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Greg Maddux Plate Discipline Standouts for 2020


In my previous article, I wrote about my new weighted index statistic for hitters – mPDI, which stems from a famous quote by Hall of Fame pitcher, Greg Maddux:

“The key to pitching is to have the ability to throw a strike when they’re taking and throw a ball when the hitter is swinging.”

The Maddux Plate Discipline Index (mPDI) for hitters led us to uncover some plate discipline standouts such as Cavan Biggio and Christian Walker. Today, we will look at the pitching version of mPDI. We can enumerate the percentage of the time in which pitchers demonstrate Greg Maddux's formulation of deception. To review, each and every pitch thrown at a baseball game can be classified into one of the following tracked six outcomes:

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mPDI Matrix

Outcome A Outcome B Outcome C Outcome D Outcome E Outcome F
Zone? Out of Zone Out of Zone Out of Zone In Zone In Zone In Zone
Swing? Swung On Swung On No Swing Swung On Swung On No Swing
Contact? No Contact Contact Made No Swing No Contact Contact Made No Swing

Closely resembling his quote, the Maddux Plate Discipline Index (mPDI) for pitchers is defined as:

Outcome A + Outcome B + Outcome F
Total Pitches

The version of mPDI for pitchers is the mirror image definition of the hitter’s mPDI [which aggregated Outcomes C, D & E]. To give context, an awful pitcher mPDI would be one nearing .250, while an elite one would approach .400. The average for 2019 was .315.

First, let’s start by looking at the 2019 mPDI leaderboard for pitchers (minimum 25 innings):

Player IP mPDI
Sergio Romo 60.3 .390
Ryan Pressly 54.3 .387
Adam Morgan 29.7 .387
Andrew Kittredge 49.7 .385
Evan Marshall 50.7 .383
Jimmy Cordero 37.3 .382
Stephen Strasburg 209.0 .372
Zac Gallen 80.0 .366
Chaz Roe 51.0 .364
Chris Sale 147.3 .364
Victor Alcantara 42.7 .361
Alex Claudio 62.0 .361
Will Smith 65.3 .361
Brandon Workman 71.7 .360
Aaron Nola 202.3 .359
Randy Dobnak 28.3 .358
Matt Bowman 32.0 .358
Tommy Milone 111.7 .358
Adam Kolarek 55.0 .358
Matt Wisler 51.3 .358
Jose Berrios 200.3 .357
Lucas Sims 43.0 .357
Jake Jewell 26.3 .357
Dominic Leone 40.7 .356
Brad Hand 57.3 .355
Blake Snell 107.0 .355
Zack Greinke 208.7 .355
Blake Treinen 58.7 .354
Kyle Gibson 160.0 .354
Tim Mayza 51.3 .354
Jared Hughes 71.3 .353
Austin Adams 32.0 .353
Tony Watson 54.0 .353
Scott Barlow 70.3 .352
Collin McHugh 74.7 .351
Jordan Hicks 28.7 .350
Zack Britton 61.3 .350
Jameson Taillon 37.3 .350
Patrick Corbin 202.0 .350
Luke Jackson 72.7 .350
Keone Kela 29.7 .349
Hyun-Jin Ryu 182.7 .349
Yoshihisa Hirano 53.0 .349
Miles Mikolas 184.0 .348
Austin Pruitt 47.0 .348
Jeurys Familia 60.0 .348
Wandy Peralta 39.7 .347
Noe Ramirez 67.7 .347
Hector Neris 67.7 .346
Tyson Ross 35.3 .346
Charlie Morton 194.7 .346
Kyle Hendricks 177.0 .346
Joe Kelly 51.3 .345
Pedro Strop 41.7 .345
Yu Darvish 178.7 .345
Jonathan Loaisiga 31.7 .345

Let’s dive into a few of these top Maddux Plate Discipline pitchers.

 

Stephen Strasburg (SP, WAS)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Stephen Strasburg 209.0 .372 .096 .129 .146

At the top of the mPDI leaderboard for starting pitchers, we find the World Series MVP, Stephen Strasburg. He was my pre-season prediction to win the NL Cy Young award. Last year, Strasburg compiled a 5.7 WAR, which was third-most amongst National League pitchers. He struck out a career high 251 batters, with a 10-year best 1.04 WHIP.

But today, we give him attention for his plate discipline and deception. Last year’s O-Swing% was 37%, the highest of his career. That means he was generating more swings out of the zone than ever before. His total swinging strike rate [in and out of the zone] was an elite 13.4% - also the best of his career.

