Sarris: Are swinging strikes better than called strikes?

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on April 1, 2015:

Everything you know to be true in your heart but hasn’t been proven by stats is worth hanging on to, even if just a little bit, and privately. The stats may catch up some day. This isn’t to say that all conventional wisdom is correct. This is to say that all “statistically-proven” wisdom is not always going to continue to be true.

Take swinging strikes, called strikes, and Vance Worley.

Vance Worley blew up in 2011. He struck out more batters on a rate basis than he ever had in the minor leagues. He did it with one of the worst swinging strike rates among starters that year. He did it with called strikes — he was fifth among starters with at least 2000 pitches that year. He did it with style, as you can see thanks to Zoo With Roy.


As 2012 approached, I was tasked with figuring out his fantasy value for the upcoming season. I had a personal preference for the swinging strike. To me, there’s no cleaner statistical happening in baseball — that the batter swung and missed is irrefutable. And the swinging strike as a moment is both triumphant and despondent, all in at once. It renders a one-nothing August game watchable. It’s beautiful.

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Originally published: April 3, 2015. Last Updated: April 3, 2015.