I’ve been noticing and following closely the lack of strikeouts that Brandon League has accumulated over the year.
He just hasn’t been striking out very many batters for the second consecutive year, despite his very solid stuff. That said it’s not been an issue of missing bats. He has a swinging strike percentage of 10.6% (also for the second year in a row).
It really brings about questions in my mind about how ones swinging strikes effect ones strike outs. Jeff Sullivan did a really awesome post on this a few years ago and wrote a great little piece on it.
catch the rest after the jump
Look at that point near the left, with the StS% of 4.6% and the K% of 18.03%. Seems out of place, right? Right. That’s 2008 Mike Mussina, for whom nearly half of his strikeouts this year have been called. That’s twice the league average. That strikes me as a giant red flag when it comes to discussing his future success, because chances are this isn’t the sort of thing that’s likely to continue. So where Mussina’s raw strikeout rate may not hint at an imminent decline, his swinging strike rate is making some angry noises.
It works the other way, too. 2008 Scott Olsen has a K% of 13.23% despite a StS% of 9.9%. If you plug his StS% into the best-fit equation, you come out with a theoretical K% of 20.08%. That’s a big giant difference. The biggest difference in the past four years, as it happens. Olsen’s actually missed more bats in 2008 than he did in 2007, but his strikeout rate has taken a precipitous dive, which seems both unfair and unlikely to continue. The fact that his fastball is missing 3mph is a concern, but the fact that his strikeout rate has followed is not, I don’t think. He’s still missing bats at the same rate, and that should manifest itself in a similar number of strikeouts.
I don’t mean to imply that this is all totally random, the way people talk about HR/FB or whatever. There does appear to be some element of pitcher control over how well their swinging strikes translate to strikeouts; Tim Hudson, for example, appears to be below-average, whereas guys like Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard, Mussina, and Matt Cain appear to be above-average. There could be any number of reasons for this to be so, but the bottom line is that some pitchers seem to be able to generate positive differences between their K% and tK% while others remain in the negatives. However, with that said, swinging strikes remain the best indicator of strikeout rate, so when you encounter a guy such as ’08 Mussina or ’08 Olsen whose two rates don’t match up, be on the lookout. More than likely, something’s about to give.
Jeff Sullivan - Lookout Landing, Sep 26th, 2008
With all that in mind I’m not ready just yet to say that it’s going to be a perpetual thing for Brandon League to be an under achiever. But, with all his ground balls it’s fair to say that at times he leaves his pitches a bit over the plate and becomes a bit hitable.
Just as a little wonder “what if”… I decided to take a look at all Mariners bullpen and compare strikeouts versus swinging strikes. Not a lot of surprising results, but still interesting.