This article is part of our Rounding Third series.
When Kyle Hendricks signed his four-year, $63 million extension with the Cubs this week, a lot was justifiably made of his ability to induce weak contact. After all, Hendricks has consistently produced good ratios despite an 86.9 mph average fastball and a career 21.7 K%, a rate that fell to 19.8 percent last season. But the last four seasons, the average exit velocity off the bat from his pitches was 85.6 mph, compared to a league average of 87.4 mph. In the four years of data that we have from Baseball Savant, his exit velocity against has been between 83.9 mph and 87.1 mph – below the league average each season.
I thought that this would be a good launching point (sorry, unintentional yet really bad pun) for digging into the Statcast data for pitchers to see what else we can learn about those inducing weak contact. I'll look into the Leaderboards at Baseball Savant to do so. Its default lists set the number of batted ball events (BBE) at 150, which brings in all sorts of relievers in play. Because I'm trying to explore more with starting pitchers, I'm going to limit my scope to 300 BBE, which allows for the likes of Chris Sale and other starters that missed some time to be included. Overall there's a list of 139 pitchers who make the list.
There's also a lot of measures you can use to determine the quality of contact allowed by these pitchers. We'll list a