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Relief Pitcher hard hit rate: the top 50

These relief pitchers were toughest to square up in 2014

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Relief pitchers are often volatile and unpredictable in their results year to year. Relief pitchers turn in a small sample size of IP, which can hide flaws that get exposed with a larger sample. They also are often overused which leads to a breaking down and flattening out of their stuff. Highly paid, progressive front offices themselves have a difficult time predicting what relief pitchers will do for them, so we can imagine how difficult it is for fantasy owners to choose the right relievers to bank on.

However, by looking at pitching peripherals, we can position ourselves to target the relief pitchers that give us the best odds at success next year. One great peripheral statistic to use is hard hit rate. This statistic is one of my favorite measures for hitters and also holds a ton of value for pitchers.

Hard hit rate is an excellent stat to use to evaluate both hitters and pitchers because the harder a ball is hit, the more likely it results in strong offensive production. Pitchers who limit hard contact are more likely to have better results than pitchers who give up a larger amount of hard contact.

A low hard hit rate can help further validate a strong ERA or breakout season. Combined with other statistics like BABIP, it can also give us an idea of which pitchers may have been let down by their defense in 2014, or which pitchers ran into some unlucky batted ball placement.

This list of reliever hard hit rate can help point you in the right direction for which relievers to further explore for your 2015 drafts. The list will probably be more helpful in leagues that utilize both saves and holds, but it can be useful for identifying possible new closers in 2015.

The following hard hit rate overview is attributed to ESPN's Mark Simon. Follow Mark on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/msimonespn

Hard hit rate is the percentage of at bats that end in a hard hit ball. It is subjectively determined by a video review team using measures like exit velocity, trajectory and contact on the sweet spot.

Batting average by batted ball type:

Hard: around .700

Medium: around .400

Soft: around .140-.150

% of _ that are hard hit:

Home runs: about 100%

Triples: over 80%

Doubles: over 70%

Singles: about 30%

Outs: about 7%

Here is the 2014 hard hit rate leaderboard for relievers:

(Name, hard hit rate)

1. Wade Davis, 5.6%

2. Tony Watson, 6.0%

3. Sam Freeman, 7.5%

4. A.J. Ramos, 8.0%

5. Zach Britton, 8.0%

6. Mike Morin, 8.5%

7. Aroldis Chapman, 8.5%

8. Dellin Betances, 8.6%

9. J.P. Howell, 8.7%

10. Jordan Walden, 9.0%

11. Zach Duke, 9.1%

12. Mark Melancon, 9.1%

13. Justin Wilson, 9.4%

14. Andrew Miller, 9.5%

15. Greg Holland, 9.5%

16. Ken Giles, 9.7%

17. Yusmeiro Petit, 9.7%

18. Jerry Blevins, 9.7%

19. Huston Street, 10.2%

20. Tyler Clippard, 10.2%

21. Marc Rzepczynski, 10.3%

22. Jeurys Familia, 10.4%

23. Jake Wiekman, 10.5%

24. Jake McGee, 10.5%

25. Cesar Ramos, 10.6%

26. Pedro Strop, 10.7%

27. Justin Grimm, 10.7%

28. James Russell, 10.8%

29. Scott Atchison, 10.9%

30. Javier Lopez, 11.0%

31. Brandon Maurer, 11.0%

32. Manny Parra, 11.0%

33. Brad Boxberger, 11.2%

34. John Axford, 11.2%

35. Luis Avilan, 11.2%

36. Alex Torres, 11.2%

37. Ross Detwiler, 11.3%

38. Kelvin Herrera, 11.3%

39. Aaron Loup, 11.3%

40. Jake Petricka, 11.4%

41. Bryan Shaw, 11.4%

42. Drew Storen, 11.4%

43. Darren O’Day, 11.5%

44. Pat Neshek, 11.5%

45. Jamey Wright, 11.6%

46. Craig Kimbrel, 11.6%

47. Fernando Abad, 11.7%

48. Sean Doolittle, 11.8%

49. Jonathan Broxton, 11.8%

T50. Tommy Kahnle, 11.9%

T50. Bryan Morris, 11.9%

T50. Dominic Leone, 11.9%