Astros’ Pitchers with Lowest Hard Hit Rates

Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Much like I did for the batters, but in reverse, I wanted to see which Houston Astros pitchers generate the least hard hit balls per Baseball Savant. There were some surprises, but definitely not to the same extent.

The criteria is simple: pitchers currently under contract with the Astros who played in the 2021 season and those with a minimum of 100 batted-ball events.

Baseball Savant defines a hard hit ball as 95 MPH or greater.

Blake Taylor – 28.8 HardHit%

While the aforementioned Raley was far and away the leader, Taylor had a good season overall and this was even further buttressed by his hard hit %.

The average batted ball off Taylor was only 84.5 MPH, while ground balls rolled towards infielders at an 82 MPH average and only 36 of the 125 batted balls off Taylor were 95 MPH or greater.

Phil Maton – 32.8 HardHit%

This is a little bit of a surprise to me, though Maton suffered through some tough luck at times, via “seeing eye” hits. Batted balls came off the bat at 88 MPH on average against Maton and averaged 178 feet in distance.

Maton did give up a 451 foot bomb and had a max exit velocity of 112.4 MPH, but overall he did a nice job controlling the opponents hard hits.

Rafael Montero – 34.2 HardHit%

Another feather in the cap and reason for optimism on the “throw-in” in the Kendall Graveman trade.

The average exit velocity off Montero was only 86.7 MPH and Montero’s Sweet Spot % of 29.8% was the third lowest on the team behind Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers, Jr. as was his launch angle of 5.9 degrees. These are all reasons for optimism regarding Montero in 2022.

Brandon Bielak – 34.5 HardHit%

Just behind Montero in this measure, Bielak’s average exit velocity was 87.2 MPH, with a max of 117.4 MPH, while the ground balls averaged 85.9 MPH.

Particularly interesting to me is that Bielak gave up only 7 barrels in 148 batted ball attempts which works out to 4.7% (top 8% in league), the lowest of any 2021 Astros pitcher, returning or not.

Some of Bielak’s traditional statistics aren’t eye popping, but there’s reasons for optimism in some of the underlying metrics for a young pitcher with only 82 major-league innings under his belt.

Jose Urquidy – 35.9 HardHit%

There’s a mixed message on Urquidy’s numbers who, along with Zack Greinke, is the only starter in the top-nine on the list if we include those no longer with the team. The flip side of that is it also means Urquidy would be eighth on this list if it included the entire 2021 pitching staff.

The average batted ball came off the bat at 88.6 MPH, with a high of 111.4 MPH and max of 442 feet. On the other hand, only Cristian Javier and Ryne Stanek had higher barrel percentages than Urquidy’s 9.3%, which is something to keep an eye on in 2022.

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This criteria excludes Brooks Raley (#1, 21.5%), Kendall Graveman (#6, 35.3%) and Zack Greinke (#7, 35.4%).