the sultans of swing(ing strikes)

June 27, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Joe Kelly (58) throws during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Marlins won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

swinging strike rates are good peripherals associated with high strike out rates.

the cardinals have an interesting array of pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff. some of them may surprise.

Name

SwSt%

Contact %

Jaime Garcia

11.7%

75.3%

Jason Motte

11.2%

77.5%

Fernando Salas

10.9%

77.3%

Victor Marte

10.3%

76.8%

Sam Freeman

9.5%

77.5%

Lance Lynn

9.2%

79.3%

Marc Rzepczynski

9.0%

79.0%

it probably won't surprise a lot of folks to see, for instance, jason motte and his 98 mph fastball up near the top of the list, or lance lynn and his suddenly muscular fastball.

fernando salas is a bit of a surprise, but that's actually consistent with his career numbers - he has a career average 11.2% SwSt% rate over 130 MLB innings. and he does have some surprising finesse, even where his velocity is not overwhelming.

i'm more surprised to see that victor marte - who gets surprisingly little credit from the VEB hive mind for having a pretty good season overall (3.55 ERA / 3.81 FIP / 3.94 xFIP) - ranks among the guys with the swing and miss stuff. he, too, has a respectable career swinging strike total, at 9.0% over 73 MLB innings (league average this year is 8.9%). and he does have decent velocity - in the 93-94 mph area.

i'm not going to fret too much about freeman, given the tiny number of innings he has amassed so far. but marc rzepczynski is also a decent swinging strike inducer - he has a career 9.3% SwSt% rate.

not surprisingly, all these guys come in under the league average on overall contact - 80.0%.

what may be more remarkable about these guys is that many of them, while avoiding contact better than the average pitcher, also manage to get weaker contact when they allow contact.

rzepczynski, for instance has a 65% GB rate; garcia put out a 54% GB. lynn and marte both generate about 46% groundballs when they allow contact. motte allows a typical 44% GB rate, with only salas generating below average groundball rates at 40%. freeman has a 55% GB rate, but i suspect that's a sample size issue - he's only once posted a groundball rate over 50% in the minors. league average is around 43%.

i don't know that the swinging strike and contact rates prove anything in isolation, but i do think they give further reason to question whether pitchers who are missing a lot of bats and generating weak contact in general are likely to simultaneous be terrible at preventing home runs as a matter of talent rather than misfortune.

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