By The Numbers: Dylan Cease, Chris Taylor, Salvador Perez (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
Last week, the focus of this column was O-Swing% or chase rate, a “double duty” metric that applies to both hitters and pitchers. Today’s column will focus on another metric that fits with players on both sides of the ball — swinging strike rate.
Per Fangraphs, SwStr% (swinging-strike rate) measures swings and misses divided by total pitches thrown. The average swinging-strike rate in 2022 is 11.2%. Measuring players’ swinging-strike rates against this average is a quick way to identify batters who are and are not getting fooled by pitchers, and pitchers who are adept at fooling batters.
Of course, fantasy managers should analyze a batter’s or pitcher’s SwStr% rate in context with other plate discipline metrics, but it could be a telling sign of why certain batters or pitchers are struggling or excelling.
Dylan Cease (SP – CWS) is tied with Max Scherzer (SP – NYM) for the sixth-highest SwStr% (14.6), and being tied with Scherzer for most things is a good sign for a pitcher. For those that thought last season was a breakout year for Cease, he is performing even better this year.
16 pitchers are performing above average in swinging-strike rate, chase rate and contact rate — all of which are important metrics in identifying pitchers who should be performing well. These pitchers are limiting contact and inducing swings and misses.
Of those 16 pitchers, only Corbin Burnes (SP - MIL), Joe Musgrove (SP - SD), Kevin Gausman (SP - TOR), Jordan Montgomery (SP - NYY), Pablo Lopez (SP - MIA), Max Scherzer and Dylan Cease appear in the top 10 of each statistic (although, it is interesting to see players like Bruce Zimmermann (SP - BAL), Kyle Gibson (SP - PHI) and Jordan Montgomery on this list too).
What makes Cease exceptional is that he is also top 10 in K/9 rate, K% and K-BB%, so not only is he inducing swings and misses and strikeouts, but he is also locating well and limiting walks.
This could be a true breakout year for the young righty and may cement him among the best pitchers in baseball going forward.
On the hitters' end of swinging strike rate, Chris Taylor (UTL - LAD) is not doing well. His 19.9% SwStr is second-worst in baseball to Avisail Garcia (RF - MIA). Taylor also has the lowest overall contact rate at 58.9% despite a decent 24.7% chase rate.
While his chase rate is identical to last season, his contact on pitches outside of the zone has dropped by nearly 17% from 2021 and is about 18% lower than his career average. Similarly, his contact rate on pitches in the strike zone is down about 10% from last year and is about 12% lower than his career rate.
The increase in swinging strikes seems to be due to Taylor facing more sliders and curveballs than last season, and that the Dodgers' utility man is performing worse than last year against nearly every type of pitch he has seen this season.
Interestingly, his BABIP is .429, 82 points higher than his career average, yet his batting average is still only .256. Combining this with his increase in swings and misses and strikeouts could indicate a big dip is coming in batting average and that his .221 xBA is more in line with how he should be performing.
Unless he makes some adjustments at the plate, Taylor will likely see his fantasy value decrease over the rest of the season.
Every year from 2012 to 2021, Salvador Perez's (C - KC) SwStr% has increased. It is down slightly from last season, but it is not a positive trend. His 17.6% SwStr is fourth-highest in baseball and combined with a 40.4% chase rate, it is easy to see why he is struggling early this season.
Yes, his BABIP is suppressed, but chasing 40% of balls outside of the zone and whiffing at nearly 20% of the pitches he faces will certainly limit his production.
Among all qualified batters, only three rank in the top (or bottom) 10 in chase rate, overall contact rate and swinging-strike rate: Salvador Perez, Nick Castellanos (OF - PHI), and Avisail Garcia.
Both Garcia and Perez have suppressed BABIPs, so there is reason to believe they can improve, but the Kansas City catcher's 2021 season is looking like an outlier more than a new normal for him. He is not hitting the ball as hard as last year and is making less contact overall. Those that drafted him as a top 50 or 60 player may be regretting it now.
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