Listening to the fifth game of the ALCS, the Tampa broadcast, while Scott Kazmir enjoys the home run festival. One of the announcers said a key for Kazmir is reducing foul balls on strike two, since it can pile-up the pitch count.
Sure, a foul ball means another pitch when all the other outcomes don't. Which is a little misleading. If I get you to foul one off, then whiff, is that more or less pitches if I gave up a line drive single on that foul ball, instead? The real question is, why am I pitching?
Back to Kazmir. For strike two counts only, all PITCHf/x recorded games, for pitchers with at least 300 qualifying counts. Looking at swings, and hit batters, too.
So, there you have it. That's from a sample of 222,000 + pitches. How does Kazmir compare? His sample includes 1212 pitches.
Figuring about 20 strike-two counts per start, the 3.5 percent difference between Kazmir and the group means about 2-5 extra pitches per month. It could cost him an inning or two over the course of the season, so I'd only worry about it coming all at once.
Since Kazmir ranked 42 out of 330 pitchers, perhaps he isn't extreme enough.
Here are the top five in fouls on strike two.
And the bottom five
So, for an extreme split, let's take .32 and .18. That's about three more pitches per start as a result of foul balls on strike two.
So, sure, there can be an effect, but pretty small in any case.
For a guy like Scott Kazmir, who is in the top 15 percent of this group, and presumably the league, it is probably a stretch to make it a key to his game.