Earlier this week we took a look at which starting pitchers got the most swings and misses in the organization, as well as how they performed when it came to strikes thrown and strikes looking. Today we are going to take a look at how the relievers performed.

As noted in the last article, throwing strikes is the most important thing that a pitcher can do. The average Major League pitcher throws a strike 65% of the time. That includes foul balls, balls put in play, strikes looking and strikes taken.

We saw with the starters that the higher up the minor league system pitchers went, the tougher it was to find guys with extremely high swinging strike rates, which intuitively makes sense as the hitters tend to be more patient and less likely to expand the strikezone than hitters at the lower levels.

To qualify for this list a pitcher had to be over 25.0 innings and have made less than 10 starts this season. Pitchers that spent time in the Arizona Rookie League don’t have their games shown in the data because that level doesn’t do any pitch tracking. A few minor league teams at higher levels also don’t do it, so the data in the table below when it comes to innings may not exactly match up for everyone to their season totals for this reason.

We know that relievers tend to get more strikeouts than starters, so it’s no surprise that the top end of the swings-and-misses scale is higher than it was for the starters. Ismael Guillon, who actually spent plenty of time relieving, was at the top for the starting group with 23.7%. Three relievers topped that. Sarkis Ohanian topped everyone with a 28.1% rate (swinging strikes/total strikes thrown). Sandy Lugo (26.8) and Junior Arias (24.2%) also topped the 23.7% rate.

All of those pitchers were in Low-A Dayton or Rookie Level Billings. Ariel Hernandez tops the list of any pitcher above Low-A with a 22.9% rate. Alejandro Chacin is at the top for anyone in Double-A or higher at 22.2%.

When we want to look at which guys were pounding the strikezone the most often we can start off with Alex Webb, who threw strikes 68.4% of the time. Alex Powers is at the top of the list for guys in A-ball at 67%. Dayan Diaz is at the top for everyone in Double-A and Triple-A at 65.8%.

Tyler Mahle led the way among the starters in the strikes looking category with a 32.1% rate. A reliever just barely topped him there as Ariel Hernandez snuck in with a 32.3% strikes looking rate. His teammates Brennan Bernardino (30.8%) and Jimmy Herget (30.7%) also left a ton of Florida State League hitters standing there wondering what just happened. Alejandro Chacin led the way for pitchers above A-ball with a 30.5% rate as he sweeps both the strikes looking and strikes swinging categories for the upper minor leagues in the system.

Here’s the entire list for all 38 qualified pitchers, sorted by swinging strikes. K% = strike rate of total pitches, K_L% is strikes looking out of total strikes thrown and K_S% is swinging strikes out of total strikes thrown.

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Player Innings K% K_L% K_S%
Sarkis Ohanian 34.2 60.7% 26.7% 28.1%
Sandy Lugo 55.0 65.9% 24.6% 26.8%
Junior Arias 16.1 63.8% 25.5% 24.2%
Ariel Hernandez 60.0 59.5% 32.3% 22.9%
Manuel Aybar 58.0 55.9% 24.5% 22.6%
Alejandro Chacin 60.2 62.3% 30.5% 22.2%
Jimmy Herget 60.2 66.4% 30.7% 21.2%
Jeremy Kivel 41.1 58.3% 22.6% 21.1%
Jake Ehret 41.1 60.0% 25.2% 21.1%
Ryan Hendrix 35.1 65.8% 27.1% 20.7%
Carlos Gonzalez 62.0 62.3% 26.2% 20.5%
Evan Mitchell 62.0 64.4% 24.4% 20.3%
Michael Sullivan 53.1 61.5% 25.1% 20.1%
Kevin Shackelford 44.1 62.6% 22.2% 19.8%
AJ Morris 38.2 65.2% 25.1% 19.7%
Zac Correll 41.1 67.9% 21.6% 19.5%
Wandy Peralta 75.2 63.9% 25.1% 19.3%
JJ Hoover 38.1 64.8% 29.0% 19.3%
Alfredo Mena 40.0 64.2% 24.7% 19.0%
Lucas Benanati 35.0 64.7% 22.8% 18.8%
Andy Cox 33.1 60.3% 26.6% 18.7%
Soid Marquez 35.0 59.0% 18.2% 18.5%
Patrick Riehl 38.1 62.3% 23.3% 18.2%
Stephen Johnson 74.2 58.4% 25.8% 18.1%
Nolan Becker 45.2 63.0% 18.5% 18.1%
Juan Martinez 64.0 64.7% 22.7% 18.0%
Adrian Rodriguez 33.2 67.1% 26.5% 17.8%
Kyle McMyne 56.2 61.5% 20.7% 17.2%
Alex Powers 59.1 67.0% 24.4% 17.1%
Matt Magill 52.0 62.0% 28.8% 16.4%
Dayan Diaz 56.0 65.8% 23.9% 16.2%
Jake Johnson 52.2 60.3% 23.5% 16.1%
Brennan Bernardino 55.2 63.8% 30.8% 15.7%
Jimmy Moran 28.2 63.4% 27.6% 14.7%
El’Hajj Muhammad 59.0 59.2% 27.7% 14.7%
Nick Routt 68.1 63.7% 30.3% 14.1%
Drew Hayes 59.0 61.1% 24.1% 12.6%
Alex Webb 24.1 68.4% 23.3% 11.3%

