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Starting pitchers inducing the weakest contact

Ray takes a look at some FanGraphs hard hit % data for starting pitchers, and wonders if the data can help us down the road.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Finnegan and I have written a lot about hard hit % data and exit velocity for hitters over the past few months, but today I am going to look at the Hard Hit % data, courtesy of FanGraphs, for starting pitchers. I have been using this data over the last few weeks in determining who I should target in trade talks in my various leagues, in addition to the standard pitcher data like strikeout rate, walk rate, ground ball rate, and the advanced ERA stats.

Below is a table pulled from FanGraphs sorted by Hard%, and you can see some of the top starting pitchers in the game this season are inducing weak contact, or a low hard hit%. As you can see in the table, most of the starters who have induced the weakest contact this season, or the lowest hard hit % are ground ball pitchers. Of the 17 starters with a Hard % less than 25%, nine of them are inducing ground balls at a 50% rate or higher.

Astros starter Dallas Kuechel is proving that his performance last season was no fluke and has established himself as an ace starting pitcher, in my eyes. Not only has he induced the weakest contact, but he also has induced ground balls at a 64% rate.

Athletics starter Sonny Gray has had a built upon his 2014 breakout season, and part of the reason is the low hard hit%, along with a lower walk and home run per nine rate. He and Keuchel are two of the favorites for the American League Cy Young award through the first three months of the season.

If you are looking to make a deal in your leagues and don't want to give up much, I would target some of the starters who are inducing hard hit rates in the 25 - 30% range, including Orioles starters Wei-Yin Chen and Ubaldo Jimenez, Dodgers starter Brett Anderson and Giants starter Chris Heston. All are quietly having very good seasons on the bump which can be explained high ground ball rates and weak contact rates.

