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Top strike-throwers in 2011

Posted by Andy on April 30, 2011

Through Friday's games, here are the 15 guys in MLB (minimum 8 IP) who have thrown at least 69% of their pitches for strikes.

1 Roy Halladay 37.1 69% 2011 2011 34-34 5 5 0 32 10 10 6 39 2.41 164 .227 .264 .270 .533 50
2 Cliff Lee 32.1 71% 2011 2011 32-32 5 5 0 30 16 15 4 39 4.18 95 .238 .273 .413 .685 89
3 Ted Lilly 32.1 69% 2011 2011 35-35 6 6 0 40 16 16 7 21 4.45 85 .310 .350 .426 .776 122
4 Jordan Zimmermann 29.2 70% 2011 2011 25-25 5 5 0 32 19 15 5 14 4.55 87 .274 .301 .393 .694 93
5 Huston Street 15.1 69% 2011 2011 27-27 14 0 9 12 4 4 4 15 2.35 196 .214 .267 .339 .606 60
6 Matt Guerrier 14.1 69% 2011 2011 32-32 12 0 0 12 5 5 4 11 3.14 122 .226 .281 .226 .507 47
7 Rich Thompson 13.1 73% 2011 2011 26-26 8 0 0 11 4 4 1 14 2.70 149 .216 .226 .373 .599 67
8 Matt Capps 12.2 69% 2011 2011 27-27 12 0 4 10 5 5 0 6 3.55 116 .217 .229 .370 .599 64
9 Mike Adams 12.0 70% 2011 2011 32-32 12 0 0 2 1 1 0 11 0.75 493 .053 .053 .132 .184 -48
10 Sean Marshall 12.0 70% 2011 2011 28-28 13 0 1 12 2 1 1 12 0.75 581 .261 .277 .283 .559 50
11 Mariano Rivera 11.2 72% 2011 2011 41-41 12 0 8 10 3 3 2 10 2.31 183 .238 .273 .310 .582 61
12 Tim Wakefield 11.1 70% 2011 2011 44-44 7 0 0 9 8 7 2 4 5.56 78 .214 .250 .548 .798 112
13 Daniel McCutchen 9.0 69% 2011 2011 28-28 7 0 0 6 0 0 1 3 0.00 .200 .226 .233 .459 30
14 J.J. Putz 9.0 69% 2011 2011 34-34 8 0 5 5 2 2 1 10 2.00 214 .167 .212 .267 .479 30
15 Kyle Farnsworth 8.0 73% 2011 2011 35-35 10 0 5 6 2 1 0 5 1.12 354 .214 .207 .250 .457 28
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/30/2011.

For Roy Halladay, these numbers don't even count his CG effort today against the Mets where he threw 80 out of 107 pitches for strikes.

Thanks to reader Jim P. for pointing out Halladay's strike-throwing tendency. Actually Jim pointed out that Halladay didn't throw a single ball to any of the first 9 batters today.  All told, Halladay faced 33 batters today. He walked one of them, meaning he threw 23 balls to the other 32 batters...think about that for a minute.

30 Responses to “Top strike-throwers in 2011”

  1. John Says:

    ... Boston's top strike-thrower: Tim Wakefield.

    As if that doesn't perfectly illustrate the Red Sox season, in a sentence.

  2. Gerry Says:

    Numbers 3 and 4 on the chart, Ted Lilly and Jordan Zimmerman - batters are pounding Lilly (310/350/426) but not getting any more runs off him than off Zimmerman (274/301/393). Is this just randomness, or is there something going on here?

  3. Neil L. Says:

    Gerry, as you point out, Lily's and Zimmerman's ERA's are almost identical.

    Possible reasons: Lily has 3 GIDP compared to Zimmerman's 1. Also, perhaps, Lily's relievers did a better job at stranding baserunners than Zimmerman's.

    With 4 unearned runs, Zimmerman has been a victim of poorer defense than Lily so opponents' BA is slightly lower.

  4. John Autin Says:

    One of my favorite pitchers is on that list. He's pretty anonymous for a guy who:
    (a) ranks 4th among active pitchers in H/9 (min. 200 IP); and
    (b) retired 28 consecutive batters at one point this season.

