Let’s continue looking at hitter’s counts by focusing on the pitchers who struggle in limiting then. Here are the details on how pitches per plate appearance and hitter’s counts are at all-time highs and how that relates to the generally poor pitching in 2017.
The MLB ERA of 4.33 is higher than any year since 2007. As recently as 2014, it was 3.74. One of the reasons is that pitches per batter faced is at a post-2000 high of 3.89, and more pitches means more hitter counts. And there is no more hitter-friendly count situation in baseball than 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2.
Our friends at Inside Edge, stat provider to MLB teams, have data not just on three-ball counts but on all hitter counts: 2-0, 2-1 or three-ball. In these situations, pitchers retire the hitter just 55% of the time. That means a .450 OBP. Of course, every walk comes in this situation. But the best way to avoid walks and hard hits is to not have to throw a hitter a do-or-die pitch.
The league average of 20% of batters faced getting to a three-ball count is a post-2007 high, too. The range is 11% to 33%.
Lance Lynn is the anti-Jeff Samardzjia this year. I have no idea how he continues to keep his head about water. Every time I look for a foundational stat, it seems like Lynn is bad at it. The chickens are going to come home to roost for this Cardinal, I will wager. He’s a terrible 27% three-ball counts and he’s not excelling in dispatching hitters in this situation either, at just the league average of 55% outs, according to Inside Edge.
Kevin Gausman is still 43% owned and I’d say that’s just inattentiveness but he’s owned in our Yahoo Friends and Family league. I don’t see how things are going to turn around for Gausman, who pitches uphill at 26% three-ball counts.
Gio Gonzalez was a fade last week because of dominance (swinging strike, 1-2-3 innings, Ks in four pitches or less). And he’s also pitching too often in do-or-die situations (26% three-ball counts). He’s 91% owned, myself included in Friends and Family. He’s on a great team and pitching in a weak division but you better be prepared to dump him fast because a reckoning is likely coming.
Jake Odorizzi is 64% owned with people hoping for him to rebound to expected levels. But he’s always been a ham-and-egger to me — nothing special. He’s also a terrible 26% in our stat.
Finally, there’s Robbie Ray. Now I’m going to go contrarian here and say that maybe all the upside is in him actually avoiding these terrible counts in the second half. After all, he’s excelling despite his 25%. Ray’s been at 21% in two of the last three seasons (the other was 26%). If Ray could just get to there, which is still very bad, he could be a king-maker in the second half.