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These MLB starting pitchers have been toughest to square up through August 12

These starting pitchers have been toughest to hit hard in 2015.

Thomas B. Shea-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 that end in a hard hit ball. Hard hit balls are classified by video trackers as batted balls with high exit velocities, strong trajectory and contact on the sweet spot of the barrel. This is a different stat than the new FanGraphs hard%, which uses a percentage of balls in play rather than a percentage of at bats. It is also classified by different video trackers.

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 more often the ball is hit hard, 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 25 starting pitchers have been most difficult to square up (min. 1500 pitches):

1. Sonny Gray, 8.4%

2. Dallas Keuchel, 8.8%

3. Chris Sale, 9%

4. Tyson Ross, 9.2%

5. Clayton Kershaw, 9.3%

6. Brett Anderson, 9.4%

7. Jacob deGrom, 9.6%

8. Jake Arrieta, 9.7%

9. Noah Syndergaard, 9.8%

10. Francisco Liriano, 9.9%

11. Gio Gonzalez, 10.2%

12. Mike Pelfrey, 10.4%

13. Gerrit Cole, 10.6%

14. Felix Hernandez, 10.6%

15. Ubaldo Jimenez, 10.7%

16. Johnny Cueto, 10.8%

17. Cole Hamels, 11%

18. Jimmy Nelson, 11%

19. Matt Harvey, 11.1%

20. Marco Estrada, 11.3%

21. Jeff Samardzija, 11.7%

22. Lance Lynn, 11.8%

23. Michael Wacha, 11.9%

24. David Price, 12%

25. Andrew Cashner, 12.1%