Name

Team

BABIP

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

Soft%

Med%

Hard%

Dallas Keuchel

Astros

0.252

4.26

21.30%

63.70%

15.00%

25.30%

55.00%

19.80%

Mike Pelfrey

Twins

0.322

2.30

21.00%

55.10%

23.90%

19.20%

59.30%

21.50%

Garrett Richards

Angels

0.265

1.83

15.50%

54.70%

29.90%

21.60%

55.70%

22.70%

Francisco Liriano

Pirates

0.247

2.03

20.10%

53.50%

26.40%

29.40%

47.80%

22.80%

Sonny Gray

Athletics

0.260

1.77

14.80%

54.40%

30.80%

20.30%

56.90%

22.80%

Felix Hernandez

Mariners

0.263

2.45

18.20%

58.10%

23.70%

20.00%

57.00%

23.10%

Chris Sale

White Sox

0.288

1.18

19.80%

43.30%

36.90%

22.90%

53.90%

23.20%

Jesse Hahn

Athletics

0.273

2.30

24.50%

52.60%

22.90%

19.70%

57.00%

23.30%

Scott Kazmir

Athletics

0.265

1.38

21.50%

45.60%

33.00%

17.90%

58.80%

23.30%

Clay Buchholz

Red Sox

0.326

1.65

20.80%

49.40%

29.90%

19.00%

57.60%

23.40%

Wade Miley

Red Sox

0.310

1.45

17.80%

48.70%

33.60%

16.90%

59.70%

23.40%

Lance Lynn

Cardinals

0.310

1.11

21.30%

41.40%

37.30%

21.00%

55.60%

23.40%

Jose Quintana

White Sox

0.326

1.50

22.70%

46.30%

31.00%

18.00%

58.20%

23.80%

Tyson Ross

Padres

0.339

3.58

20.30%

62.30%

17.40%

20.70%

55.40%

23.90%

Jake Arrieta

Cubs

0.291

1.85

23.20%

49.80%

26.90%

20.00%

55.70%

24.30%

Adam Warren

Yankees

0.262

1.26

20.50%

44.40%

35.10%

20.80%

54.60%

24.60%

Chris Heston

Giants

0.296

2.51

21.90%

55.80%

22.30%

20.10%

55.00%

24.90%

Wei-Yin Chen

Orioles

0.248

0.96

17.70%

40.30%

42.00%

21.40%

53.50%

25.10%

Carlos Martinez

Cardinals

0.289

2.23

19.50%

55.60%

24.90%

21.80%

53.00%

25.20%

Yovani Gallardo

Rangers

0.265

1.71

18.50%

51.40%

30.10%

16.60%

58.00%

25.40%

Jeff Samardzija

White Sox

0.323

1.07

23.00%

39.80%

37.30%

18.10%

56.20%

25.80%

Ubaldo Jimenez

Orioles

0.310

1.68

25.60%

46.60%

27.80%

19.70%

54.40%

26.00%

Gerrit Cole

Pirates

0.311

2.03

21.80%

52.40%

25.90%

21.10%

52.80%

26.10%

Miguel Gonzalez

Orioles

0.253

1.06

22.90%

39.70%

37.40%

18.20%

55.70%

26.10%

Brett Anderson

Dodgers

0.322

3.60

13.20%

67.90%

18.90%

24.00%

49.70%

26.30%

Cole Hamels

Phillies

0.276

1.60

20.60%

48.80%

30.60%

24.40%

49.40%

26.30%

Anibal Sanchez

Tigers

0.257

1.06

20.50%

40.90%

38.60%

19.70%

54.10%

26.30%

R.A. Dickey

Blue Jays

0.273

1.23

22.90%

42.60%

34.60%

19.30%

54.40%

26.40%

Jacob deGrom

Mets

0.253

1.17

20.90%

42.60%

36.50%

19.20%

54.20%

26.60%

Gio Gonzalez

Nationals

0.345

2.58

21.50%

56.50%

21.90%

16.60%

56.60%

26.80%

Max Scherzer

Nationals

0.252

0.70

17.70%

33.80%

48.50%

23.00%

50.20%

26.80%

Zack Greinke

Dodgers

0.243

1.36

18.80%

46.80%

34.40%

21.90%

51.30%

26.90%

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers

0.306

2.00

23.40%

51.00%

25.50%

20.40%

52.50%

27.10%

Collin McHugh

Astros

0.306

1.28

18.50%

45.80%

35.80%

20.50%

52.20%

27.30%

Mike Leake

Reds

0.282

2.24

24.50%

52.20%

23.30%

15.60%

57.10%

27.40%

Kyle Hendricks

Cubs

0.299

1.53

17.90%

49.60%

32.50%

19.90%

52.70%

27.40%

Johnny Cueto

Reds

0.227

1.21

20.50%

43.40%

36.00%

20.70%

51.80%

27.50%

Kyle Gibson

Twins

0.270

2.15

21.30%

53.70%

25.00%

18.60%

53.80%

27.60%

Aaron Harang

Phillies

0.280

0.79

18.90%

35.70%

45.40%

15.60%

56.80%

27.70%

John Danks

White Sox

0.321

0.90

21.40%

37.10%

41.50%

17.60%

54.60%

27.80%

Matt Harvey

Mets

0.273

1.14

18.40%

43.50%

38.20%

21.10%

51.00%

27.90%

Jordan Zimmermann

Nationals

0.314

1.11

22.50%

40.70%

36.80%

19.10%

52.90%

27.90%

Corey Kluber

Indians

0.338

1.46

22.60%

45.90%

31.40%

16.30%

55.50%

28.20%

Shelby Miller

Braves

0.258

1.63

18.30%

50.70%

31.00%

21.30%

50.50%

28.30%

Jesse Chavez

Athletics

0.297

1.19

23.00%

41.80%

35.10%

17.80%

53.90%

28.30%

Jason Hammel

Cubs

0.254

0.96

23.20%

37.70%

39.10%

20.10%

51.60%

28.30%

Jeremy Guthrie

Royals

0.313

0.91

27.00%

34.80%

