Keep an eye on these fantasy pitchers with great swinging-strike rates now and for the future

Fred ZinkieYahoo Fantasy Contributor
Yahoo Sports

When evaluating starting pitchers, K:BB ratio might be my favorite stat to rely on. And I’m not alone, as many fantasy industry writers use this stat when looking for future breakouts and determining the sustainability of recent success stories. But during 2019, I’m becoming increasingly dependent on swinging-strike rate when assessing hurlers. And it is easy to see why.

Top-15 qualified pitchers in swinging-strike rate

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(Yahoo SP ranking in brackets)

Max Scherzer (6)

Justin Verlander (1)

Luis Castillo (13)

Gerrit Cole (2)

Jacob deGrom (7)

Lucas Giolito (10)

Kenta Maeda (41)

Matthew Boyd (45)

Chris Sale (35)

Shane Bieber (8)

Patrick Corbin (18)

Stephen Strasburg (11)

Robbie Ray (45)

Kyle Gibson (77)

Charlie Morton (5)

And on the other end of the spectrum …

Bottom-15 qualified hurlers in swinging-strike rate

Jake Arrieta (223)

Adam Wainwright (113)

Rick Porcello (202)

Brett Anderson (102)

Marco Gonzales (86)

Mike Leake (185)

Mike Fiers (27)

Tanner Roark (92)

Brad Keller (112)

Ivan Nova (166)

Jon Lester (129)

Yusei Kikuchi (313)

Jose Quintana (61)

Andrew Cashner (141)

Jeff Samardzija (26)

As you can see, a great swinging-strike rate virtually ensures fantasy success, while a poor rate is rarely part of the profile for a mixed-league asset.

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At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Thank you so much, Fred, for telling me that Max Scherzer is good and Jake Arrieta isn’t. I never could have figured that out on my own.” OK, smart-ass, just chill out for a minute.

Now that I used 200 words to show you the significance of swinging-strike rate, let’s look at hurlers who have excelled in this metric — some of whom are widely available on the waiver wire.

Kevin Gausman, Cincinnati Reds

Kevin Gausman surprisingly ranks 12th in swinging-strike rate if we drop the qualifying line to 70 innings. Always a fantasy tease, Gausman has had a little more success since joining the Reds bullpen. I’m not making a case for him in shallow leagues, but he could be a useful reliever for those in deep formats.

Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels

Griffin Canning was cruising along with a sub-4.00 ERA before going through an ugly four-start stretch from July 4-25. But the rookie bounced back by allowing four runs across his final three outings of 2019 and has a bright future despite being shut down for the season. Griffin excels at generating swinging strikes (13.8 percent rate) and could be a great value pick in 2020.

Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays

Among pitchers who have tossed at least 40 innings, Nick Anderson ranks third with a 17.9% swinging-strike rate. And Anderson has been lights-out since joining the Rays, posting a mind-boggling 18:0 K:BB ratio across 9.2 shutout innings. Among relievers who are rostered in less than 25% of Yahoo leagues, Anderson might be my favorite one to add.

Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell can be labeled a bust this year, but his 17.8% swinging-strike rate is an elite mark and much better than his 15.1% rate from his 2018 breakout season. The left-hander has been burned by bad luck this year (.339 BABIP, 71.7% strand rate), and his 3.39 FIP shows that his skills haven’t substantially dipped. Snell could help fantasy teams in September, and he remains someone who should be a priority in keeper leagues.

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

There won’t be any great fantasy knowledge to glean from this point, but I need to point out that Josh Hader’s 22.9% swinging-strike rate absolutely blows the competition away. There should be no doubt that Hader is the No. 1 reliever for 2020 drafts. He is also one of the few relievers who carries plenty of keeper-league value.

And finally, one word of caution …

Daniel Mengden owns the lowest swinging-strike rate (6.0%) of any pitcher who has thrown 40 innings this year. Although his 2019 surface stats (5-2 record, 4.85 ERA) say, “Hey, you could stream me in a favorable matchup,” I am not falling for it. If Mengden gets another rotation opportunity, he should be completely ignored in all leagues.

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