Top O’The Metric To Yinz: Avoiding The Swing and Miss

In my first article in this series I dove deep into the exciting stat of BB% for hitters. The clear positives of a high BB% are obviously, getting on base and potentially allowing yourself to be able to receive more hittable pitches. The precise benefits of a low K% are not always as apparent. Strikeouts are sometimes no worse than any other out, unless you are trying to move a runner over or bring them in from third on a sacrifice fly. A high K% can also be counteracted simply by having a high walk rate, getting hits regularly or especially being a proficient at the long ball. However, just as it was with a low or high BB%, a high or low K% can be used to predict long term patterns of success or failure for hitters. And just as it was with BB%, K% is just as easy to calculate. Strikeout Rate or Percentage is the number of strikeouts that a batter falls victim to on per plate appearance basis; calculated by dividing the number of walks but the number of plate appearances.

This past season in Major League Baseball the player with the lowest K% was also one of the players with the lowest BB%. Hanser Alberto had a K% of 9.1% and a BB% of 2.9%. I am curious to see what other categories Alberto shows up in moving forward, as he seems to be a player that puts the ball in play pretty often. The other two players with a low K% were David Fletcher of the LA Angels (9.8%) and Michael Brantley (10.4%) of the Houston Astros. On the other side of the coin power hitters Domingo Santana (32.3%), Rougned Odor (30.6%) and Ryan McMahon (29.7%) had the highest/worst K%. With these hitters it is hard to tell how these poor stats effected them overall, but they sure don’t look very promising on the surface.

As previously stated strikeouts may not not always totally negative, with the exception of attempting to bringing in a runner on a sacrifice fly. The Pirates seemed to suffer this fate more than any other team this past season as I have a hard time remembering any sacrifice fly they successfully completed. But I digress. In studying the Pirates players K% some interesting facts came to light that started to give me some perspective as their hitters as a whole. As it was was with BB%, for the purpose of this being a prediction of future performance I will not be addressing player who are not longer on the Pirates roster.

Top 3 Pirates-K%

1) Kevin Newman (11.7%)

It was no surprise to me that Newman was patient at the plate in an attempt to avoid striking out. Newman showed discipline on a consistent basement, earning the leadoff position in the batting order for the majority of the season. However, as it was with Hanser Alberto, Newman also had a very low walk rate (5.3%), which could be telling when looking at the rest of his stats.

2) Adam Frazier (12.3%)

Frazier is one of the Pirates most underrated hitters and fielders if we are being honest, but that last part is for a future article. Frazier is a notorious first pitch hitter, so it’s no surprise to me that that his K% was this low. It is also no surprise that he was such a big trade target for other teams this off-season.

3) Jose Osuna (16.8%)

Osuna took a big step forward this past season in spite of rehabbing from an injury for the first part of the season. As a power hitter it is nice to see that he has an above average K%, which is one of the reasons myself and others hand advocated for increased playing time for him. Hopefully this continues and was not a part of a small same size.

Bottom 3 Pirates-K%

1) Colin Moran (23.3%)

Unfortunately this does not provide any support to the Moran supporters in the Pirates fan base. Along with other factors this could lead some to completely turn their backs on Moran. For me this is more about the concerns against left handed pitchers. Maybe at some people point I will dive into this a little deeper.

2) Bryan Reynolds (22.2%)

I didn’t think it was possible, but I finally found a chink in Bryan Reynold’s armor; not that I am happy about it or even noticed it before. This is something that can be improved upon with experience. However, this a little concerning seeing as pitchers did not have time to adjust to him in the beginning, so once again I will have to look closer to find the deviation as the season progressed.

3) Josh Bell (19.2%)

No real surprise here and not in a bad way, as this lower than the MLB average. Bell struggled for a couple of months with the low and away pitch, but for the most part improved upon his approach at the plate so I am not overly concerned. Also take into account the 12.1% Walk Rate and there is definitely more to this last season than I originally thought.

There have been a lot of eye opening stats that have been brought up during the past two articles. I have even more to think about than I originally thought. I am excited to see where we go next as we look at the Pirates BABIPs compared to the rest of the league as well as against each other.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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