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These starting pitchers have been toughest to square up through the first 2 months of 2015

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, ESPN stat guru Mark Simon popularized a statistic called hard hit rate, which is the % of a player's at bats (or opponent's at bats in the case of a pitcher) that end in a hard hit ball. Hard hit balls are classified by video trackers as batted balls with exit velocities of 90+ mph with strong trajectory and contact on the sweet spot of the barrel. This is a different stat than the new FanGraphs hard%, which is a percentage of balls in play rather than a percentage of at bats. It's also classified by different video trackers.

We want to target hitters with a high hard hit% and pitchers with a low hard hit% because the harder a ball is hit, the more likely strong offensive production occurs. The batting average on hard hit balls is over .700. Approximately 100% of home runs, 80% of triples and 70% of doubles are hard hit, while only 30% of singles are hard hit. For pitchers, limiting hard contact is a way to make run scoring less likely.

These are the top 25 starting pitchers in hard hit rate (% of opp. ABs, not BIP) through just over 2 months. MLB average is about 15%.

1. Sonny Gray, 7.3%

2. Mike Pelfrey, 8.9%

3. Gerrit Cole, 9.4%

4. Francisco Liriano, 9.6%

5. Jake Arrieta, 9.7%

6. Tyson Ross, 9.7%

7. Jimmy Nelson, 9.8%

8. Clayton Kershaw, 9.9%

9. Brett Anderson, 10%

10. Chris Sale, 10%

11. Michael Wacha, 10%

12. Cole Hamels, 10.5%

13. Jacob deGrom, 10.6%

14. Gio Gonzalez, 10.6%

15. Dallas Keuchel, 10.6%

16. Trevor Bauer, 10.7%

17. Clay Buchholz, 10.9%

18. Ubaldo Jimenez, 10.9%

19. David Price, 10.9%

20. Joe Kelly, 11.2%

21. Wade Wiley, 11.2%

22. Shelby Miller, 11.2%

23. Jose Quintana, 11.3%

24. Wandy Rodriguez, 11.3%

25. Jason Hammel, 11.4%