Northbrook, IL - March 29, 2012 - According to STATS ... a pitch that induces a lot of swings and misses is usually an effective one. Over the last three seasons combined, these relievers generated the highest percentages of swings and misses for the most commonly used pitches.

Relievers—Highest Pct of Swings and Misses by Pitch Type, 2009-2011

Fastball     Changeup  
(minimum 500 swings)     (minimum 150 swings)  
Kenley Jansen 38.5   Ryan Madson 57.0
Tyler Clippard 33.9   Francisco Rodriguez 47.4
Craig Kimbrel 32.1   Esmerling Vasquez 45.2
MLB Average 14.7   MLB Average 29.1
Curveball     Slider  
(minimum 150 swings)     (minimum 150 swings)  
Nick Masset 51.4   Jonny Venters 68.8
Dan Wheeler 47.7   Sergio Santos 62.2
Jeremy Affeldt 47.3   Greg Holland 60.2
MLB Average 28.3   MLB Average 31.4
Split-Finger     Cutter  
(minimum 150 swings)     (minimum 150 swings)  
Brandon League 57.4   Javier Lopez 35.6
Joaquin Benoit 45.9   Francisco Rodriguez 35.4
Jeff Fulchino 42.7   Mark DiFelice 34.8
MLB Average 33.4   MLB Average 18.7

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Leading off an inning in 2011, Colorado’s Todd Helton reached base in 49 of 101 plate appearances for a .485 OBP. He recorded the highest OBP among the 248 players who led off an inning at least 75 times. Helton was 34-for-86 (.395) with 15 walks in those situations. Next in OBP leading off an inning were Houston’s Brett Wallace (.460), Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.444) and Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez (.436).

For a reliever entering a game, walking the first batter often leads to trouble. Two Reds relievers, Aroldis Chapman and Jose Arredondo, frequently fell victim to the first-batter walk. Chapman led all relievers with 13, followed by Arredondo, Detroit closer Jose Valverde, Tampa Bay’s Juan Cruz and Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs -- all with 11.

Over the last three seasons, the Phillies’ Chase Utley has avoided grounding into double plays as effectively as anyone. He’s grounded into just 12 twin-killings in 342 double-play situations. Among players who have faced at least 200 GDP situations since the start of the 2009 season, Utley’s GDP percentage of 3.5 is the lowest in the majors. Next are Carlos Pena (3.6 percent), Curtis Granderson (4.1), Carl Crawford (4.3) and Drew Stubbs (4.3).

A hard slider is especially devastating when a hurler can locate it in the strike zone. Among 2011 ERA qualifiers who used sliders for at least five percent of their total pitches, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner led by throwing 73.5 percent of his sliders for strikes. Next after Bumgarner were Pittsburgh’s Jeff Karstens (73.4), Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin (71.5) and Houston’s Brett Myers (71.5).

With two strikes, the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson wasn’t a defensive hitter in 2011. He stroked 20 of his 41 home runs in two-strike counts, easily the most in the majors. Granderson powered seven homers in 2-2 counts, six each at 1-2 and 3-2, and one on an 0-2 pitch. Next in two-strike home runs last season were Atlanta’s Dan Uggla (16), Toronto’s Jose Bautista (15) and Florida’s Mike Stanton (14).

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No pitcher fell behind in the count 2-0 more times in 2011 than Giants ace Tim Lincecum, who also gave up more walks (60) than anyone after starting 2-0. Five of the six pitchers allowing the most 2-0 counts posted walk rates that were among the 13 highest in the majors, and four allowed an OPS of 1.000 or higher after starting 2-0.

Most Times Falling Behind 2-0 to Batters, 2011

Pitcher 2-0 Counts BB/9 Opp OPS*
Tim Lincecum, SF
Gio Gonzalez, OAK
Trevor Cahill, OAK
A.J. Burnett, NYY
Jhoulys Chacin, COL
Luke Hochevar, KC

*after starting 2-0

In John Farrell’s first year as manager, the Toronto Blue Jays ranked eighth among the 30 teams in stolen-base attempts (183) and steals (131). No team, however, topped the Blue Jays in stolen-base attempts of third base (38) and steals of third (32). Rajai Davis led the majors with 17 steals of third, in 18 attempts, and next among the Jays were Jose Bautista (4), Edwin Encarnacion (2), Brett Lawrie (2) and Mike McCoy (2).

In his breakout season, Arizona’s Ian Kennedy was arguably the majors’ most dominant pitcher after the sixth inning. The right-hander, who totaled 32.0 innings from the seventh inning on in 2011, allowed just 16 hits and two walks while striking out 31. He limited hitters to a .348 OPS after the sixth, the lowest among pitchers who worked into the seventh inning at least 15 times. Kennedy posted a 3.17 ERA over the first six frames, and a 1.13 mark in later innings.

In 2011, the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton batted .434 and slugged .795 when he put the first pitch in play. That’s quite a payoff on a very aggressive approach. Among players with 500 plate appearances, Hamilton easily ranked first by swinging at 46.7 percent of the first pitches he saw. 

Highest Pct of Swings at 1st Pitch — 2011
(minimum 500 PA; regular season only)

Player Pct.
Josh Hamilton, TEX 46.7
Miguel Olivo, SEA 43.6
B.J. Upton, TB 42.2
Aramis Ramirez, CHC 42.0
Vladimir Guerrero, BAL 41.9
MLB Average 26.7

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Nick Stamm