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MLB starting pitchers who have been toughest and easiest to square up through the All Star break

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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Pitchers who have been toughest and easiest to square up

Last season, ESPN stat guru Mark Simon popularized a statistic called hard hit rate, which is the % of a player's at bats 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 does not use exit velocity. FG's hard% is also a percentage of balls in play rather than a percentage of at bats.

We want to target hitters with a high % of at bats ending with a hard hit ball and pitchers with a low % of at bats ending with a hard hit ball 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.

League average on this stat is about 15%.

These 20 starting pitchers have been hardest to square up (min. 1000 pitches):

1. Sonny Gray, 7.6%

2. Chris Sale, 8.9%

3. Brett Anderson, 9.1%

4. Noah Syndergaard, 9.1%

5. Clay Buchholz, 9.4%

6. Dallas Keuchel, 9.4%

7. Mike Bolsinger, 9.6%

8. Clayton Kershaw, 9.6%

9. Gerrit Cole, 9.7%

10. Francisco Liriano, 9.7%

11. Mike Pelfrey, 9.9%

12. Jake Arrieta, 10%

13. Jacob deGrom, 10%

14. Felix Hernandez, 10%

15. Ubaldo Jimenez, 10%

16. Tyson Ross, 10%

17. Gio Gonzalez, 10.3%

18. Cole Hamels, 10.4%

19. Shelby Miller, 10.4%

20. Yovani Gallardo, 11%

These 20 starting pitchers have been squared up most often (min. 1000 pitches):

1. Josh Collmenter, 26.6%

2. Ian Kennedy, 22.8%

3. Kyle Kendrick, 21.1%

4. Bud Norris, 20.9%

5. Kendall Graveman, 19.7%

6. Phil Hughes, 19.7%

7. Kyle Lohse, 18.8%

8. Mat Latos, 18.2%

9. Trevor May, 18%

10. Roberto Hernandez, 17.6%

11. Carlos Frias, 17.4%

12. Rubby de la Rosa, 17.3%

13. Danny Duffy, 17.2%

14. Chris Tillman, 17.1%

15. John Lackey, 17%

16. Michael Lorenzen, 17%

17. Alfredo Simon, 17%

18. Mark Buehrle, 16.9%

19. Dan Haren, 16.8%

20. Jered Weaver, 16.8%