Commentary

Change is good for Narveson

By using his off-speed pitch more, Brewers lefty is generating lots of swinging strikes

Updated: April 22, 2011, 1:45 PM ET
By Dave Cameron | FanGraphs
Chris NarvesonGreg Fiume/Getty ImagesIt would be easy to dismiss Chris Narveson as an April fluke, but you shouldn't.

When you think of dominating pitcher performances, the first image that may come to mind is that of a batter flailing hopelessly at some unhittable pitch -- maybe it was Pedro Martinez's changeup, Randy Johnson's fastball or Justin Verlander's curveball. All three pitchers reached great heights by racking up swinging strikes, with the whiffs being a testament to just how good their stuff really was.

Swinging strike rate has always been a leading indicator of just how nasty a guy is on the mound. Last year, Francisco Liriano returned to being a front-line starting pitcher by leading the league in swinging strikes. Javier Vazquez, CC Sabathia and Johan Santana also have topped the leaderboards in recent years, and in most years, the pitcher with the best swinging strike rate is in contention for the Cy Young Award.

So, who has the best swinging strike rate in baseball so far in 2011? If you guessed Milwaukee's Chris Narveson, you're either Chris Narveson's mother or you've been browsing the statistics at FanGraphs recently. It's true, however, that the unheralded Narveson is racking up swings-and-misses at a higher rate than any other starting pitcher in baseball this year, and his ability to generate so many whiffs is a good sign for his performance over the rest of 2011.