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Using Pitcher Strikeout Rates As Hitters

Starting pitchers in the NL tend to look better than pitchers in the AL. This is mostly because the AL has a designated hitter slot, while the NL uses pitchers at the plate, who tend to be awful hitters and can be relied upon for automatic outs. Because of this pitchers advantage, most of the best pitchers in daily fantasy tend to be in the NL, especially on DraftKings where negative points for hits and walks are included.

When I’m choosing pitchers for daily fantasy baseball, I tend to assume the opposing pitcher is going to be worth an automatic strikeout or two. But surely pitchers vary in skill as hitters. How does the skill of the opposing pitcher as a hitter impact the projected performance of a target pitcher?

You can find data on pitchers as hitters over at Fangraphs. The following link looks at data since 2000 for pitchers with 30+ plate appearances. These sample sizes are extremely small in a lot of cases, but strikeout percentage stabilizes over a pretty small amount of plate appearances.

There are 484 pitchers who have had 30 or more plate appearances since 2000. As you can see, each player vastly differs in their strikeout percentage.

Here’s a quick run through the data. Daniel Cabrera is by far the worst pitcher as a hitter with a 75% strikeout rate. Livan Hernandez is the best in a huge sample with a 10.2% strikeout rate. The highest wOBA player is Micah Owings, who would be the 2nd best hitter on the Diamondbacks this year if he was still in the majors. Jon Lester has the worst wOBA, only .016. He’s never actually had a hit in his career.

Because the strikeout rates are very different, the hitter skill of the opposing pitcher actually does have some impact on our pitcher projections, albeit not a large one. Let’s assume a pitcher will, on average, see the plate twice a game as a hitter. An average pitcher, pitching against Daniel Cabrera, would average 1.5 strikeouts against Cabrera alone. That same pitcher against Livan Hernandez would only average 0.2 strikeouts. That is a 1.3 strikeout difference, equal to 1.3 more expected fantasy points for our pitcher on FanDuel, which is quite a huge impact for one player.

This data comes in use today as we have two high strikeout pitchers on the hill. Travis Wood has a career 33.5% strikeout rate, but going against lefty Francisco Liriano should make him quite a bit worse. Lance Lynn has one of the highest strikeout rates among active pitchers, 48.3%, which should have a positive impact on Gio Gonzalez strikeout projection.

Strikeout projections for pitchers as hitters are more interesting than useful, but they are a good metric to use as a tiebreaker between pitchers who are projected close to equally. Use pitcher strikeout rates as hitters to help determine that quality of strikeout matchup for a batting order.

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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