2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Angels and Pirates On Historic Strikeout Pace

by Ryan Kirksey
2022 Fantasy Baseball Strikeout Pace

In this week’s 2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends column, we will look at two teams that now serve a very significant role in Fantasy Baseball. The Los Angeles Angels and the Pittsburgh Pirates are the ideal teams to stream pitchers against. Their team strikeout numbers are bordering on historic levels. Their offensive ineptitude is giving easy wins to even mediocre pitchers.

As the season progresses and we are desperate for quality innings on our fantasy teams, these two squads should provide an easy solution.

This piece will dive into the poor performances for each team this season and look at where they are the most vulnerable.

2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Angels and Pirates On Historic Strikeout Pace

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You likely noticed last week when Cristian Javier struck out 14 Angels over seven innings of one-hit ball. Now, Javier is a very good pitcher. But is he Randy Johnson or Jacob DeGrom? Clearly not. How can a guy who with 30 career starts and who throws basically two pitches command that many punch-outs?

Or perhaps you saw the Pirates lose 2-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday and strikeout 14 times as a team. In that game, nine different Pirates had at least one strikeout. Five of their last six outs of the game were via strikeout when they were down just two runs.

Both of these games are ideal exhibits for just how had it has been for these squads in the past couple months of this season. But while it's disappointing, it's certainly not surprising anymore when we see these teams find the bench in more than half their outs with regularity.

Angels and Pirates Strikeouts are Piling Up in Bunches

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We have all noticed that strikeouts around the league are rising sharply in the past 10 years. It doesn't take a baseball savant to notice that Major League Baseball is more three true outcomes than ever before. When we see something other than a walk, strikeout, or home run these days it seems almost quaint.

But the Angels and Pirates are taking one of those outcomes to an extreme this season, and especially in the last month. On the season, the Angels are striking out 26.2% of the time while the Pirates are at 25.4%. They are the only teams north of 25% this season, and that's noticeable for a few reasons.

First, just 26 teams since 1980 have had a strikeout rate greater than 25% for a season, and two of them are this year. And if we raise that number to 25.4% (where the Pirates are), there are just 18 teams in the last 42 years.

YearTeamSO%AB/SO
2020DET27.33.3
2020TBR26.93.2
2021CHC26.73.3
2020MIL26.63.3
2019DET26.43.5
2019SDP26.33.4
2018CHW26.33.5
2022LAA26.23.4
2021MIA26.23.4
2020CHC25.73.4
2019CHW25.63.6
2017MIL25.63.5
2020TEX25.53.5
2019SEA25.53.5
2016MIL25.53.5
2013HOU25.53.6
2022PIT25.43.6
2019TEX25.43.5

And while that is horrific for these offenses, it's actually been worse over the last month for both teams. In the last 30 days, the Angels are striking out exactly 30% of the time while the Pirates are at 26.9%. If we were to use these numbers, these two teams would be the worst and third-worst strikeout team in major league history.

YearTeamSO%
June 2022LAA30.0
2020DET27.3
June 2022PIT26.9
2020TBR26.9
2021CHC26.7
2020MIL26.6
2019DET26.4
2019SDP26.3
2018CHW26.3
2022LAA26.2
2021MIA26.2
2020CHC25.7
2019CHW25.6
2017MIL25.6
2020TEX25.5
2019SEA25.5
2016MIL25.5
2013HOU25.5
2022PIT25.4
2019TEX25.4

The Angels likely won't end the season with a 30% strikeout rate, but in the last month they are reaching a strikeout level no team in history has come close to matching.

What is Driving so Many Strikeouts for These Teams?

The most interesting about the strikeout phenomenon for these two teams is that both of them are getting these abysmal results in totally different ways.

The Angels are performing well on pitches outside the zone. They are the fifth-best squad about laying off those pitches (only swinging 29.4% of the time; compare that to the White Sox who swing at 35.6% of those pitches). The problem for the Angels is that they are simply not making contact on the pitches where they should.

Los Angeles is 28th in making contact on pitches inside the zone (83%). They also rank just 28th in overall contact rate.

Compare that to the Pirates who are also great at laying off pitches outside the zone. They are the seventh-best in baseball at laying off those pitches. But the problem is, they are also laying off way too many pitches inside the zone. The Pirates rank last - a full 1.5% worse than the next team - at swings at pitches in the zone.

What that has done is cause them to have the highest called strike percentage (18.6%) of any team since the 2019 season.

How Do Fantasy Managers Use This to Their Advantage?

The most important thing you as a fantasy manager can now do with this information is start to pay attention. There will be countless starters these two teams will face that will be on the waiver wire in your league.

For example, the Angels next face the Marlins and Orioles for their next six games. While Sandy Alcantara is long gone in your league, what about Trevor Rogers and his career 10.1 K/9 ratio? When they face the Orioles, I imagine Tyler Wells and Jordan Lyles are available. These aren't great pitchers by any means, but if you need decent innings help with high strikeout potential, these could be your guys.

Yes, you are going to give up the occasional Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout moonshot, but the strikeout and win upside against these struggling teams may be worth the risk.


Check out the rest of our 2022 Fantasy Football Team Previews!

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