Fun Numbers Through the First Two Months by tin8shusd June 10, 2019 SNELL THE GLOVE Since 2002, when the stat began being recorded, the top three swinging strike percentages for pitchers through June 1st of a season (minimum 60 innings) are… 1. Blake Snell (2019) – 19.1% 2. Max Scherzer (2018) – 17.5% 3. Curt Schilling (2002) – 16.8% To say that Snell has been in fine form the first two months of the season would be a massive understatement, as he’s in historic form according to this metric. The reigning AL Cy Young winner’s surface numbers may not look as incredible as they did last year, but his talent is still off the charts. … RYU READY TO ROCK? When facing lefties, there is an offense that ranks first in ISO, second in wOBA, third in wRC+, and possesses the eighth-lowest strikeout rate this season. It’s not the Twins, who have caught the serious attention of the baseball world. It’s not the Astros, who have had quite the reputation of being death to lefties for the past few years. It’s also not the other teams (the Dodgers, Mariners, Braves, Cardinals, etc.) you would normally suspect… Yep, you didn’t guess it! It’s the Arizona Diamondbacks. Granted, two months of data may still be leaning on the short side of sample sizes when it comes to team trends. Their BABIP indicates at least some bit of good fortune, and they currently sit with the third-lowest walk rate. However, none of this mattered against Hyun-Jin Ryu in his last outing on June 4. The Dodgers southpaw continued his stellar campaign by firing seven scoreless innings against the D-backs, allowing just three hits to move to 9-1 in 12 starts. Ryu now holds a 1.35 ERA, 2.6 fWAR, and has allowed just five walks to 71 strikeouts in 80 innings. It’s worth noting that the matchup took place at Chase Field, where they’ve been conveniently keeping the roof open for night games, which in turn mitigates the effects of the humidor system they installed before the 2018 season. That said, Ryu is doing something truly remarkable and seems capable of silencing just about any lineup in MLB. … BRAVES NEW WORLD One of the most important reasons numbers are fun is that they inevitably lead one down a path of more inquisition. This brings about more discovery, which in turn results in attaining more knowledge. This intoxicating feeling of having synapses fire about in all directions inside your brainberry is what I term “learning” — and I’m not saying that’s how it works but I think that’s how it works. I’ll have to dig in to that later, I suppose. In researching for this article, I ventured away from my usual process in hopes of stumbling upon something… and of course, I did! Otherwise, why mention it, right? You know, for all of the fascination with barrels the baseball community has had since the advent of Statcast metrics (and indeed it’s warranted), it just dawned on me this morning that very little attention is ever paid to the pitching side of the barrel equation. I did something quite bold and unprecedented (for me) this morning. While viewing the default view of the Statcast leaderboard, I selected “PITCHERS” from the drop-down list and then clicked the vaunted “Update” button. After whittling down the results to include only those pitchers with at least 80 batted ball events on the season (this included hitting said “Update” button once more, for those of you less PC-literate readers), I was blown away to see the results. Of the 188 MLB pitchers that qualify, there are nine that have a Barrels/BBE Ratio of 3.8% or lower. Of these top nine, FOUR of them all pitch for the same team — the Atlanta Braves. 9th: Kevin Gausman 3.8% (28) 6th: Max Fried 3.3% (25) 4th: Mike Soroka 2.5% (21) 3rd: Sean Newcomb 2.4% (25) I offer all of this paragraph as an aside: their respective ages are in parentheses to help emphasize just how dialed in the Braves organization is right now. All but Soroka were acquired via trade, so it’s not like they’ve simply cashed in on top draft picks (they indeed traded for their emerging shortstop Dansby Swanson as well). I’m not paid enough (or at all) to know how they are doing it, but the numbers indicate something very special is going on in the Big A. The season is no longer young, and although there is still a lot to parse, these sample sizes are becoming considerable enough to be viewed as real trends.