By Jon Becker
In the final installation of our hard-hit balls series at the Sports Info Solutions Blog, we’ll take a look at which teams’ pitchers have allowed the lowest hard-hit rates.
Note that this version of hard-hit rate is calculated as Hard-hit balls/(At-Bats + Sacrifice Flies). Our denominator rewards a pitcher for strikeouts. The denominator on Statcast and FanGraphs is “Batted Balls” which does not reward the pitcher for a strikeout.
The number you get from the calculation allows you to say “Team X’s pitchers have allowed a hard-hit ball in Y% of the at-bats against them.”
1. Nationals (24.4%)
It figures that the team with the third-lowest starting pitcher ERA in baseball would do well by this metric, with Washington just edging out the next-closest team in hard-hit rate by two-tenths of a percentage point. As Mark Simon noted on Wednesday, Stephen Strasburg leads the majors with a ridiculously low 18.3% hard-hit rate. Max Scherzer (23.3%) is surprisingly not at the top. He’s actually a bit behind rotation-mate Anibal Sanchez (11th overall at 22.6%).
2. Red Sox (24.6%)
Boston may not have Stephen Strasburg’s MLB-best hard-hit rate, but they do have Chris Sale in fourth place (21.0%) and Eduardo Rodriguez in 6th place (21.5%). The BoSox are the best in baseball at limiting hard contact from right-handed batters, holding them to a 23.8% hard-hit rate. Matt Barnes is third-best among relievers with a 15.0% hard-hit rate allowed.
3. White Sox (25.7%)
Now this team sure is surprising. The White Sox have the fifth-highest ERA in baseball (5.04) and yet they’re in the 90th percentile at limiting hard contact. It sure helps that they have Lucas Giolito’s 20.1% hard-hit rate, leading the American League and behind only Strasburg in all of Major League Baseball. Lefty reliever Aaron Bummer doesn’t qualify for the individual pitcher leaderboard (he doesn’t have 200 AB against), but if we reduced the minimum to 100 AB against, he’d rank 5th in baseball (16.5%).
4. Rays (25.9%)
Tampa Bay might be unorthodox with how it uses its pitching staff, but they are getting good results out of it. Blake Snell leads their qualified pitchers with a 21.8% hard-hit rate, but all five of their qualifiers (Snell, Yonny Chirinos, Charlie Morton, Ryan Yarbrough, Jalen Beeks) all come in under 30%. Tyler Glasnow was under 20% before landing on the IL with a forearm strain, and reliever Emilio Pagan clocks in at 20.5%.
5. Mets (26.6%)
It’s been a season to forget for the Mets, but at least its pitching staff is elite at preventing rockets off the bat. Noah Syndergaard (21.6%) is ahead of ace Jacob deGrom (23.7%), with Zack Wheeler not too far behind at 24.8%. Oft-maligned closer Edwin Diaz is at 29.5%, almost double his 15.2% from 2018.
Here’s where all 30 teams rank.