One of the skills of good pitchers is the ability to get hitters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone. This week in By the Numbers, we’ll look at the Orioles starting staff in this regard. Among American League starting pitchers the median rate for coaxing hitters to swing at bad balls (O-Swing %) is ~28%. But it’s not enough to just get guys to go after pitches out of the zone, pitchers need hitters to miss too. For American League starting pitchers the median contact rate (O-Contact %) when swinging at pitches out of the strike zone is ~68.4%. Let’s see how the Orioles starting staff stacks up against these averages. It is important to note that it is early in May and increased sample sizes will make these numbers more reliable. However, for now, small samples are all we have.

Player Name O-Swing % O-Contact %
Jeremy Guthrie 28.7 % 80.2 %
Brad Bergesen 26.1 % 84.8 %
Zach Britton 24.1 % 60.0 %
Jake Arrieta 21.2 % 66.1 %
Chris Tillman 22.0 % 84.0 %

Zach Britton really is a nice pitcher. Hitters don’t swing at his pitches out of the zone particularly frequently but when the do they aren’t making much contact. Chris Tillman doesn’t share this skill. He isn’t getting hitters to chase pitches either but when they do, they make contact at almost the same rate as if the pitch was in the strike zone. Arrieta’s managing to get swings and misses but hitters tend not to expand the strike zone when they oppose him. Bergie and Guthrie’s numbers are pretty similar and neither are awe-inspiring. Both guys can get hitters to go fishing, but thats isn’t a particularly useful skill when hitters make contact at an 80+% rate. Overall, these numbers should make fans continue to be optimistic about Britton and pessimistic about Tillman and Bergesen. Next week we’ll take a lot at the Orioles relief pitchers and O-Swing % and O-Contact %. Special thanks to Mike Salfino’s and his Pitching By the Numbers Column which inspired this post.