The Hunter Strickland Project


Upon his arrival in the majors on September 1st, Hunter Strickland began blazing 98 mph heaters throughout the month, making a name for himself as the postseason began. Strickland made nine appearances, tossing seven innings, and working to the tune of a 0.00 ERA in the regular season. If the season had ended right there, we’d be talking about Hunter Strickland, the Giants’ closer for 2015. Alas, the season did not end then (thanks, World Series), so we will be discussing Hunter Strickland, future Giants’ closer?

In the playoffs, Strickland gave up six home runs (seven runs total) in eight appearances, leading to a postseason ERA of 7.56. Aside from the home runs (which is a large omission, admittedly) his peripheral stats were pretty good. In October, the reliever struck out eight, and walked just two, for a 4:1 K/BB ratio. In September, he was even better. In fact, he was so good, there isn’t even a ratio to prove how good he was. Strickland struck out nine, and walked zero.

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What this says is, the kid is a strike thrower, and therein lies the problem for Strickland. In the regular season, 77 of the 95 pitches Strickland threw were for strikes, or 81%. The postseason saw that percentage dip to 68%. Wade Davis, arguably the most dominant reliever in the postseason, threw strikes 71% of the time in October.

But you just said that throwing strikes was the problem, yet the numbers suggest otherwise. What kid of tomfoolery are you pulling here, Jason?

Sure, he throws gas, but if he’s too efficient, a batter can gear up for a heater, and they can catch up to it. They know it’ll be in the strike zone, so they can adjust accordingly. If he is too wild, and falls behind in the count, the batter knows that Strickland is going to try and grove a fastball for a strike, ending in the same result.

Throwing strikes is part of the problem. The other part is throwing a variety of pitches.

Strickland relied on his fastball too much, leading to all six of his postseason home runs allowed. Pitching takes finesse. You can’t throw a fastball 70% of the time (which he did) and expect good results every time. By comparison, Madison Bumgarner threw his fastball 45.5% of the time in 2014. Granted, his velocity is about 6 mph less than Strickland’s, and Mad Bum is a starter, not a reliever, but he is also highly effective.

Aroldis Chapman, baseball’s hardest throwing relief pitcher, used his fastball 68.8% of the time in 2014, and he clocks in at over 100 mph. In previous seasons, Chapman was relying on his fastball around 85% of the time, but with less reliance on the pitch, and an added changeup, Chapman posted a 2.00 ERA, and also saw his average fastball velocity rise by 2 mph between 2013 and 2014.

So what to do with Hunter Strickland? Well, since he skipped Triple-A altogether, he’ll most likely start 2015 in Sacramento with the River Cats to work on his secondary pitches, as well as his pomposity.

Strickland has all of the tools to become a great closer in the majors. He was pumped up for the World Series, and let his bravado get the best of him. Let’s just hope that Strickland is able to control his temper, and unlock said toolbox en route to a long, successful career in the orange and black.