    Mike Adams of San Diego.

  5. Neil L. Says:

    John, indeed is interesting that Wakefield would be on this list. His ERA is by far the highest and in relief.

    Based on opponents' slugging he is giving up a lot of extra base hits.
    Most of his strikes must be balls put in play because I can't imagine him getting a lot of called strikes.

    Tim must be serving up beachballs this year and I can't see him continuing to get a lot of innings at this rate.

  6. Chuck Says:

    PitchFX is only slightly less reliable than the OJ Simpson jury, Florida vote counters and Census results.

    Mark Reynolds leads the league in strikeouts every year because he swings at balls, not strike.

    Yet the pitcher gets credit for throwing a strike.

    Sorry, the stat is BS, but not as much as the result.

  7. Neil L. Says:

    So what if a strike is defined by the outcome of the pitch and not by its location, except for called strikes of course. A pitcher will face just as many discplined batters as he will free swingers over the course of a game. For every Vlad Guerrero there is a Kevin Youkilis.

    What is BS, Chuck, strike percentage or the notion of a bad pitch put in play or what?

  8. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Mark Reynolds leads the league in strikeouts every year because he swings at balls, not strike.

    Nope. Mostly because he swings at strikes and misses them.

    Sorry, the stat is BS, but not as much as the result.

    No idea what this means. Please share the truth with us heathens.

  9. Chuck Says:

    OK, Johnny, for you and the majority here who only leave the basement for potty breaks and to microwave a TV dinner.....

    If Vlad Guerrero hits a double to left on a pitch six inches off the ground, PitchFX and the official MLB scoring credits a strike.

    If Felix Hernandez throws a 2-0 fastball right down the cock and the umpire calls a ball, it's a ball.

    Even if PitchFX says otherwise.

    Do you know who tracks pitches at ML games?

    And who is responsible for PitchFX data?


    Most of whom are seeing a professional game for the first time in their lives and literally can't tell the difference from one pitch to the next.

    How do I know this?


    I work for MLB Media.

    I've seen more games from the press box than you've seen.

  10. Shazbot Says:

    This article doesn't even use Pitchfx, just what's called by the umpire. Please troll elsewhere.

  11. Jimbo Says:

    Wakefield is only giving up a .250 obp against. Surprising for a pitcher who looks ready to be written off.

  12. John Autin Says:

    Chuck, I'm surprised that you can spare the time to slum with us, what with your fancy media career and your seat in the press box, where somebody actually brings you food that they microwaved for you.

    Maybe you're just having a bad day; maybe you just found out that the interns have been spitting in your fish tacos. But your comments above were rude and arrogant, gratuitously insulting "the majority here." Perhaps all that time in the press box isn't good for your soul. Why not get out of the glass case and get a little mustard on your face among the riff-raff?

    Here in the cheap seats, we understand that a pitch becomes a strike only when it's swung at or called by the umpire, whether or not it actually crosses the strike zone. It ain't always fair, but it's a fact of life. We realize that there's "noise" in the strike data; but if we want to talk about strike rates, this is the data we have.

    But we also know that all pitchers work under these conditions, so the imperfections tend to even out over time. So, unless Cliff Lee is pitching a lot of games against a lineup of Vladdies, and unless Ted Lilly has the umpires in his back pocket, those guys are throwing a high percentage of honest-to-goodness, rulebook strikes.

  13. Nash Bruce Says:

    @ 12: LMFAO

  14. Fireworks Says:

    Hey, hey, hey people let's not pile on Chuck. After all, he works for MLB Advanced Media.

    Wait, that's not what he said, is it?

  15. WilliaminMaine Says:

    I can't figure out in the Play Index how to find Kyle Farnsworth's career strike percentage. Anybody help me out there?

  16. Andy Says:

    Gerry, thanks for mentioning what I forgot to write when I crafted the post, that a high strike % doesn't always mean success--sometimes it means you're getting hit a lot. Daisuke (my phone just corrected that to Raisins, which gave me a chuckle) recently had a start where he threw many fewer balls than usual for him, and he got crushed. Some in the Boston media thought he intentionally threw up meatballs in response to criticism that he nibbles too much.

