delivers a .200 batting average. Luckily, his SwStk% has remained excellent and he has stopped swinging at pitches outside the zone. His strikeout rate should rebound substantially over the rest of the season. With just mediocre power and speed that has dried up, Alex Gordon has prided himself on being neutral on your batting average (yes, I asked him, and he’s very proud to have neither helped, nor hurt his fantasy owners in the category over the years). Unfortunately, he’s swinging and missing more than ever before, which puts him at risk of being worthless in shallow mixed leagues if he continues these shenanigans. What had made Edwin Encarnacion such a fantastic hitter is that he has paired his great power with an excellent strikeout rate. But that hasn’t been the case so far this season. Besides seeing his SwStk% jump above 10% for the first time since his 2005 debut, he has also stopped taking the free pass, thanks to a sharp increase in Swing%. It’s a bit of a concern for a 33 year old, as you never know when old age is going to suddenly take its toll. Lorenzo Cain enjoyed a breakout last year and there wasn’t anything overly fluky about his performance. This year, his power has come crashing back down and he has flashed a new set of plate discipline skills — his walk rate has doubled, while his strikeout rate has spiked. This would be interesting if it came along with another surge in power, but it hasn’t. So I’m not sure what’s going on here with his approach. A .378 BABIP has masked Jason Kipnis’s sudden issues with the strikeout, but his SwStk% remains well below the league average, a good sign. However, he is swinging less than ever before, which has certainly been one of the drivers of the increased strikeout rate. Strangely, the walk rate hasn’t followed. I’m not concerned much here. Speaking of old age, I figured it would be worth ending at 39 year old Carlos Beltran. While his power has been there so far, his plate discipline has not. His SwStk% sits at a career high and his walk rate is a puny 2.9%. Since his Swing% is consistent with past years, I’m not sure what’s fueling to disappearance of his walks. But at this age, any signs that he’s done have to be taken seriously.