Posted Under: Stat of the Week
This week we will look at strikeouts, which is the pitching equivalent to home runs. This is because pitchers that have high strikeout rates or batters that hit lots of home runs are usually the most exciting players in the game. Stephen Strasburg, who has been discussed here before and his starts have become must see TV anywhere he goes in the country, combined both of these efforts yesterday and displayed both of these exciting feats when he fanned 8 and hit his first Major League home run against the Orioles. Strikeouts were especially relevant this past week as on Friday Kerry Wood retired from baseball after striking out the final batter he faced and Cubs fans displayed why they are among the best in MLB, while Max Scherzer struck out 15 batters yesterday against the Pirates one shy of tying the Tigers record “held by Mickey Lolich, who did it twice in a three-week span in 1969″ (MLB) (Box Scores for those games can be found here and here).
It is always important to remember the history of the game when looking at different statistics and it appears that some records in terms of strikeouts will stand for a long time. Here is a list of the top 5 pitchers in MLB history with the most career strikeouts:
1. Nolan Ryan, 5714
2. Randy Johnson, 4875
3. Roger Clemens, 4672
4. Steve Carlton, 4136
5. Bert Blyleven, 3701
And here is a list of the top 5 pitchers with most strikeouts in a single season (in the 1900s):
1. Nolan Ryan, 383
2. Sandy Koufax, 382
3. Randy Johnson, 372
4. Nolan Ryan, 367
5. Randy Johnson, 364
When you see numbers like that of Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton or Sandy Koufax, the only pitchers today that could even try to match their career numbers are CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw who last year posted 230, 250 and 248 strikeouts respectively. One can make the argument that in this day and age where most lineups do not have a weak spot (discounting the pitchers batting 9th in the National League) and that is why strikeouts are harder to come by, it would be interesting to see the Ryans and Koufaxs come back in their prime to face the Yankees and Rangers lineups today and I feel like they would have the same amount of success they did back in their day.
Remember when we looked at Ground Balls and saw that groundball pitchers want to pitch to contact as this allows them to go deeper into games, but it also means that they are heavily dependent on factors they cannot control such as luck and the defense behind them. With strikeouts and strikeout pitchers it is almost exactly the opposite as these pitchers will go deeper into counts and throw more pitches to strike out a batter (unless you are Pedro Martinez who threw an Immaculate Inning against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning meaning he struck out three straight batters on the minimum of 9 pitches), but you also do not have to worry about outside factors, a reason why strikeouts are considered in statistics such as Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).
Make sure to check back on Thursday where we’ll do some player analysis of strikeouts and also go to www. Facebook.com/LoveMyTeamTalk, like the page and we can have a discussion on whether you think the all-time strikeout records in a season and in a career will stand the test of time or whether there is someone who can take over these records given the longevity of some pitchers careers in this day and age.