Ever hear of Occam’s Razor? It’s the understanding that sometimes the simplest answer to a question or problem is the right one. It’s very appropriate here when discussing swinging-strike ratios.
Your goal in fantasy is to have pitchers who give up the fewest runs and strike out the most batters, right? Therefore, a pitcher who misses a lot of bats is someone you want.
Your goal in fantasy is to have hitters who get hits, drive in runners and score runs themselves, right? Therefore, a hitter who makes a lot of contact, a guy who doesn’t swing and miss a ton, stands the best chance to do that and is someone you want on your team.
Easy, right? A pitcher with a high swinging-strike ratio is someone who misses a lot of bats and a hitter with a low swinging-strike ratio tends to make a whole lot of contact. Obviously, this is a bit of an oversimplification and we can probably find an exception to the rule here and there, but for the most part, this is the general rule of thumb.
So how is swinging-strike rate calculated? Just as easy:
swinging strikes / total pitches
Now just as you were shown in Know Your Metric Benchmarks, the first thing you need to do when scouting hitters and pitchers is to know the league average and what numbers you are striving to achieve. Last year, the league average swinging-strike percentage for both hitters and pitchers rang in at 10.7-percent. If you take a look at league averages over the years, you’ll see that it has risen from 9.5-percent to last season’s mark over just a five-year span, so keep in mind that the number is increasing steadily as pitchers are getting stronger. For the sake of this article, though, we’ll stick with the 2018 league average and understand that you’re looking for pitchers who post a swinging-strike percentage higher than the league average and hitters who post marks lower than 10-percent.
Again, there are obvious exceptions to the rule. You hate to see Giancarlo Stanton ’s 14.5-perecent swinging-strike rate, but you’ll certainly take 40-plus bombs, right? Or how about Joey Gallo ’s 18.5-percent rate last year? Ironically, that’s actually down from 2017, but still atrocious. In this era, which is retro to the old Earl Weaver days in Baltimore, we’ll tolerate heavy strikeouts and low batting averages if it means we’re seeing 40-plus home runs. Some players, we can forgive the heavy whiffs and abundance of swing-and-misses. But you take a guy like Nicholas Castellanos who posted a 15.9-percent swinging-strike rate and you’re pushing the envelope a little. How comfortable are you with him maintaining his .298/.354/.500 slash line knowing that his missing that many pitches and that the number is increasing from year to year?
We get exceptions on the pitching front too, of course. Pitchers like Jake Arrieta and José Quintana both have swinging-strike rates below the nine-percent mark last season, but both also were effective against hitters for the most part. Even guys like Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Freeland were under the league average. They may not miss a ton of bats, but they also induce a lot of weak contact. So just understand that, like any metric, it is something to be used as a guideline in conjunction with a world of other stats. You don’t want it standing out on its own, but combined with several other metrics, it provides you with some added insight and helps you make final decisions as to which players you want to draft.
To help steer you along, below are the best and worst swinging-strike rates of 2018.
Pitchers (minimum of 100 IP)
The Best of 2018
|Max Scherzer||16.2%||Gerrit Cole||14.1%||Aaron Nola||12.4%|
|Chris Sale||15.8%||Noah Syndergaard||13.6%||Luis Severino||12.4%|
|Patrick Corbin||15.6%||Luis Castillo||13.5%||Jon Gray||12.4%|
|Carlos Carrasco||15.3%||Lance McCullers Jr.||13.5%||Cole Hamels||12.1%|
|Jacob deGrom||15.1%||Jack Flaherty||13.4%||Corey Kluber||12.0%|
|Blake Snell||15.1%||Trevor Bauer||13.3%||Nick Pivetta||12.0%|
|Justin Verlander||14.5%||Chris Archer||13.1%||Mike Clevinger||12.0%|
|Kenta Maeda||14.5%||Robbie Ray||12.9%||Stephen Strasburg||11.9%|
|James Paxton||14.3%||Dylan Bundy||12.7%||Tyler Anderson||11.9%|
|Masahiro Tanaka||14.1%||German Marquez||12.6%||Charlie Morton||11.9%|
The Worst of 2018
|Bartolo Colón||5.4%||Trevor Williams||7.9%||Jhoulys Chacin||8.4%|
|Andrew Cashner||6.8%||Félix Hernández||8.0%||Lucas Giolito||8.4%|
|Ty Blach||6.9%||Sal Romano||8.0%||Tyson Ross||8.5%|
|Dylan Covey||7.1%||José Quintana||8.1%||Clayton Richard||8.5%|
|Andrew Suarez||7.3%||Héctor Santiago||8.2%||Wei-Yin Chen||8.5%|
|Alex Cobb||7.4%||Dallas Keuchel||8.3%||Chris Stratton||8.5%|
|Mike Leake||7.5%||Ian Kennedy||8.3%||Jon Lester||8.5%|
|Daniel Mengden||7.8%||David Hess||8.3%||Dereck Rodriguez||8.6%|
|Jake Arrieta||7.8%||Chad Bettis||8.3%||Eric Lauer||8.6%|
|Tyler Chatwood||7.8%||Tanner Roark||8.4%||Ryan Yarbrough||8.7%|
Hitters (minimum of 400 PA)
The Best of 2018
|Michael Brantley||4.0%||Jonathan Lucroy||5.2%||Joey Votto||6.0%|
|Alex Bregman||4.3%||Buster Posey||5.4%||Mike Trout||6.0%|
|Joe Mauer||4.5%||Ben Zobrist||5.5%||José Peraza||6.1%|
|Brett Gardner||4.5%||Logan Forsythe||5.6%||José Iglesias||6.3%|
|Nick Markakis||4.5%||Denard Span||5.6%||Ketel Marte||6.4%|
|José Ramírez||4.7%||Andrelton Simmons||5.6%||Ender Inciarte||6.4%|
|Mookie Betts||5.0%||Robbie Grossman||5.7%||Victor Martínez||6.5%|
|Justin Turner||5.0%||Wilmer Flores||5.7%||Lorenzo Cain||6.9%|
|Ian Kinsler||5.1%||Jean Segura||5.7%||Yuli Gurriel||7.0%|
|DJ LeMahieu||5.2%||Anthony Rendón||5.9%||Anthony Rizzo||7.1%|
The Worst of 2018
|Joey Gallo||18.5%||Adam Engel||15.5%||Gleyber Torres||14.1%|
|Javier Báez||18.2%||Carlos Gómez||15.2%||Ronald Guzman||14.0%|
|TeOscar Hernandez||17.8%||Jonathan Schoop||15.2%||C.J. Cron||14.0%|
|Mike Zunino||17.5%||Randal Grichuk||15.0%||Robinson Chirinos||13.9%|
|Lewis Brinson||17.2%||JaCoby Jones||14.6%||Matt Davidson||13.9%|
|Daniel Palka||17.0%||Giancarlo Stanton||14.5%||Matt Kemp||13.9%|
|Scott Schebler||16.1%||Chris Davis||14.2%||Carlos González||13.9%|
|Nicholas Castellanos||15.9%||Gorkys Hernández||14.2%||Aaron Judge||13.8%|
|Ian Happ||15.6%||Yan Gomes||14.2%||Brandon Crawford||13.8%|
|Khris Davis||15.6%||Tim Anderson||14.2%||Chris Taylor||13.7%|