The Z Files: Investigating Strikeout Rate Gains

The Z Files: Investigating Strikeout Rate Gains

This article is part of our The Z Files series.

Crash Davis may feel strikeouts are boring and fascist and plead for more groundballs, but like Nuke LaLoosh, today's pitchers disagree as there are more "strike three" calls than ever. Last week, I dug into where the strikeouts are coming from and found the following:

  • relievers still fan hitters more frequently than starters, but starters are closing the gap
  • after a couple of years with declining home field advantage, strikeouts are back up at home
  • velocity and spin rate of four-seam fastballs are up
  • the K% for breaking pitches hasn't increased much, but the use of the curve and slider is greater
  • relatively speaking, strikeouts on off-speed stuff have increased more than on heat
  • strikeouts are up in the lower, middle and upper third of the zone, with the largest increase in the upper third
  • curiously, strikeouts on high two-seamers and hard sinkers have increased at a greater clip than high four-seamers
  • despite their increased effectiveness, at least in terms of strikeouts, fewer sinking fastballs are being thrown up in the zone
  • more off-speed and breaking pitches are being thrown in the upper third with curves and sliders especially effective at inducing many more strikeouts
  • strikeouts on splitters are way up, but overall, the pitch is used just a tad more than 1% of the time

This week, I have identified 10 pitchers whose early season strikeout rate far exceeds expectations. Each will be dissected in an attempt to answer the question, "Will they be able to maintain an elevated

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Todd Zola
Todd has been writing about fantasy baseball since 1997. He won NL Tout Wars and Mixed LABR in 2016 as well as a multi-time league winner in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Todd is now setting his sights even higher: The Rotowire Staff League. Lord Zola, as he's known in the industry, won the 2013 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year award and was named the 2017 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year. Todd is a five-time FSWA awards finalist.
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