Recapping the 2016 Starting Pitcher Strikeout Rate Upsiders

So on Thursday, I used my xK% equation (updated version coming soon! probably) to assemble a list of starting pitchers that possess strikeout rate upside this year, strictly based on their strike percentage, looking, swinging, and foul strike rates. In it, I hinted that maybe I’ll recap how my 2016 pitcher list performed and since the majority of the comments requested such a post, here it is! Remember that the list assumes no change in pitch mix, strike percentage, or strike type rates. Essentially it’s saying that if the pitcher keeps doing the same thing, his strikeout rate should improve simply based on better sequencing or fortune.

Recapping 2016 Starting Pitcher K% Upsiders
Player 2015 K% 2015 xK% 2016 K% 2016 K% – 2015 K%
Tim Lincecum 18.0% 21.6% 16.0% -2.0%
Danny Duffy 17.4% 20.2% 25.7% 8.3%
Steven Wright 16.8% 19.5% 19.4% 2.6%
Chi Chi Gonzalez 10.7% 13.1% 11.3% 0.6%
R.A. Dickey 14.3% 16.7% 17.3% 3.0%
Chris Young 16.6% 19.0% 23.2% 6.6%
Edinson Volquez 18.2% 20.5% 16.3% -1.9%
Matt Moore 16.6% 18.8% 21.2% 4.6%
Jered Weaver 13.5% 15.7% 13.4% -0.1%
Bud Norris 18.8% 21.0% 20.6% 1.8%
Marco Estrada 18.1% 20.2% 22.8% 4.7%
Nick Martinez 13.8% 15.8% 8.9% -4.9%
Averages 16.1% 18.5% 18.0% 1.9%

So eight of 12 players improved their strikeout rates and one of the four that did not only saw a decline of 0.1%. On average, the group jumped to near the average of their 2015 xK% marks. Now granted, the average strikeout rate of the group was well below the league average so even without an equation, we had to figure that odds are, the group would improve. And that’s what did indeed happen. It would be interesting to have compared Steamer projections to see if my xK% equation resulted optimism with these players.

And the sad freefall of Tim Lincecum looks to have made its final descent. There may be no pitcher in baseball whose career makes me sadder. I even remember choosing not to wait for a table at a restaurant on my birthday so I wouldn’t miss Lincecum’s MLB debut.

Yes, Danny Duffy’s name was second on my upsiders list, more than offsetting the Lincecum miss. But still, I clearly didn’t see this coming. This is especially true because Duffy had always been much more effective as a reliever…though, that could be said of basically any pitcher. The jump in fastball velocity he was able to maintain as a starter had a lot to do with it, but as his velocity spike faded later in the season, so did his strikeout rate. I have mixed feelings about him this season.

Steven Wright enjoyed an under the radar breakout season, as he came out of the gates on fire, posting a 2.68 first half ERA. Then the wheels fell off and he found himself on the disabled list, so his hot start was quickly forgotten. It was his knucker that induced more swings and misses and help push his strikeout rate up to nearly match his 2015 xK%.

He, it’s not saying much that Chi Chi Gonzalez increased his strikeout rate in 2016. Kinda funny how tiny the jump was considering how low his baseline was. If he ever finds his way onto your roster, you did something wrong.

In 2015, R.A. Dickey posted his lowest strikeout rate since 2009, so even without xK%, you could have figured he would rebound at least somewhat. And he did, just above his xK%, as his knuckleball SwStk% jumped back above 11%. Now in the NL, perhaps he could challenge 20% again.

Chris Young posted one of the oddest performance lines this year, as his strikeout rate surged above 20%, but his control regressed and he suddenly couldn’t keep the ball in the park or suppress hits on balls in play. A decision to throw his slider over 50% of the time, way above his previous season high of 40%, was behind the strikeout rate spike. I can’t tell you what was behind the homer and hits spike though.

Edinson Volquez continued his transformation from strikeout pitcher with no idea where the ball was going to respectable control pitcher, but below average strikeout rate. I liked the former version, it was a lot more entertaining to watch. Perhaps he’ll get those strikeouts back now as he returns to the National League.

Matt Moore’s fastball velocity jumped to its highest level since 2012 and he got to boost his strikeout rate during 12 starts in the National League. I’m a fan in 2017 given a full season in a pitcher friendly venue in the National League.

Jered Weaver joins the embarrassing club for failing to improve upon a sad 13.5% strikeout rate. With a fastball sitting at just 83 mph for two seasons running now, his career may be over.

Bud Norris enjoyed his highest strikeout rate since 2012, but that did nothing for his ERA and he is now without a team. With good fastball velocity and an excellent slider, I’d have to imagine he latches on somewhere.

Marco Estrada’s strikeout rate hit a three year high thanks to an elite changeup. He’s got nothing more than that though, so I wonder how good he would be if he threw in the low-to-mid 90s.

I don’t think Nick Martinez will be getting another shot.

We hoped you liked reading Recapping the 2016 Starting Pitcher Strikeout Rate Upsiders by Mike Podhorzer!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




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.

newest oldest most voted
Thorbs11
Member
Thorbs11

Would it be a stretch to anticipate a great first half from Duffy and then some regression as he approaches his IP from 2016 and his velocity will likely diminish? Or is that oversimplifying it?