FANTASY PLAYS: For daily pitchers, look at swinging strikes

Strikeouts are king in daily fantasy baseball. While using career strikeout rates for pitchers and opposing hitters is a good way to identify high strikeout potential matchups, we also want to find ways to identify pitchers whose strikeout rates should move relative to their career averages.

One way to do this is by analyzing a pitcher’s swinging strike rate (SwStr). A pitcher’s swinging strike rate is the percentages of his pitches that a hitter swings and misses at. Intuitively, it makes sense that generating swings and misses would be linked to strikeout rate, and the math supports this claim.

In general, a SwStr rate above 14 percent is elite and linked to an average strikeout rate over 30 percent. On the flip side, a SwStr rate below 6 percent is terrible and linked to an average strikeout rate of around just 15 percent. The league average strikeout rate this season is on the rise and sits at 22.5 percent.

So far this season, the qualified starting pitcher with the biggest increase in SwStr rate from last season is Gerrit Cole. His SwStr rate currently sits at an elite 16 percent after just being average a year ago (9.5 percent). Sure enough, we have seen a massive bump in srikeouts, from 23.1 percent to 40.8 percent.

Most pitchers won’t see such dramatic changes, but we can still make useful determinations based on year over year SwStr rate changes. Dylan Bundy, Patrick Corbin, and Justin Verlander are other starting pitchers whose early season strikeout rate increases you should be buying, while Trevor Bauer, Chris Sale, and Aaron Nola all have increased SwStr rates that haven’t yet led to the increases in strikeout rate that we would expect.

On the other end of the spectrum, Chris Archer and Carlos Carrasco have seen drops in strikeout rate despite similar SwStr rates to last season. Look for them to bounce back to similar levels as last season. However, drops in strikeout rate for Corey Kluber and Sonny Gray do appear justified based on reduced SwStr rates.


Colonial Country Club will host the Fort Worth Invitational this week, as Kevin Kisner looks to defend his title. Colonial CC has historically required strong approach game with 40 percent of the strokes gained on approach and just 9 percent of the strokes gained off the tee during last year’s tournament.

Jordan Spieth is the top-rated golfer this week with greater than 25 percent odds to finish inside the top 5. Jordan is ranked second on tour in strokes gained tee-to-green and is top 10 in strokes gained approach as well.

While his results have been pedestrian by his standard, much of that is driven by poor putting, where he is ranked outside of the top 150 on tour. Spieth hasn’t finished a season ranked outside of the top 50 in strokes gained putting since finishing 60th as a rookie in 2013. His putting woes may scare some fantasy gamers but are likely to improve sooner rather than later. Spieth has won this event previously and has the most strokes gained over the previous five years at Colonial CC and is the deserving favorite.

Steve Stricker is another name to watch this week and is usually not popular in fantasy formats. This lack of popularity makes him a nice target for tournaments and this course sets up well for Stricker. With only 9 percent of strokes gained off the tee, Stricker’s lack of distance won’t penalize him and he can lean on his balanced approach, around the green and putting game. Stricker hasn’t played enough rounds to qualify for the PGA Tour statistical leaderboards but would be rated inside of the top 30 in those metrics if you adjusted the data to look at a rolling average. Stricker finished inside of the top 10 at this event last year and comes in good form with a blend of strong Champions Tour results and a top 25 at The Players Championship.

This column was provided to The Associated Press by DailyRoto,