It is too early to tell whether these gains have sustained in 2020, as he began the season injured. To date, in his 5 innings thus far, he has not fared well. His fastball velocity is down 2 MPH from last season, but his command looks decent with a first-pitch strike rate of almost 70%. If Strasburg can return to full health, look for him to continue to pitch at an ace level.

 

Ryan Pressly (RP, HOU)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Ryan Pressly 54.3 .387 .122 .106 .159

Ryan Pressly has quietly been one of the most effective relievers over the past couple of seasons. His .390 mPDI was the 2nd highest of any pitcher in the majors last year. Only Sergio Romo had a higher Maddux index. What jumps out from a plate discipline perspective is his Outcome A (out of the zone, swung on and missed). 12.2% of Pressly’s pitches in 2019 fell into this cohort, which was the 2nd highest in all of baseball. His Outcome F (in the zone, no swing) was also elite. Almost 16% of his pitches were taken for a strike without a swing!

Ryan caught my eye last season in his first 26 innings. From March to May last year, Pressly yielded only one earned run. Even more impressive – he only issued two walks during that span. As we see from his mPDI result, these were hardly lucky outcomes; Pressly is an elite deceptive reliever.

Pressly started 2020 with some injury concerns, but assuming he gets through those – the closer job will be his in Houston.

 

Evan Marshall (RP, CHW)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Evan Marshall 50.7 .383 .079 .181 .123

In an uncertain fantasy landscape, I prefer at times to roster (and activate) high strikeout middle relievers, rather than to play a poor 7th starting pitcher. It behooves the astute fantasy owner to look for a few unknown diamonds in the rough.

Evan Marshall is slowly becoming a trusted option in the South side of Chicago. He is being used in more and more high leverage situations, and has found himself recently pitching in the 8th inning of games.

mPDI can give us a clue as to why. Marshall’s Outcome B (Out of zone, swing and contact) was the highest of any pitcher in baseball last season at 18%. Almost one-fifth of his pitches were contacted while out of the zone – which is a key to generating poor contact. His hard-hit contact rate according to Statcast was 30% last season, and it has stayed low thus far in 2020 at 33%.

To start the season, in his first 11 innings, he has compiled a 2.38 ERA – which FIP and xFIP agree with (2.79 & 2.51 respectively). His WHIP is a mere 1.15 and he has yet to give up a barrel. His K% rate is 33.3% - which means that one out of every three batters he faces ends in a strikeout.

Should Alex Colome falter, I could see Marshall sliding into some save opportunities. Even if not, Marshall could be an excellent play in deeper formats.

 

Zac Gallen (SP, ARI)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Zac Gallen 80.0 .366 .090 .120 .156

Zac Gallen was traded from the Marlins to the Diamondbacks in the middle of last season, in a trade of prospects. The Marlins perhaps had enough pitching depth in the organization, and wanted to secure a position player, which are often more reliable. Perhaps though, Gallen was worth keeping.

After a 2.81 ERA in 80 innings last season, Gallen is off to a brilliant start in 2020. In his first five starts he has a 2.40 ERA, a dazzling 1.03 WHIP with 36 strikeouts in 30 innings. To boot, he has a near 50% groundball rate.

As for his plate discipline, Gallen was the 2nd best starting pitcher in terms of his mPDI. His Outcome F (in the zone, no swing) was superb, and his out of zone metrics are outstanding. His swinging strike rate was 12.8% last year, and so far in 2020 it is up to 13.0%! Gallen is increasing his use of sliders in his pitch mix this year – further perfecting his repertoire.

I have high hopes for Zac Gallen long term, and mPDI is thus far confirming my intuition in the short term.

 

Randy Dobnak (SP, MIN)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Randy Dobnak 28.3 .358 .087 .134 .138

I did not expect to be writing about this next player. Randy Dobnak is an individual that I personally had not been high on for fantasy baseball. However, his results in 2020 have been stellar. In his first 5 games, he is currently 5th in the major leagues in ERA [among qualified starting pitchers] at 1.42. In fact, his career ERA is now sitting at 1.59 with a 1.01 WHIP. It seems fantastic, until one glances at his strikeouts which are sub-pedestrian. He struck out just 14 batters in 25 innings this season – less than a 5 K/9.

Then we come to his plate discipline. His mPDI of .358 was among last year’s top pitchers. Each one of his Maddux plate discipline outcomes are superb. Despite sub-par strikeouts, Dobnak has generated an elite 65% groundball rate this season; he is producing weak contact.

Succeeding at pitching is not only about raw "stuff." Effective pitching is highly dependent on deceptiveness. Using tangential guidance from Greg Maddux via mPDI, we are now clued into keeping an eye out for potentially undervalued pitchers such as Randy Dobnak.



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Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More