The Best Two-Strike Hitters and Pitchers

Cardinals Matt Carpenter hits a 3rd inning two-run home run against the San Francisco Giants in St. Louis

Photo by Jeff Haynes/REUTERS

In the most recent topic in our series of articles to prepare for the 2014 MLB season, we talked about pitchers who did the best job of striking out batters via whiffs and who did the best job of catching hitters sleeping. Branching off that theme, we look at what happens when a pitcher has a hitter on the ropes. While for some pitchers like Yu Darvish or Koji Uehara a two-strike count means that the hitter has a high likelihood of striking out, there are some batters who do a fantastic job of protecting the plate and finding a way to fend off pitches until they get one that they can hit.
While it is somewhat intuitive, it is interesting to look at the numbers behind two-strike counts.

2012-13 MLB Average in 2-Strike Counts

Count
0-2
1-2
2-2
3-2
AVG.151.164.183.220
SLG.216.239.279.357
Swing %50.3%58.0%65.7%74.0%
Chase %33.7%39.2%44.2%48.2%
Whiff %20.7%19.1%17.4%14.5%
% of Total Pitches Thrown Outside K-Zone66.4%59.6%50.8%39.5%

When a pitcher has his opponent in a 0-2 hole, the large lead allows the pitcher to throw far outside of the zone (tossing the pitch outside of the zone 66.4% of the time) to see if he can get the batter to chase the bad pitch for either a strikeout or a poorly placed ball in play. As the pitcher has a less favorable count, he tends to toss the ball closer to the strike zone, allowing batters to hit the ball better and make contact more often.

While this is not a surprising result, let’s take a look at some of the best hitters and pitchers in two-strike counts from the 2013 season.

Hitters

2013 Best AVG with 2-Strikes (min. 300 Seen)

Batter
Team
AVG
Joe MauerTwins.291
Dustin PedroiaRed Sox.283
Matt CarpenterCardinals.279
Omar InfanteTigers.272
Michael BrantleyIndians.270

2013 Lowest K% with 2 Strikes (min. 300 Seen)

Batter
Team
K%
Marco ScutaroGiants13.3%
Norichika AokiBrewers15.3%
Placido PolancoMarlins17.3%
Martin PradoDiamondbacks18.5%
Victor MartinezTigers20.3%

Starters

2013 Lowest Opp. AVG with 2 Strikes (min. 300 Pitches Thrown)

Pitcher
Team
Opp. AVG
Jose FernanezMarlins.104
Yu DarvishRangers.112
Stephen StrasburgNationals.114
Sonny GrayA’s.115
Max ScherzerTigers.127

2013 Highest K% with 2 Strikes (min. 300 Pitches Thrown)

Pitcher
Team
K%
Yu DarvishRangers55.7%
Felix HernandezMariners51.3%
Jose FernandezMarlins50.4%
Francisco LirianoPirates50.2%
Justin MastersonIndians49.7%

Relievers

2013 Lowest Opp. AVG with 2 Strikes (min. 300 Pitches Thrown)

Pitcher
Team
Opp. AVG
Koji UeharaRed Sox.076
Rex BrothersRockies.081
Tony CingraniReds.085
Jason FrasorRangers.096
Greg HollandRoyals.104

2013 Highest K% with 2 Strikes (min. 300 Pitches Thrown)

Pitcher
Team
K%
Aroldis ChapmanRed62.6%
Craig KimbrelBraves59.8%
Greg HollandRoyals59.5%
Kenley JansenDodgers57.5%
Koji UeharaRed Sox56.7%
 
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