One Guy Gets More Chases Than Andrew Miller

What makes Andrew Miller so good? There’s a variety of contributing reasons — there’s the velocity, the fastball, the slider, the delivery, the body, the mentality, and so on and so on. Every part of Miller comes together to make him nearly perfect. But, what’s the mechanism? What’s the statistical explanation for Miller’s dominance? In essence, he warps the hitter’s idea of the strike zone. Hitters don’t swing at many strikes, and they swing at too many balls. They have the statistical discipline of bad-hitting pitchers.

So far this season, Miller has gotten opponents to swing at pitches out of the zone 43% of the time. Once again, that’s super high — by O-Swing%, Miller ranks second in baseball. There’s one guy in front of him. That one guy is Anthony Swarzak?

Sure, why not. It’s 31-year-old journeyman and minor-league-contract acquisition Anthony Swarzak, pitching out of the White Sox bullpen. I’ve already written about how Tommy Kahnle is overachieving. Now here’s Swarzak, too, basically out of nowhere. I’ve got a plot for you.

That’s Swarzak in red. Compared to last year, his O-Swing% against has improved by 14 percentage points, and his Contact% against has improved by 15 percentage points. So Swarzak is way, way out there, having now adjusted well to full-time relief. Let me take that back; Swarzak has mostly relieved for a while. First he was a starter. Then he was a swingman. Last year, with the Yankees, Swarzak for the first time dramatically increased his slider rate, overtaking his number of fastballs. Swarzak has kept that up in 2017. The difference this time around is in location. The Yankees got Swarzak to change his pitch mix rather aggressively. The White Sox have gotten Swarzak to focus on one specific area around the plate.

From Baseball Savant:

Last season, Swarzak threw 63% of his pitches to the glove-side half, which was one of the higher rates around. This season, Swarzak has thrown 85% of his pitches to the glove-side half, which ties him for the highest rate in the league. The next-closest pitcher trails by more than 10 percentage points. Swarzak works righties away, all the time. He works lefties inside, all the time. He throws his fastball to the glove-side, and he throws his slider to the glove-side. His locations have gotten precise, and consistent, and hitters haven’t really known what to do.

In January, Anthony Swarzak was basically nothing. I’m going to guess he signed with the White Sox because he figured there he stood a better chance of getting a big-league opportunity. He was right! And for a month and a half he’s been one of baseball’s more effective relievers. I don’t know what to tell you. This is our shared reality. How about Anthony Swarzak?

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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6 years ago

Is Blake Parker next?

Aaron Judge's Gavel
6 years ago
Reply to  YKnotDisco

I imagine most Yankee fans are not too surprised seeing guys like Miller, Wilson, and Robertson doing well, but incredulous seeing some of these former players littered among the top 50 reliever leaderboard like Parker, Swarzak, Kahnle, and Whitley. Nothing to complain about since their pen has been great so far though.

The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
6 years ago

It’s definitely a weird feeling seeing how Yankees’s ex-relievers are doing so well (with the exception of Miller and Robertson).

Last year, the Yankees had a top notch bullpen with Betances, Miller, and Chapman. But after that, our bullpen was largely mediocre. Yankees were heavy on their #BullpenShuttle because the team couldn’t find a consistent option behind the big three.

I’m glad guys like Parker, Swarzak, Kahnle, Goody, and Whitley are doing well. However, I can’t help but think if Swarzak and Goody were like this last year then the Yankees would have one of the best bullpens every. It also helps we got Clippard for *nothing* who’s been great, and our son Warren is back in the pinestripes.

6 years ago

Maybe it’s because they can grow a beard. I know nothing makes me feel more confident than a beard.