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Introducing Strike+: Measuring Baseball’s Best at Generating Whiffs and Called Strikes

By: Taylor Bechtold

While Whiff+ offers a more thorough analysis of a pitcher’s stuff by determining the rate at which he generates swings and misses, Stats Perform’s newest metric takes that concept a step further.

Instead of posting all our leaderboards this week, we’re introducing Strike+ and revealing who the top pitchers in baseball are in generating both swings and misses, and called strikes.

Like Whiff+, which was developed as a tool that enables analysts to compare players of different years on the same scale – something other swing and miss rate statistics aren’t able to accomplish, Strike+ is based on the league average pitch type for that season.

But instead of just looking at whiffs, Strike+ also includes strikes the pitcher gets on the umpire’s call since they have the same value. So if the batter takes the pitch, we’ll add the called strike probability to the calculation.

Let’s say the average fastball has a called strike or swing and miss rate of 25% and a pitcher gets a whiff or the umpire calls a strike on 27% of his fastballs. By this, we can assess that pitcher has a Strike+ of 108 – 8% above the league average. As evident in the rankings below, the range on the Strike+ metric is quite a bit smaller than that of Whiff+.

Ultimately, the goal of Strike+ is to discover how good a pitcher is at generating whiffs or getting called strikes based on his pitch types. However, what might be most interesting – and telling – about the metric is what could be found when comparing a pitcher’s Strike+ to his Whiff+.

Here are the top 10 pitchers in the majors in Strike+ (through Sept. 17). Pitchers needed to face at least 150 batters to qualify:

1Jacob deGromMets125
2Shane BieberIndians120
3Aaron NolaPhillies118
4Kevin GausmanGiants118
5Dylan BundyAngels116
6Yu DarvishCubs115
7Lucas GiolitoWhite Sox115
8Gerrit ColeYankees114
9Zach DaviesPadres114
10Kyle HendricksCubs114

As one might expect, many of the game’s top strikeout pitchers headline the Strike+ leaderboard. But Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies is a good example of the kind of pitcher who might be elite in Strike+ more than Whiff+. Though he’s 20th in the majors in Whiff+, he ranks third in all of baseball in Strike+. Why?

Nola coaxes a lot of swings and misses with his devastating curveball that drops out of the zone, but he also generates a lot of called strikes – and very few whiffs relatively speaking – with his two-seam fastball. Pitchers who have above-average command are typically going to be ranked higher in Strikes+ than they are in Whiff+ (Nola also ranks third in MLB with a 119 Command+).

That’s evident throughout the Strike+ top 10, which includes Command+ leaderboard regulars Zach Davies of the San Diego Padres and Kyle Hendricks of the Chicago Cubs. Davies leads the majors with a 122 Command+, but he’s 87th in Whiff+ of out 106 big-league hurlers who have faced at least 150 batters. Likewise, Hendricks ranks 11th in Command+ but 54th in Whiff+.


Data modeling and analysis provided by Lucas Haupt.

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