Advanced Stats Leaderboard: Starting Pitchers CStr% (Fantasy Baseball 2022)
The fantasy baseball ranking season is in full swing. For me, that typically starts with searching advanced stats leaderboards. Advanced statistics are often more predictive than traditional box score statistics. Thus, they’re an excellent jumping-off point. This series will dive into a variety of my favorite advanced metrics. However, I must caution that no statistic in isolation is the secret sauce for unearthing a hidden gem or burgeoning stud. Instead, they are a piece of the puzzle and best viewed through that lens, using other statistics in conjunction with them to formulate a well-rounded opinion of the fantasy value of players.
Called-strike percentage (CStr%) is precisely what it sounds like. It is the number of pitches that an umpire deems a strike divided by the total pitches thrown. Unfortunately, FanGraphs doesn’t provide a league average for Called-strike rate. However, to add some context, there were 38 qualified starting pitchers in 2021. The highest Called-strike rate for qualified pitchers was a 21.6 CStr%.
Conversely, the lowest mark was a 14.1 CStr%, and four qualified pitchers had a Called-strike rate under 15.0%. Called strikes can help a pitcher with a slightly below-average Swinging-strike rate strike hitters out at an above-average rate. However, a complete inability to avoid contact makes it nearly impossible to strike hitters out at an above-average rate. Thus, I lean less heavily on this metric in isolation than Swinging-strike rate (SwStr%).
2021 Qualified Starters CStr% Leaders
Quite a few of the pitchers in the table are also elite at netting empty swings. However, others like Adam Wainwright, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kyle Hendricks, and Kyle Gibson miss bats at a well below-average clip. As a result, Waino's 21.0 K% was the highest strikeout rate in the quartet, followed by Gibson's 20.8 K%, Ryu's 20.4 K%, and Hendricks' 16.7 K%, all considerably below the 2021 league average of 23.2%. So, again, Called-strike rate in isolation isn't a good statistic for projecting strikeouts.
However, Jose Berrios and Max Fried are two excellent examples of how a high Called-strike rate can help boost strikeouts, even with an average or slightly below-average Swinging-strike rate. The league average for Swinging-strike rate last year was 11.2%. Berrios and Fried had a 9.9 SwStr% and 11.1 SwStr%, respectively. Still, Berrios had a 26.1 K%, and Fried had a 23.7 K%. Therefore, Called-strike rate is a useful metric when placed in a proper context.
Noteworthy Non-Qualified Starting Pitchers in 2021
I'm disinterested in most of the players in this group for 2022 fantasy baseball purposes. However, I love Alex Wood and am moderately intrigued by Brady Singer, Sonny Gray, and Joe Ross. Wood was a successful reclamation story for the Giants last year. Moreover, he meshed an above-average 12.5 SwStr% with his stellar Called-strike rate, validating his excellent 26.0 K%. Meanwhile, Singer, Gray, and Ross all have passable or better Swinging-strike rates, too.
Finally, Dylan Bundy is someone I'll track early in the year. He's also a defensible last-round or one-dollar auction option in AL-only formats or leagues larger than 14-team mixers. Bundy broke out as a change-of-scenery guy for the Angels in 2020. Unfortunately, he crashed back to Earth last year. Now, he's a change-of-scenery rebound option with the Twins. First, Brandon Warne highlighted him as a fit with the Twins before signing with them. Second, Aaron Gleeman noted Bundy is a perfect organizational fit for a pitching coach, Wes Johnson, that loves sliders since Bundy's best offering is his slider.
Bundy's slider generated a 14.6 SwStr% in 2021. However, it sported a sky-high 22.4 SwStr% in 2020. So, if Bundy can recapture more empty swings on his slider in 2022, he could rebound. Additionally, last year's 20.4 CStr% was his second-highest mark in his career, trailing only his 21.0 CStr% in 2020. Thus, there's likely validity to his Called-strike rate, enhancing his rebound chances.
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