Mowing Them Down Quickly

I am in a list kind of mood apparently this week. To those that raised good questions in the last two days, I’m sorry that I did not personally respond, I do not yet have any further data to answer those, but I will be working on it. All that working on fastballs though got me on track of thinking about strikeouts and pitchers that are the most efficient at ending at bats in that way.

To put it in variable form, on plate appearances that end in a strikeout, what is the average number of pitches thrown per pitcher? My initial theory would be that pitchers with the best “stuff” would be the most effective at recording strikeouts quickly. I looked at pitchers that recorded at least 100 strikeouts over the 2007-9 period. Top 20 best:

Taylor Buchholz 4.37
Cla Meredith 4.38
Brandon League 4.39
Chad Qualls 4.40
Tony Pena 4.45
Chris Carpenter 4.47
Ross Ohlendorf 4.50
Tim Hudson 4.53
Sergio Mitre 4.53
Brandon Webb 4.54
Peter Moylan 4.55
Pedro Feliciano 4.56
Greg Maddux 4.56
Rafael Perez 4.56
Joakim Soria 4.57
Trevor Hoffman 4.57
Octavio Dotel 4.58
Chris Sampson 4.59
Clay Buchholz 4.59
Derek Holland 4.59

And 20 worst:

Brian Wilson 5.21
David Weathers 5.19
Scott Feldman 5.18
Manny Delcarmen 5.17
Fernando Rodney 5.17
Jason Frasor 5.16
Russ Springer 5.15
Matt Garza 5.13
Greg Smith 5.13
J.C. Romero 5.11
Jarrod Washburn 5.11
Kip Wells 5.11
Orlando Hernandez 5.10
Curt Schilling 5.10
Kyle Davies 5.09
Gil Meche 5.09
Ron Villone 5.08
Damaso Marte 5.08
Guillermo Mota 5.08
Jered Weaver 5.07

The first thing I noticed was just how many more pitches it takes to get a strikeout, on average. The average pitch per plate appearance is around 3.8. For plate appearances ending in strikeouts, it’s around 4.8. There is also a sizable spread here among the most and least efficient with their strikeouts. Almost a full pitch separates the best from the worst. Moving away from the extremes though, the vast majority of pitchers converse quickly around that 4.8 average. In fact, the standard deviation is only 0.15 pitches.

The pitchers in question however exhibited less of a trend than I expected. The David Weathers and Jarrod Washburns I was unsurprised at, but Brian Wilson? He misses bats pretty well. If anything there is a slight correlation between the average number of pitches needed to record a strikeout and a pitcher’s control rate. Which makes some sense, but was not the first thought that came to my mind.



Print This Post



Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
oldjacket
Member
oldjacket
6 years 6 months ago

Brian Wilson being at the top of the second list may be the least surprising thing I have ever encountered as a baseball fan. 3-2 on everybody, foul balls galore.

Mike
Guest
Mike
6 years 6 months ago

I was more surprised Matt Cain was not on the bottom 20.

Temo
Guest
Temo
6 years 6 months ago

Good ‘ole Mad Dog on the list, of course.

opisgod
Member
opisgod
6 years 6 months ago

I see a correlation between pitches/strikeout and whether or not a pitcher has a groundball tendency. Nearly all the names on the top 20 have groundball tendencies, and conversely nearly all the names in the bottom 20 are flyball pitchers.

Food for thought.

Nik Aitken
Guest
Nik Aitken
6 years 6 months ago

While that is true, it is also generally true that better pitches induce a larger amount of ground balls than poor pitchers.

Good pitchers also strike more guys out, and apparently quicker too.

Mark S
Guest
Mark S
6 years 6 months ago

I am glad to see at least one mariner on the “good” list.

Mojowo11
Guest
Mojowo11
6 years 6 months ago

I am delighted and totally unsurpised to see Chris Carpenter on the list. He was just ruthless last year. Seemed like you basically got four pitches and your options were striking out or hitting a ground ball.

petejohn
Guest
petejohn
6 years 6 months ago

Chris Carpenter is filthy. His stuff is as good as anyone in baseball and he comes RIGHT AT YOU. I had to put in all caps.

MattC
Guest
MattC
6 years 6 months ago

I’m kinda surprised not to see Halladay on there. He racks up a fair amount a strikeouts yet he still throws a ton of complete games.

GrandSlamSingle
Guest
GrandSlamSingle
6 years 6 months ago

“the vast majority of pitchers converse quickly”

Bunch of fast talkers, eh?

TCQ
Guest
TCQ
6 years 6 months ago

4.8 words per second, apparently.

Brian
Guest
Brian
6 years 6 months ago

I would think the key to quick strikeouts would be not a lot of balls (obviously), and not a lot of foul balls, so control ground ball pitchers would have quick Ks, but fly ball pitchers who are a little wild would have high pitch counts in their Ks.

Second the Halladay comment. Based on this thinking, Halladay should be at the top. No surprise then on Carpenter and Webb. Maybe Halladay is more willing to “waste” a pitch and try to get guys to chase on 0-2 and 1-2 counts because he has the ability and confidence to throw a tough pitch to hit on 2-2 and 3-2..

Or maybe it could be linked to two-strike pitch selection. High heat with a two strike count would seem to lend itself to a foul ball or a taken ball more than other pitches.

Circlechange11
Guest
Circlechange11
6 years 6 months ago

I would guess 2 pitcher groups have advantages in this particular stat: NL pitchers (facing pitchers as batters) and closets (all out, quick and dirty).

Circlechange11
Guest
Circlechange11
6 years 6 months ago

Closers IPhone auto-fill the word strikes again. I quit.

Steven Ellingson
Guest
Steven Ellingson
6 years 6 months ago

Dang it. You replied before I could make fun of you.

wpDiscuz