A fun and interesting tweet from ESPN’s Mark Simon on the starting pitchers who are giving up the least hard-hit balls (as of Monday afternoon). You may or may not be surprised to see three Cubs starting pitchers at 2, 3, and 18:
Which pitchers give up hard contact least often?
Notables: Strasburg, Keuchel, Gray, Buchholz, Lester, Pelfrey
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) May 11, 2015
The data here appears to be similar to the new batted ball data at FanGraphs (provided by Baseball Info Solutions), but slightly different. Both are tracked by actual humans, so there is going to be some subjectivity to these things. For what it’s worth, each of Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester show up in FanGraphs’ top 30 on least amount of hard contact, and Sonny Gray is on top of both lists, so there’s some agreement there.
As the tracking technology at ballparks becomes more ubiquitous and readily available via StatCast – still not totally released for public consumption – it’s possible these rates will become more consistent. It’s exciting to have available (or at least the promise of soon having available) these kinds of batted ball figures so that we can actually check our own instincts when we feel like a guy is consistently giving up hard contact, or consistently inducing weak contact.
I would advise that, because of the subjectivity, the small samples, and the randomness that does factor into some batted ball outcomes, you don’t want to read too much into this stuff just yet. It’s an interesting curiosity, and something to follow over time. I will point out, though, one other interesting thing: the second worst hard contact rate (via FanGraphs) this year belongs to Travis Wood.