by Steve Mancuso

Get your weekend off to a great stat: Pitchers limiting contact

Despite his lousy start last night, Luis Castillo is still having a terrific season. Here is one measure of it.

The statistic Contact% indicates the percentage of pitches on which contact was made when the batter swings. Contact in this context means hitting a ball into fair territory. It’s safe to assume one goal of pitching is to prevent the hitter from putting the ball into play when he swings. The lower the Contact%, the better. Let’s take a look at MLB starting pitchers and their contact rates. Here are the top 21 (FanGraphs), updated to include yesterday’s games:

21. Noah Syndergaard (NYM) – 74.4%

20. German Marquez (COL) – 73.8%

19. Sonny Gray (CIN) – 73.4%

18. Yu Darvish (CHC) – 73.3%

17. Trevor Bauer (CIN) – 73.2%

16. Charlie Morton (TBR) – 72.6%

15. Jack Flaherty (STL) – 72.4%

14. Matthew Boyd (DET) – 71.7%

13. Jacob deGrom (NYM) – 71.5%

12. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – 71.3%

11. Kyle Gibson (MIN) – 70.8%

10. Kenta Maeda (LAD) – 70.4%

9. Robbie Ray (ARZ) – 70.2%

8. Lucas Giolito (CHW) – 70.0%

7. Chris Sale (BOS) – 69.9%

6. Patrick Corbin (WAS) – 69.8%

5. Shane Bieber (CLE) – 69.9%

4. Justin Verlander (HOU) – 69.4%

3. Gerrit Cole (HOU) – 69.2%

2. Max Scherzer (WAS) – 67.5%

1. Luis Castillo (CIN) – 64.7%

This is a good group of pitchers including several Cy Young winners. Last year’s leader in Contact% was Blake Snell (TBR) who won the A.L. Cy Young. The year before that Corey Kluber won the A.L Cy Young and finished second in Contact%. (Snell and Kluber aren’t on the list this year because of injuries.) In 2016, the Contact% was Max Scherzer, who won the N.L Cy Young. And so on.

It’s nice to see three Reds starters in the top 20.

Note: the gap between #1 and #2 on this list — Castillo and Scherzer — is the largest gap on the list.

Note: The gap between #1 and #3 is larger than the gap between #3 and #19.

If Luis Castillo finishes the season with a rate of 64.7% it would be the lowest rate ever recorded for a qualified pitcher.

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Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.