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« Encarnacion Cashes in on 2012 Power Surge | Main | Matt Cain's Fastball: Less Velocity, More Whiffs »

Which Starters, Relievers are Getting the Most Calls in 2012?

Livan Hernandez is 37 years old, adheres to the Body by Boomer Wells fitness program and hasn't consistently crossed the mid-80s with his fastball since the Expos still existed. Yet despite his limitations, Livan continues to lob low-velocity slop toward the plate well enough to hold a major league job. A big reason why is that he's the king of extending the strike zone. Dating back to 2008, only Mike Mussina, Justin Duchscherer and Mariano Rivera have received more called strikes on out-of-zone pitches taken by the batter than Hernandez (17.7 percent).

Livan is still enlarging the plate this season (16.4 percent called strike rate on out-of-zone pitches taken), if in mop-up duty out of the bullpen. Which other starters and relievers are Livan large on the edges this season? Here are the pitchers with the highest called strike rates on pitches taken outside of the strike zone:

Highest called strike rate on out-of-zone pitches taken among starting pitchers

PitcherCalled Strike Pct.
Colby Lewis 18.0%
Justin Verlander 16.0%
Jered Weaver 15.5%
Felix Hernandez 15.2%
Vance Worley 14.0%
Matt Garza 13.9%
Bronson Arroyo 13.7%
Kyle Lohse 13.6%
Joe Blanton 13.5%
Yovani Gallardo 13.5%
MLB Avg. for SP 10.4%


Highest called strike rate on out-of-zone pitches taken among relief pitchers

PitcherCalled Strike Pct.
Matt Belisle 18.5%
Rafael Soriano 16.7%
Joe Nathan 16.6%
Vicente Padilla 16.5%
Livan Hernandez 16.4%
Joel Peralta 16.3%
Jonathan Papelbon 16.3%
Brett Myers 16.2%
Darren O'Day 15.5%
Luis Ayala 15.1%
MLB Avg. for RP 9.9%


You'll note that every single one of these pitchers throws from the right side. The reason? Umps make life harder on lefty hitters by extending the outside corner of the strike zone, and righty pitchers take advantage of it. Check out the called strike rate by pitch location for lefty batters when they take a pitch against right-handed pitchers:

Called strike rate by location on pitches taken by LHB vs. RHP

Righty pitchers get a called strike on out-of-zone pitches taken by left-handed hitters about 12 percent of the time. That's much higher than any other batter-pitcher matchup:

MatchupCalled Strike Pct. on out-of-zone pitches taken
RHP vs. LHB 12
RHP vs. RHB 7.8
LHP vs. RHB 8.2
LHP vs. LHB 11.1


Righty pitchers seem to know they can extend that outside corner against lefties. They throw a bunch of out-of-zone pitches away to left-handed hitters. Lefty pitchers try it even more often, although as we noted earlier with less success than righties:

MatchupPct. of out-of-zone pitches thrown away to batter
RHP vs. LHB 63.4
RHP vs. RHB 55.6
LHP vs. RHB 43.6
LHP vs. LHB 67.5


Which righty starter has thrown the highest percentage of out-of-zone pitches away to lefties during the Pitch F/X era? Livan, of course. You didn't survive with high school stuff unless you have a Ph.D. in pitching.

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