    Chuck's been trolling here for a while...glad some of you finally noticed.

    JA, I'm guessing you had a bad day based on the amount of vitriol you loaded into that (very amusing) comment.

  17. Andy Says:

    William, you can get that on Farnsworth's regular player page, under pitching stats there's a link for advanced stats that should have it. Sorry I am mobile at the moment or I'd post the exact link.

  18. Neil L. Says:

    @12 16
    JA, I would not want to be roasted by you. Well written!

  19. upchuck Says:

    @6 why is inducing a swing and miss with a pitch that looks like a rule book strike out of the pitcher's hand but which falls out of the zone any less creditable than throwing a fastball "right down the cock"?

  20. MikeD Says:

    I expected to see Halladay and Lee right at the top. No surprise. The one name I would not have expected on that list was Tim Wakefield. Knuckleballers are flaky.

  21. Will S Says:

    I'm assuming no one took Chuck seriously, but just in case: People don't chart PitchFX data. Cameras do. Batted ball data is done by people.

  22. flyingelbowsmash Says:

    Pitchers intentionally throw outside the strike zone to get "strikes." If a major league hitter (I know people like to say, so and so sucks, but any of these guys who make a MLB club are amazing) swings at a pitch, he thought it was going to be in the zone but was fooled by an equally amazing athlete on the mound. If you can throw pitches out of the strike zone and get hitters to swing and miss them, you are just a good as a guy who can throw pitches in the zone and still get hitters to miss them.
    The same also applies to a foul ball that is crushed so hard it actually goes out of the stadium - its a strike.

  23. Nash Bruce Says:

    @ 20: Knuckleballers Rule!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-DDDD
    (not that I am one, or even a player, but 'em*smiles*)

  24. Dave Says:

    @19..."right down the..." what??

  25. John Autin Says:

    @23, Nash Bruce -- I'm with you!

    One thing in particular I don't understand: With the average starting pitcher throwing fewer innings every year, and with all the hand-wringing concern about not abusing young arms, why aren't there more knuckleballers in the majors?

  26. Johnny Twisto Says:

    It's a hard pitch to throw. You still have to be able to get guys out. Charlie Zink stalled out in the high minors. Charlie Haeger was horrible for LA last season. RA Dickey took many years to now (apparently) find a groove. You might say that more pitchers should be taught the knuckler, but there aren't that many Jedi masters around to pass on the secrets.

  27. John Autin Says:

    Johnny T -- Your points are entirely valid. But I also don't get any sense that teams are seeking those Jedi masters. I've never heard of a knuckleball academy or any sort of organizational effort to harness the power of that (admittedly difficult) pitch.

    Since conventional pitching talent is more expensive than it's ever been, and teams feel they need more quality pitchers than ever before, it seems odd that no club is making a concerted effort to tap a resource that (a) can make a successful MLB pitcher without a 95-mph fastball, and (b) can enable that pitcher to throw more innings per season than a conventional pitcher.

    P.S. on Dickey -- According to various sources, Dickey didn't start working on the knuckler in earnest until the 2005 season. Five years later, he had a very good year in MLB; he was 12th among 92 qualifiers with a 138 ERA+, and his 235 IP in MLB and AAA combined was topped by just 3 MLB pitchers. Five years doesn't seem like such a long development period for that kind of payoff.

  28. Splint Says:

    I always figured knuckleballes benefitted at least somewhat from their rarity and change of pace aspect. I'd wonder if more knuckleballers would hurt their effectiveness.

  29. Andy Says:

    That's a good point, Splint. Anybody on the fringe in terms of technique may benefit from the general population's unfamiliarity, but that advantage rapidly declines as the technique's frequency increases.

  30. Splint Says:

    I was also wondering if there was a way to search for a team that saw knuckleballers in back to back games. I wonder if the second knuckleballer saw a marked decrease in effectiveness. Though I can't imagine it happened enough times to be significant.