K Zone: Breaking Down The How

(Thru May 2, 2013)

Kevin Luchansky

In an attempt to switch things up this week, I wanted to take a look at the MLB strikeout leaders and see exactly how they are getting it done. The brilliant minds over at Baseball Prospectus created the Pitchf/x Pitcher Profiles, which allows you to see pitch frequencies, velocities and ball movement.

Yu Darvish leads the majors with 58 strikeouts thus far – 8 more than the second place guy – in as many starts (6). Darvish has 8 different pitches in his repertoire, and it’s almost unfair that his release point is nearly the same for all of those pitches. Hitter looking for a tip or clue as to what he’s dealing to you next? Fat chance!In 2-strike counts this season, Darvish has relied heavily on his Slider (28%) and Four Seam Fastball (22%) with great success. He does a great job of keeping hitters off balance, too. Both his Sinker and Four Seam Fastball have an average velocity around 93 mph, while his Slow Curve is a meager 69 mph.

Especially in his last 2 starts, Anibal Sanchez has really caught fire. On April 27th, he set a Tigers club record as he fanned 17 Braves batters over 8 innings, en route to a 10-0 victory. With starts like that, there’s no surprise Sanchez is No. 2 on this list with 50 K’s.

In 2-strike counts, Sanchez has shown a lot of variety in his pitch selection. He has gone to his Four Seam Fastball, Slider, and Changeup 30%, 26% and 20% of the time, respectively.

A.J. Burnett had an impressive bounce-back campaign last season with the Pirates, finishing 24th in the MLB K race, with 180. In 2013, he is off to a hot start again, as he’s already recorded 48 strikeouts in just 35 innings of work in the Steel City.

Though I’m not sure if he is capable of keeping pace all year, thus far opponents are batting just .211 against him, and his ERA is a solid 2.83. Burnett throws his curveball – or “out-pitch” – 52% of the time in 2-strike counts. The next closest is his sinker, which he relies on 27% of the time in those situations.

Kershaw is tied for fourth in the MLB with 47 K’s thus far. Regardless of ball-strike count, he relies heavily on his four-seam fastball (63%) which carries an average velocity of 93 MPH. In 2 strike counts, the reliance on his 4 seam is still there (52%), but his slider and curveball averages jump up (24 and 23%, respectively).

Though he has been dinged with a few minor injuries this season, I don’t expect the young LA left-hander to slow his pace anytime soon. Like the others on this list, Clayton has an uncanny ability to make hitters miss.

Next week I’ll return with a Surfing the Waiver Wire piece for you fantasy-heads. Hope you enjoyed something different.

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Posted on May 2, 2013, in 2013, Dodgers, Pirates, Rangers, Twins. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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