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Statcast Spotlight: Top 10 MLB Pitchers Shutting Down Hard Hitters (2024)

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Pitchers Aim to Prevent Solid Contact, Not Just Strikeouts

Traditionally, pitchers focused on keeping batters from hitting the ball hard. Metrics like slugging percentage tracked this goal. Now, Statcast data offers a new way to measure success: preventing “squared-up” contact, where the hitter makes the most solid connection with the bat.

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Here’s why it matters: squared-up swings lead to much higher batting averages and slugging percentages compared to off-center hits. Great hitters like Betts and Arraez excel at squaring up the ball.

Instead, let’s look at pitchers who prevent batters from doing this. These pitchers, unlike those allowing frequent squared-up contact who are likely struggling, are achieving success with a different strategy.

This approach aligns with pitchers like Charlie Morton, who prioritizes weak contact over strikeouts. Even at 40, Morton performs well in this new metric.

This article highlights the top 10 pitchers in 2024 (with a minimum of batters faced) who prevent squared-up contact. While not officially on the list due to fewer at-bats faced, pitcher Miller deserves a mention for his exceptional performance. His success goes beyond strikeouts – he also limits hard contact when batters do make contact. 

Top 10 Pitchers Preventing Squared-Up Contact (Min. 200 Competitive Swings Faced)

RankPitcherTeamSquared-Up Rate (%)Key Stats
1Kyle BradishOrioles17Ground Ball Rate Up, Hard-Hit Rate Down, Strikeout Rate Up
2MacKenzie GoreNationals17.4Increased Fastball Velocity, Home Run Rate Cut in Half
3Freddy PeraltaBrewers17.7Elusive Pitching Style, Historically Difficult to Square Up
4 (tie)Reed GarrettMets17.7Elite Sweeper and Splitter, Struggles with Fastballs
4 (tie)Garrett CrochetWhite Sox18.6Effective Cutter, Maintains Velocity as Starter
6Michael KingPadres19.3Increased Changeup Usage, Leads to Success
7Tyler GlasnowDodgers19.6Healthy Glasnow Limits Hard Contact, Possibly with New Sinker
8Cole RagansRoyals19.7Dominant Changeup, Backs Up Promise as Royals Ace
9Zack WheelerPhillies19.8Reintroduced Splitter is Most Difficult Pitch to Square Up
10Kutter CrawfordRed Sox19.9Increased Sweeper Usage Leads to Breakout Season

This list features a surprising mix of established stars and breakout performances. We see veterans like Zack Wheeler and Freddy Peralta alongside young guns like Kyle Bradish and Cole Ragans. Pitchers like Reed Garrett and Kutter Crawford have emerged as unexpected leaders in this new metric.

Several factors contribute to a pitcher’s ability to suppress squared-up contact. Increased ground ball rates and strikeouts are hallmarks of success. Pitchers who can develop and utilize off-speed pitches effectively, like Garrett’s sweeper and splitter or Ragan’s changeup, gain an edge.

The “squared-up” rate is just one weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal, but it’s a valuable tool for understanding how effectively they’re limiting hard contact. As the game evolves, expect this metric to play an increasingly important role in evaluating pitching performance.

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