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Sabermetrics Glossary: Swinging Strike Rate

Feb 4, 2020

FantasyPros is putting together a glossary of sabermetrics for readers to reference. Deeper analysis is critical to the success of fantasy baseball players. We are providing the glossary so that you can easily reference the stats we cite and see how they should be used for fantasy purposes. Below, we take a look at swinging strike rate.

Put simply, swinging strike rate is defined as the rate at which a batter swings at a pitch and fails to make contact with the baseball. It can be an incredibly useful statistic for fantasy owners in their evaluation of both hitters and pitchers. Let’s examine the relationship between each group separately.

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Batters

A batter with strong plate discipline has the ability to recognize balls and strikes, swinging at pitches inside the strike zone and laying off balls out of the zone. These batters are likelier to have a high contact rate — it is much easier to make contact with pitches that are strikes — and the quality of contact is also probably going to be higher. Accordingly, swinging strike rate encapsulates plate discipline by accounting for both a batter’s eye for the strike zone and contact ability.

A low swinging-strike rate characterizes a batter with strong plate discipline. Here is a brief classification of swinging strike rates:

  • Elite: 6% or lower
  • Good: 8%
  • Average: 10%
  • Poor: 12%
  • Awful: 14% or higher

Swinging strike rate can be an incredibly valuable evaluation tool for understanding a player’s true on-base hitting potential. If you were to scroll through any batting average leaderboard, you would notice that many top players have low swinging strike rates. For example, among the 10 batters with the lowest swinging strike rates in 2019, nine recorded a batting average above .280 and eight exceeded .290.

Here is an important caveat: Swinging strike rate is less useful when analyzing power hitters because they are often swinging for the fences. In fact, some of the league’s most prodigious home run hitters will also have high whiff rates (Pete Alonso whacked an MLB-leading 53 home runs in 2019 while possessing a poor 12.4% swinging-strike rate). As such, fantasy owners should predominately use it for assessing a batter’s on-base ability.

Pitchers

Swinging strike rate offers insight into a pitcher’s true capability to miss bats. Strikeouts are king in fantasy baseball because not only do they accrue additional fantasy points, but they are also automatic outs. If a pitcher has a high swinging strike rate, he probably has the raw stuff necessary to also have a high strikeout rate. We can also analyze whether swinging strikes are coming on pitches inside or outside the strike zone. Some pitchers have nasty stuff that makes batters chase, while others beat batters by working within the zone.

A high swinging strike rate characterizes a pitcher with strong strikeout potential.

  • Elite: 16% or higher
  • Good: 14%
  • Average: 12%
  • Poor: 10%
  • Awful: 8% or lower

Keep an eye out for swinging strike rate when analyzing relief pitchers and prospective closers. Relievers with high swinging strike rates make for excellent targets when speculating on saves.

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Jarad Evans is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jarad, follow him @jarad_evans.

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