Let’s be honest, swinging strikes are just plain sexy. There is just nothing like watching a pitcher make the top echelon of baseball players look like a toddler trying to swing a bat.
Swinging-Strikes (or Whiffs) are not only a joy to watch, but they are an important piece to understand when analyzing a pitcher. There is not only a large correlation to pure K-rate, the stat is also a good way to judge pitchers’ pure “stuff.” The ability to miss bats especially in the current baseball climate with free-swinging hitters is critical.
I took my passion for Swinging-Strikes and tallied the top three pitching performances of the week based purely off of total swinging-strikes. To the surprise of probably no one, Blake Snell tops the list with his 6-inning, 11-strikeout gem versus the White Sox last Monday.
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays – 23 Whiffs (23.2 SwStrk%)
Fastballs up in the zone and curveballs breaking down and in towards lefties is when Snell is at his best and Monday was no different. Snell finished with nine swinging punchouts on the day and he did it with a mixture of both ingredients. He finished with 23 whiffs, 11 with both the fastball and the devastating curve.
Here he is going upstairs on Welington Castillo with runners on second and third to pick up the second out of the inning and his 10th strikeout of the game.
While Snell loves to use his curveball as a putaway pitch, that doesn’t mean he can’t mix it into the middle of the counts and catch hitters off-balance. Here he is mixing in the hook in a 1-1 count versus Tim Anderson and then striking him out the very next pitch with a 95 mph fastball at the top of the zone.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner wrapped up his day with a 26.2% Swinging-Strike rate with his four-seam fastball, and a 31.4% rate on his curveball.
Trevor Richards, Miami Marlins – 21 Whiffs (19.4 SwStrk%)
Trevor Richards was flashing his sexy changeup all night versus the Reds, generating a massive 12 whiffs on 48 pitches while adding another four called strikes. He has induced a minimum of eight whiffs with his changeup in each of his three starts this season. He generally keeps his change down-and-in against right-handers.
Richards shows a nasty changeup that gets Scott Schebler out in front early in the count.
Richards has upped his changeup usage to nearly 40% (up 7% from 2018). It has consistently been among the top secondaries among starters but what was always holding him back was his fastball. So far in 2019, his fastball has not been strong, but he has upped his swinging-strike rate to 11.1% (up 7.4%).
Fastballs up. That’s the key for Richards and many of his whiffs with his fastball versus the Reds are up in the zone. He throws one past Tucker Barnhart to pick up one of his eight whiffs with the fastball. He ended his night with a superb 18 CSW on 47 pitches.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox – 21 Whiffs (22.6 SwStrk%)
It had been a tough start to the season for Eduardo Rodriguez, who generated only 18 total whiffs in his first two starts while allowing 11 earned runs in eight innings. He blew past his season total on Friday, inducing 21 whiffs versus the Orioles. The changeup was dancing for Rodriguez with 10 whiffs on 23 pitches. In his previous two starts, the lefty managed a measly four whiffs with his changeup, well below his career SwStrk-rate of 18.8%.
Rodriquez fastball has been a disappointment to start off 2019. It is not only down a tick in velocity but hitters are squaring it up for a .714 slugging percentage. During his 21-whiff outing, Rodriquez’s fastball was sitting at 93.5 mph, which is closer to his 2018 average and added eight whiffs and 11 called strikes. He pounded the top of the zone with his heater while working low and away with his changeup.
Highest Swinging-Strike Starts of the Week (4/8-4/14)
Blake Snell – 23 (23.2%) (4/8)
Eduardo Rodriguez – 21 (22.6%)
Trevor Richards – 21 (19.4%)
Zack Godley – 21 (21.9%)
Carlos Rodon – 20 (18%)
Blake Snell – 19 (22%)
Gerrit Cole – 19 (18.8%)
David Price – 18 (19.6%)
Patrick Corbin – 18 (17%)
Lance Lynn – 18 (16.2 %)
Luis Castillo – 18 (22.3%)
Photo by Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire