On January 17, Blaine Boyer, baseball’s leader in lowest strikeout percentage, was signed to a one-year deal with an invitation to Spring Training by the Atlanta Braves. A 35-year-old free agent pitcher should not be news to anyone who watches the game religiously or occasionally, but Boyer possesses a skill we don’t often see in the present game of baseball.
As previously stated, Boyer does not strike out batters, or at least not many. In counting stats, Boyer struck out 26 batters in the 66 innings he threw for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2016 season. How can he be so mundane, yet still be employed by a major league team? In 2015, Boyer outperformed his FIP by more than a run with the Minnesota Twins and he only struck out 12.3 percent of batters faced. In fact, in the past two seasons, Boyer has allowed more line drives to be hit than his career average of 19.2 percent. Travis Sawchick looked into the weak contact that Boyer induces on a regular basis. That is where we see the first real change in ability. Boyer has limited hard contact while producing more soft and medium contact.
In addition to the weak contact, Boyer’s homerun rate is very low (.62/9), which helps him outperform his xFIP. (xFIP works the same way as FIP, but takes into account the league average homerun rate instead of the individual.)
It’s only a minor league contract with an invite to spring training, but Boyer is certainly a unicorn in the landscape of escalating strikeouts. He would fit into the 1920’s with his 9.8 percent strikeout rate but, by today’s standards, Boyer’s recent moderate success has people scratching their heads. Statcast has recently shown that pitchers have more ability over how hard a ball is hit than previously believed. Kyle Hendricks, Greg Maddux, and others without overpowering stuff understand this sentiment. In the age of 100 mph fastballs and sliders that seem to defy physics, Boyer still has the chance at a major league job. I’ve never believed in magic, but Boyer is starting to give me reason to.Next post: Better Know a Ballplayer: Kurt Bevacqua
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