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Entries in Jon Niese (2)

Friday
May102013

Which Pitchers are Getting Calls, Getting Squeezed?

Which starting pitchers are benefiting from a generous strike zone this season? Which starters are grumbling as yet another borderline call goes the batter's way? Here's a quick rundown of pitchers with the highest and lowest called strike rates in 2013.

Highest called strike rates on in-zone pitches

 

Overall, umps call about four out of every five pitches taken in the zone a strike. But Jake Peavy is getting more credit for those over-the-plate-pitches than most. So are crafty lefties Mike Minor and Andy Pettitte. None of the guys in the top ten exactly lights up the radar gun. That makes sense, considering lower-velocity fastballs tend to get more called strikes than mid-90s heat.

 

Lowest called strike rate on in-zone pitches

 

On the flip side, Jon Niese has a reason to hold a grudge against Big Blue. The rest of the top ten is a mixed bag of power pitchers, breaking ball and off-speed reliant junk ballers and a knuckleballer. All of them are at a disadvantage in getting called strikes. High-velocity fastballs have lower called strike rates than slower ones, as mentioned above. Curveballs (81% called strike rate on in-zone pitches), sliders (79%) and changeups (78%) have lower called strike rates than fastballs (82%). And umps, like all other human beings on Earth, have a hard time figuring out what the heck a knuckleball is doing. Dating back to 2008, in-zone knucklers (a sample that basically amounts to pitches thrown by R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield and a few spot-starter aspirants) have a called strike rate of 73%.

 

Highest called strike rate on out-of-zone pitches

Interestingly, all of the starters getting calls on out-of-zone pitches are right-handers. It looks like they're taking advantage of umpires' tendency to stretch the outside corner for left-handed batters (the called strike rate on out-of-zone pitches thrown away to lefty batters is about 16%). Jeremy Hellickson (29%), Mat Latos (26%), Alex Cobb and Justin Verlander (23%) rank at the top of the list when it comes to getting calls on that outside corner versus lefty batters.

Lowest called strike rate on out-of-zone pitches

Pfft. Like Matt Harvey needs the help. Tim Lincecum, on the other hand...

Thursday
May122011

Which Pitchers are Really Getting Squeezed?

Earlier in the week we took a look at which pitchers have been squeezed the most based on total pitches called balls within the PitchFX established strike zone.  While it appeared that pitchers like C.J. Wilson (TEX) and Jon Niese (NYM) have been getting a tight strike zone, the truth is that these pitchers tend to stay around the strikezone with the majority of their pitches.  In fact, C.J. Wilson leads the league in called strikes within the strike zone:

(Data from all 2011 games through May 10th)

So in reality, while pitchers like Wilson do lose a lot of called strikes on the borders, it's mostly a product of the volume of pitches they locate there.  In fact, through Tuesday, Wilson was leading all pitchers in total called strikes, regardless of location, with 194.

If we really want to see which pitchers have had a tough time getting calls from umps, we need to look at the percentage of called strikes out of all taken pitches within the strike zone.

 (Data from all 2011 games through May 10th - Min. 40 taken pitches in the strike zone)

Wilson still cracks the top 50, but he's far from the most squeezed pitcher in the league.  Mariners' closer Brandon League is not getting the majority of close calls so far this season.  The league average for called strikes in the PitchFX defined strike zone has been around 77%, meaning umpires have called 23% of pitches in the zone balls.  Of course, the majority of these are borderline pitches as the following graphic shows:

All MLB Called Balls in Strike Zone
(Click to enlarge)

League's missed strikes consist of 18 pitches, the majority of which were thrown to the bottom of the zone.  Batters have taken only 42 total strike zone pitches against him, so his "squeeze rate" is mostly a product of small sample size.  However, when we filter the list down to starters....

(Data from all 2011 games through May 10th)

Among starters, Wilson and Niese still near the top of the list of pitchers getting squeezed. And perhaps Nelson Figueroa would still be pitching in Houston if we had robot umpires.

So we've seen which pitchers have not gotten the majority of close calls so far this season.  In an upcoming post, we'll look at pitchers that have benefited most from expanded strike zones.