38.10%

18.30%

53.40%

28.30%

Michael Wacha

Cardinals

0.272

1.58

21.80%

47.90%

30.30%

19.00%

52.60%

28.40%

Chris Archer

Rays

0.284

1.43

22.30%

45.70%

32.00%

21.50%

50.20%

28.40%

Jeff Locke

Pirates

0.314

2.12

22.70%

52.50%

24.80%

23.30%

48.10%

28.60%

Trevor Bauer

Indians

0.263

0.84

17.50%

37.50%

44.90%

22.40%

49.00%

28.60%

J.A. Happ

Mariners

0.329

1.23

23.70%

42.10%

34.20%

18.90%

52.40%

28.70%

Danny Salazar

Indians

0.308

1.22

18.50%

44.80%

36.60%

21.50%

49.80%

28.70%

David Price

Tigers

0.301

1.01

24.90%

37.70%

37.40%

16.30%

54.90%

28.80%

Jered Weaver

Angels

0.275

0.81

19.10%

36.20%

44.70%

20.50%

50.60%

28.90%

Alex Wood

Braves

0.340

1.52

22.70%

46.60%

30.70%

16.20%

54.80%

29.00%

Chase Anderson

Diamondbacks

0.270

1.26

22.10%

43.50%

34.40%

14.40%

56.50%

29.10%

Jon Niese

Mets

0.301

2.29

21.10%

55.00%

24.00%

19.20%

51.70%

29.20%

Michael Pineda

Yankees

0.347

1.64

19.70%

49.80%

30.40%

17.00%

53.40%

29.60%

Madison Bumgarner

Giants

0.289

1.11

23.10%

40.40%

36.50%

17.70%

52.70%

29.70%

Tim Hudson

Giants

0.307

2.81

21.30%

58.10%

20.60%

14.60%

55.60%

29.80%

Bartolo Colon

Mets

0.309

1.03

19.60%

40.80%

39.60%

18.20%

51.90%

29.90%

A.J. Burnett

Pirates

0.316

2.29

21.90%

54.40%

23.70%

17.80%

52.10%

30.10%

Andrew Cashner

Padres

0.312

1.41

19.30%

47.20%

33.40%

15.00%

54.80%

30.20%

Anthony DeSclafani

Reds

0.289

1.29

20.80%

44.60%

34.50%

21.10%

48.70%

30.20%

Jon Lester

Cubs

0.314

1.64

23.30%

47.60%

29.10%

20.50%

48.80%

30.70%

CC Sabathia

Yankees

0.332

1.27

22.20%

43.50%

34.30%

14.60%

54.70%

30.70%

Taijuan Walker

Mariners

0.299

0.92

19.80%

38.50%

41.70%

17.40%

51.90%

30.70%

Nick Martinez

Rangers

0.286

1.29

23.10%

43.30%

33.60%

14.30%

54.80%

30.80%

Nathan Eovaldi

Yankees

0.353

1.93

24.00%

50.00%

26.00%

19.10%

50.00%

30.90%

Jimmy Nelson

Brewers

0.292

1.59

19.90%

49.20%

30.90%

18.40%

50.70%

30.90%

Matt Shoemaker

Angels

0.295

0.95

17.90%

40.00%

42.10%

18.80%

50.20%

31.00%

Rubby de la Rosa

Diamondbacks

0.296

1.67

20.30%

49.80%

29.80%

13.40%

55.60%

31.10%

Drew Hutchison

Blue Jays

0.358

1.16

25.20%

40.20%

34.60%

22.60%

46.40%

31.10%

Matt Garza

Brewers

0.317

1.42

22.70%

45.30%

32.00%

17.30%

51.50%

31.30%

John Lackey

Cardinals

0.294

1.24

19.80%

44.50%

35.80%

18.20%

50.60%

31.30%

Julio Teheran

Braves

0.297

1.12

25.80%

39.10%

35.10%

19.50%

49.20%

31.30%

Rick Porcello

Red Sox

0.331

1.29

21.30%

44.40%

34.40%

19.00%

49.20%

31.80%

Phil Hughes

Twins

0.291

0.82

24.50%

34.00%

41.40%

19.00%

49.20%

31.80%

Dan Haren

Marlins

0.252

0.67

19.80%

32.30%

47.90%

17.80%

50.50%

31.80%

Carlos Carrasco

Indians

0.340

1.49

19.30%

48.30%

32.30%

16.70%

51.30%

32.00%

Alfredo Simon

Tigers

0.305

1.19

23.30%

41.60%

35.10%

18.00%

50.00%

32.10%

Mark Buehrle

Blue Jays

0.278

1.58

20.50%

48.70%

30.90%

16.10%

51.60%

32.40%

James Shields

Padres

0.312

1.32

21.20%

44.90%

33.90%

16.70%

50.80%

32.40%

Ryan Vogelsong

Giants

0.265

1.17

19.30%

43.60%

37.10%

18.80%

48.80%

32.40%

Edinson Volquez

Royals

0.266

1.40

20.50%

46.40%

33.10%

14.10%

53.10%

32.80%

Hector Santiago

Angels

0.234

0.57

17.70%

29.80%

52.50%

16.00%

51.20%

32.80%

C.J. Wilson

Angels

0.281

1.29

21.20%

44.40%

34.40%

15.30%

51.60%

33.10%

Jeremy Hellickson

Diamondbacks

0.309

1.12

19.90%

42.20%

37.80%

15.80%

50.30%

33.90%

Nate Karns

Rays

0.280

1.28

21.30%

44.10%

34.60%

19.50%

46.20%

34.30%

Kyle Kendrick

Rockies

0.287

1.00

22.60%

38.70%

38.70%

15.10%

50.60%

34.40%

Kyle Lohse

Brewers

0.314

0.98

25.00%

37.20%

37.80%

18.00%

47.60%

34.50%

Colby Lewis

Rangers

0.302

0.76

18.30%

35.20%

46.40%

14.20%

51.30%

34.50%

Tom Koehler

Marlins

0.260

1.24

17.80%

45.50%

36.70%

17.30%

47.50%

35.20%

Mike Fiers

Brewers

0.318

0.96

20.80%

38.80%

40.50%

19.30%

43.70%

37.00%