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« Kershaw and his evolving slider | Main | Kennedy's fastball-first approach »
Tuesday
Sep202011

Two-Strike Survivors

When a hitter gets two strikes against him, odds are he's toast. The league average Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) with two strikes is just .236, compared to .314 overall in 2011. Put another way, a hitter turns into a Tsuyoshi Nishioka clone when in the pitcher's clutches. But some batters have managed to wiggle out of those two-strike situations pretty often. Here's a look at the 10 batters with the highest wOBAs in two-strike counts:


1. Mike Napoli, .386

2. David Ortiz, .367

3. Jose Bautista, .348

4. Miguel Cabrera, .348

5. Jacoby Ellsbury, .339

6. Marco Scutaro, .337

7. Prince Fielder, .336

8. Carlos Lee, .335

9. Troy Tulowitzki, .322

10. Curtis Granderson, .322

 Not surprisingly, the best two-strike hitters list includes some of the best hitters in the game overall. Granderson has gone deep a major league-leading 20 times in two-strike counts this season. Bautista (14), Ortiz (13), Napoli (11), Cabrera (11) and Ellsbury (10) have also hit double-digit homers with two strikes.

If there's a common thread among these guys, it's that they do a better job than most of not chasing pitches off the plate. When hitters have less than two strikes against them, they're fairly selective:

League average swing rate by pitch location with less than two strikes

Batters swing about 39 percent of the time overall with less than two strikes, chasing 22 percent of pitches out of the zone. With two strikes, however....

      

League average swing rate by pitch location with two strikes

..Hitters swing 61 percent of the time, including 39 percent of the time on out-of-zone pitches. But, with the exception of Fielder, our two-strike survivors have chase rates below the league average:

Napoli: 38% chase rate with 2 strikes

Ortiz: 37%

Bautista: 35%

Cabrera: 36%

Ellsbury: 25%

Scutaro: 38%

Fielder: 48%

Lee: 37%

Tulowitzki: 34%

Granderson: 40%

As is the case in other counts, it appears that one of the keys to success with two strikes is learning to lay off pitches at the eyes and the ankles. Or, be Prince Fielder. Either will work just fine.

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