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« Which teams hit well against righties/lefties? Which don't? | Main | Buchholz to Batters: Made You Look »

The Buchholz enigma - Strikeouts: Looking vs. Swinging and Missing

As I was reading David Golebiewski's dive into the Clay Buchholz controversy, it got me wondering about strikeouts - what does a swinging strikeout tell us versus a looking at a called third strike strikeout?

A pair of positives come to mind: 

  • A pitcher who is getting swings and misses obviously has nasty stuff that is often in the strike zone, but too difficult to hit.
  • A pitcher who is getting batters to take a third strike is obviously throwing a good mix of stuff, changing locations and speed, and working the black. 

And a pair of negatives come to mind: 

  • A pitcher who is getting misses is inducing swings and anytime a swing happens, well as the expression goes "other things" can happen as well.
  • A pitcher who is getting batters to take pitches, you are umpire dependent and control dependent, meaning if the control is off, as the expression goes other things can happen as well. 

2012 AL Starters (minimum 30 starts)

As I looked at the AL strikeout elite last season, I found that the top pitchers had significantly more whiffs swinging than looking. 

It's interesting to note that two Rays pitchers had the most called third strikes and among the smallest differentials: Cy Young Award winner David Price had just 37 and Jamies Shields, now of the Royals, had 95.

Among pitchers with with at least 100 swings and miss whiffs, Ricky Romero had the fewest call third strikes with just 18. Based on his lack of success it obvious that batters wanted to swing at Romero's pitches.

Take a look at the the 2012 totals

2013 AL Starters (minimum 5 starts entering action on May 5)


  • Yu Darvish is dazzling batters who are unable to make contact with his pitches.
  • Scherzer and Felix are dominating once again.
  • Anibal Sanchez as we all know has been dominant.
  • Maybe under appreciated are Ryan Dempster and Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • David Price is doing what he did last season in strikeouts but is his minimal differential a reflection of his 6.25 ERA?


The Buchholz enigma

That brings us to the case of Clay Buchholz, who is way down on the swing and miss list, but through the roof on called third strikes.


  • Conspiracists in the Jack Morris camp would say, Buchholz' pitches are moving funny and are not being read well by batters.
  • Red Sox Nation would say, Buchholz' mix of pitches and sharp control are simply freezing batters as he replicates the success of Price last season.


After all is said and done, the numbers indicate the efficacy of pitchers getting batters to swing and miss versus take a called third strike. But you can't argue with success of the outliers: Price and Buchholz.

Time will tell, but I look forward to hearing what you think of the Buchholz enigma.

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Reader Comments (2)

how about - he's on the sox and gets a lot of bs calls
gotta be a way to see how many of those 3rd strikes were actually strikes

May 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermike

From where did you get the data?

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen
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