Starting Pitcher SwStk% Leaders — 5/5/2022

Ya know what I care most about from a starting pitcher? The ability to generate whiffs. So if I could choose just one metric that excludes ERA and any estimators to evaluate a pitcher, it would be SwStk%. So let’s review the top 10 starting pitchers in SwStk%, as there are some surprises in the group.

SwStk% Leaders
Name K% SwStr%
Kevin Gausman 33.6% 21.1%
Corbin Burnes 35.5% 18.4%
Shane McClanahan 39.3% 18.3%
Max Scherzer 35.9% 15.4%
Pablo Lopez 28.3% 15.0%
Dylan Cease 33.9% 14.5%
Kyle Gibson 23.2% 14.5%
Carlos Rodon 36.9% 14.2%
Gerrit Cole 27.0% 14.1%
Jordan Montgomery 19.6% 14.0%
Starting Pitcher Avg 21.7% 10.8%

Umm, have you look at Kevin Gausman’s season stats? 41 strikeouts. Zero walks. Leading the league — by far — in SwStk% as the only pitcher over 20%. His velocity is the same, but he has altered his pitch mix slightly by throwing his slider more at the expense of his fourseamer and splitter. His pitch type SwStk% are insane, as his legendary splitter has generated a 37.4% mark, while the increasingly used slider has generated an elite 25% mark. Both those marks are significantly above his career average. His fourseamer SwStk% is just about as his career average, so all these extra whiffs are thanks to the splitter and slider. Obviously, no pitcher is good enough to keep this up all season, but daaaaaamn he’s been awesome.

Ho-hum for Corbin Burnes. Remember when he posted an 8.82 ERA in 2019 over 49 innings? That was thanks to terrible fortune in all three luck metrics, as opposed to any skill metric weakness.

If you round Shane McClanahan’s curveball SwStk%, it reaches 20%, which would give his three non-fastballs 20%+ SwStk% marks. That’s incredible. Even in his debut last year, those three pitches recorded SwStk% marks between 17% and 20%, which is already awesome. This is as true an ace as you can find, as he complements those wicked secondaries with a fastball that has averaged 97.5 MPH and maxed at 101.2. Oh, and he’s got good control too. He won’t be among the league leaders in innings, but I see no reason why he can’t compete in ratios and strikeouts.

Pablo Lopez?! I think he qualifies as the first true surprise. While he’s posted double digits SwStk% marks every season of his career, he had never exceeded 12.1%. This year, oddly his velocity is down, and he has been throwing his four-seamer more often, which doesn’t seem like a situation that would result in a career best SwStk%. Yet every single one of his pitches, except his curveball, are sitting at SwStk% marks above his career average. It’s hard to believe this will last, especially given the down velocity.

Dylan Cease is proving that last year was no fluke and as long as his control issues don’t return, should continue as one of the top pitchers.

The 34-year-old Kyle Gibson is not who you’d expect to be on this list with a 10.4% career SwStk%. His sinker velocity is down a bit to the second lowest of his career and he’s also throwing it at his highest rate since 2014. That normally doesn’t result in a career best SwStk%. Incredible, his sinker has generated an 11.9% SwStk%, more than double his career average, and significantly higher than the 6.8% mark that currently represents his career best in a season. I can’t imagine that lasts, as sinkers are typically down in the zone, where there are fewer swings and misses. Somehow he has managed both grounders and whiffs from the sinker, which seems extremely difficult to sustain! It’s been an excellent start, but I find it hard to believe this lasts.

LOL, and we thought last year was peak Carlos Rodon velocity. Nope, he’s even higher this year for another career high. The only concern remains whether he could get through an entire season healthy.

How the heck does Jordan Montgomery own this SwStk% and a CSW% of 31.1% and only post a 19.6% strikeout rate?! That’s crazy. Montgomery’s SwStk% is basically in line with last year, so this is nothing new, but it’s a shock to see it paired with such a low strikeout rate. I would imagine that should jump real soon.

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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Lunch Anglemember
1 year ago

Kyle Gibson has a new pitch, a cutter that he’s throwing 18% of the time, and it’s been an effective pitch so far. It’s just about replaced his terrible four seamer, which he barely throws now. Worth monitoring! I’ve picked him up in a couple leagues.