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11 Responses

  1. HavaKlu

    In the starting pitcher article you said you left out “any and all plays resulting in contact” yet in this article you mention throwing strikes includes foul balls and balls put in play? So are your % of strikes thrown based on 2 different measures between the starters and relievers? It sure reads that way.

    • Doug Gray

      Strikes thrown includes all strikes. The strikes looking is divided only by strikes thrown, not all pitches thrown. Strikes swinging is only swings and misses divided by total strikes thrown.

      • Billy

        Doug, what does a a high swing-and-miss rate mean if it is defined as whiffs/strikes? One way to achieve a high rate is to be really good at avoiding contact. That increases the whiffs. On the other hand, if you simply throw relatively fewer strikes, you also would increase the rate. Someone with just average swing-and-miss stuff who fails to get many called strikes would fare really well with this metric.

        Wouldn’t a better measure of swing-and-miss stuff be whiffs/total swings? Have you looked at that?

      • Doug Gray

        Well, it just means that when you’re throwing in the zone, guys still aren’t making contact (or that you’re able to get them to expand the zone and swing through). Generally, it’s probably indicative of stuff. There are, of course, exceptions, but generally speaking, it’s probably telling of pure stuff.

        Still, throwing strikes is where it all starts. You’ve got to do that first.

      • HavaKlu

        I don’t think you’re understanding my question. I feel that strikes thrown include balls in play and foul balls but in your starting pitcher article you said you left out any and all plays resulting in contact. In this article you implied that you counted contact as strikes. So which way were the % of strikes tabulated?
        If you look at Ryan Hendrix’s information 47.8% of his strikes as taking or swing and miss—–and if he threw strikes 65.8% of the time subtracting 47.8% would indicate that 20% of his strikes were either put in play or fouled. Correct?

    • Doug Gray

      No. You’re misunderstanding something or I started something poorly.

      Strikes thrown is everything swung at or called strikes divided by pitches thrown.

      • HavaKlu

        Well it’s misleading to say you left out any and all resulting in contact—-you couldn’t do this if you counted all swings.
        And what about the second part of my question using Hendrix as an example—-the difference has to be balls in play or foul balls if you counted all swings.

      • Doug Gray

        I’m not sure what’s being lost here.

        Strike% = All strikes / Pitches thrown
        Strike Looking % = strikes looking / Strikes Thrown
        Strike Swinging % = Swing and Miss strikes / Strikes Thrown

        Strike Swinging does not count swings that resulted in contact. It’s only swings and misses. That’s true for the starters and the relievers.

  2. chris

    hope hes not gone, guess we’ll find out sone enough, but where does john lamb fit with these numbers doug?

    • Doug Gray

      I didn’t run them, so I really don’t know.

      I will say this much though: Does it matter? Given that he’s heading back to the operating table, we don’t really know if he was pitching through something again or not and that leaves open a whole lot of questions when it comes to trying to look at his numbers.

      I can’t imagine anyone picking him up because they’d have to keep him on the 25-man roster since he’s out of options and with the surgery he’s not expected to be ready to start the year. That’s a huge risk, and a monetary investment, in a player coming off of two back surgeries in two years.