Good Strikes And A's Pitches

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Which A's pitchers' pitches are most effective at generating called and swinging strikes?

We often hear swinging strike rate thrown around as a pitch-by-pitch based measure of a pitcher's "filth quotient," if not his overall effectiveness. However, I prefer to use what I call "good strike rate"--swinging strikes and called strikes--as a quick-and-dirty pitch-based measure. After all, called strikes are just as good as swinging strikes. You can calculate good strike rate from a Fangraphs spreadsheet as:

((Strikes/Pitches) - Swing%) + SwStr%

The metric has higher r2 values when predicting any overall effectiveness metric (ERA, FIP, xFIP, tERA, SIERA) than SwStr% does, sometimes more significantly than others. Of course, as the level of defense-independence ratches up, the metric has a higher r2 value, starting around .2 on ERA and moving up to .55 on SIERA.

I thought it'd be interesting to break things down a little more than simply reporting each A's pitcher's GoodStr%, and I went back through their Pitch F/X data (again, thanks to the awesome Baseball Savant database for this) and figured out the GoodStr% for each pitch type of the A's staff that's been thrown more than 50 times, to see which have been most effective in this fashion (Before anyone asks, yes, I did check the pitch categorizations on each pitch and revised them when necessary). And without further ado, here are the results:

Pitcher Pitch # Pitches GoodStr%
Dan Straily Slider 380 35.26%
Jesse Chavez Curveball 108 35.19%
Ryan Cook Slider 188 35.11%
Jerry Blevins Curveball 85 34.12%
Jarrod Parker Changeup 403 33.25%
Pat Neshek Slider 352 33.24%
Grant Balfour Slider 274 33.21%
Jesse Chavez Cutter 208 31.73%
Sean Doolittle Slider 54 31.48%
Bartolo Colon Slider 178 30.34%
Sean Doolittle Fastball 561 29.77%
Tommy Milone Changeup 585 29.40%
Jarrod Parker Slider 287 28.92%
Grant Balfour Fastball 413 28.81%
Tommy Milone Sinker 216 28.70%
Dan Straily Fastball 656 28.05%
A.J. Griffin Fastball 1248 27.88%
A.J. Griffin Changeup 281 27.40%
Tommy Milone Fastball 909 27.39%
A.J. Griffin Curveball 326 26.99%
Tommy Milone Curveball 224 26.34%
Bartolo Colon Sinker 968 26.24%
Jerry Blevins Sinker 261 26.05%
Jesse Chavez Fastball 104 25.96%
A.J. Griffin Slider 259 25.87%
Tommy Milone Cutter 63 25.40%
Ryan Cook Fastball 261 24.14%
Dan Straily Sinker 112 24.11%
Pat Neshek Sinker 84 23.81%
Jerry Blevins Slider 185 23.24%
Jarrod Parker Fastball 654 23.24%
Bartolo Colon Fastball 625 22.88%
Dan Straily Changeup 162 22.84%
Jesse Chavez Sinker 71 22.54%
Jarrod Parker Sinker 462 22.29%
Bartolo Colon Changeup 104 22.12%
Jerry Blevins Changeup 73 21.92%
Ryan Cook Sinker 183 21.31%
Dan Otero Sinker 93 17.20%


A few thoughts:

  • Largely, I think this is consistent with what we'd expect. Jarrod Parker throws the best changeup on the A's. Sean Doolittle throws the best fastball on the A's. Ryan Cook and Pat Neshek have filthy sliders. And so on.
  • Dan Straily's slider being the best pitch on the staff is a bit of a surprise. His changeup is also one of the worst. Remember when he came up last year and the pitches were billed as being about the same quality? It doesn't seem that that's the way things have shaken out so far in his young career. It is refreshing to see him at the top of the list with something though, given how up-and-down he's been at times.
  • And look at Jesse Chavez's breaking ball at #2! He's also got the cutter well above 30%. Not bad for a guy with a career -1.4 WAR entering this season. Perhaps he can stick after all.
  • The top of the list is filled with offspeed pitches--Chavez's cutter is the first "fastball" that appears, at #8, and Doolittle's heater is the first true "#1" that shows up, at #11. The bottom nine spots on the list are taken by some sort of fastball or changeup. Of course, fastballs usually generate fewer swinging strikes than offspeed offerings, but I would've thought they'd generate enough called strikes to largely, if not completely, make up for it. It doesn't seem so here, though perhaps that's a quirk of an Oakland pitching staff that doesn't have a lot of true fireballers.
  • Doolittle and Balfour are mostly two-pitch guys, and both of their offerings are well in the upper half. No wonder they're such a good bullpen tandem.
  • A lot of people thought A.J. Griffin's curve would be higher on the list, but all of his four pitches cluster tightly together in the middle of the list. Heck, Tommy Milone's curve is almost as effective as Griffin's, despite being a much less impressive pitch to the eye. That's probably one of the bigger surprises.
  • Last week, I looked at Ryan Cook and offered some clear reasons why his sinker nearly takes the bottom spot here.
  • Speaking of the bottom spot, poor Dan Otero. He's only got one pitch that qualifies for the list, and it's easily the worst. Not exactly the best sign going forward, though maybe his offspeed stuff makes up for it?
  • Anyone else surprised Bartolo Colon's fastball grades out so badly here? The sinker's okay, but it's interestingly the slider that's his most effective pitch by this metric. Of course, that's likely just the element of surprise playing (like with Doolittle's slider), but still. Milone has a better fastball and sinker than Colon and a curve almost as good as Griffin's? That's surprising. Of course, Colon's style of dominance is so unique that maybe it's just an outlier when you assess pitches in this fashion.
  • Unlike Doolittle's slider and Colon's slider, Parker's change and Straily's slider grade out tremendously in spite of some pretty heavy usage, making them stand out all the more prominently.
  • Both of Parker's fastballs grade out quite poorly. It seems the offspeed stuff is the only thing keeping him running at a moderately successful rate this year.
  • Credit Milone for finding a way to get all five of his pitches above 25% here. Obviously, none of them have much eye-test punch, so turning them each into workable-to-good offerings is a pretty impressive feat.
  • Maybe Jerry Blevins should look to that big curve more when he goes offspeed. It's been way better than the change or slider, and it really does pass the eye test, doesn't it?
Well, I hope that's a fun little diversion this week. Certainly, GoodStr% isn't the end-all-be-all of pitching effectiveness, but it's a pretty important component of effectiveness, and it's interesting to see how the pitch type numbers interact with our perceptions of the quality of each hurler's offerings.
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