2008 Leaders and Laggards: K/100 Pitches
Three years ago, I introduced the concept of evaluating pitchers based on strikeouts per pitch, which has a higher correlation to runs allowed than strikeouts per batter faced or strikeouts per inning.
In a follow-up article in November 2007, I summarized the value of this new measurement:
All of us like pitchers who can rack up strikeouts. There is no argument between statheads and the scouting community over the value of missing bats. In a nutshell, Ks are the out of choice. The more, the merrier.
Interestingly, the average starter's workload has been roughly 100 pitches per start for the past several years. As such, K/100P gives us additional insight as to the approximate number of strikeouts per start.
The argument against K/100P is that it has vestiges of BB and BABIP mixed into the formula and, therefore, is not a pure stat. If that is the case, then the same holds true for K/BF, as compared to K/IP or K/9. The latter is nothing more than strikeouts per out. A pitcher who gives up a lot of walks and hits is going to face more batters and increase the likelihood of striking out more hitters per inning pitched. Therefore, strikeouts per batter faced tells us more than strikeouts per inning.
Similarly, a pitcher who throws a lot of pitches is going to increase his chances of striking out more hitters per batter faced. Accordingly, strikeouts per pitch improves upon strikeouts per batter faced.
Not surprisingly, K/P has the highest correlation to ERA and RA. K/BF has the second-highest correlation and K/IP has the lowest correlation. In any other words, K/P > K/BF > K/IP.
Last season, there were 142 pitchers who threw 100 or more innings. The correlation between K/100P and ERA among these pitchers was meaningful at -.576.
The distribution of K/100P was as follows:
Best 7.37 Top 10% 5.80 Top Quartile 5.24 Average 4.54 Median 4.51 Bottom Quartile 3.58 Bottom 10% 3.13 Worst 2.39
Rich Harden was No. 1 with 7.37 strikeouts per 100 pitches. Livan Hernandez ranked dead last at 2.39 K/100P.
Let's take a look at the top and bottom 30 pitchers in terms of K/100P:
Rich Harden 7.37 Tim Lincecum 7.20 Joba Chamberlain 6.90 CC Sabathia 6.58 Josh Beckett 6.40 A.J. Burnett 6.33 Ervin Santana 6.24 Dan Haren 6.17 Edinson Volquez 6.08 Chad Billingsley 6.05 Scott Kazmir 6.04 Randy Johnson 5.97 Javier Vazquez 5.92 Jake Peavy 5.80 Roy Halladay 5.79 Wandy Rodriguez 5.76 Ricky Nolasco 5.74 Johan Santana 5.73 Cole Hamels 5.72 Ted Lilly 5.68 Jorge de la Rosa 5.67 Zack Greinke 5.67 Ryan Dempster 5.60 Jonathan Sanchez 5.55 Felix Hernandez 5.47 Brandon Webb 5.45 Brett Myers 5.40 Clayton Kershaw 5.38 John Lackey 5.36 Oliver Perez 5.35
When healthy, Harden ranks among the best pitchers in the game. The 27-year-old righthander dominated American League hitters when he pitched for Oakland and National League batters after he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in early July. On a combined basis, Harden was 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA. He struck out more than 30 percent of all hitters and 11 per nine innings. The good news for Cubs fans is that Harden has decided not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic.
Tim Lincecum led the majors in K/9 (10.51) among those with 162 or more innings and strikeouts (265). The National League Cy Young Award winner fanned 28.6 percent of the batters faced en route to an 18-5 record and a 2.62 ERA.
Joba Chamberlain only started 12 games while making 30 appearances out of the bullpen. He threw a total of 100.1 innings, striking out 118 (10.58 K/9). The hard-throwing righthander whiffed 27.0 percent of batters as a starter and 30.8 percent as a reliever. He began and ended the season in the latter role and is expected to serve as a
Edinson Volquez is a good example of K/100P as a metric of effectiveness. He ranked second in the majors in K/9 (9.46) but only seventh among qualifiers in K/100P. The other side of the Josh Hamilton trade struck out 206 batters in 196 innings but walked 93. He placed eighth in most pitches per plate appearance (4.04) in the majors, which negatively affected his K/100P ranking.
Kevin Correia 3.49 Luke Hochevar 3.47 Miguel Batista 3.46 Joe Saunders 3.43 Jason Marquis 3.42 Darrell Rasner 3.42 Joe Blanton 3.42 Braden Looper 3.34 Nick Blackburn 3.33 Mike Pelfrey 3.31 Jarrod Washburn 3.30 Paul Byrd 3.24 Jeff Suppan 3.18 Adam Eaton 3.16 Jeremy Sowers 3.16 Daniel Cabrera 3.15 Glen Perkins 3.13 Aaron Cook 3.13 Zach Miner 3.06 R.A. Dickey 3.03 Scott Feldman 2.98 Zach Duke 2.97 Brian Burres 2.90 Kenny Rogers 2.88 Fausto Carmona 2.86 Jon Garland 2.82 Carlos Silva 2.81 Sidney Ponson 2.68 Kyle Kendrick 2.60 Livan Hernandez 2.39
Joe Saunders was the most successful of those pitchers listed in the bottom 30. The Angels lefthander ranked sixth in wins (17) and W-L % (.708) and seventh in ERA (3.41) and ERA+ (130) in the AL. Rather than being named to the All-Star team for a second consecutive season in 2009, look for Saunders to regress based on his low K/100P rate and BABIP (.269). I would agree with the projection systems that call for him to win 11-13 games with an ERA of 3.90-4.25.
Fausto Carmona, on the other hand, was the most disappointing pitcher last season. In 2007, the Indians righthander was second in wins (19), ERA (3.06), and ERA+ (151) in the AL while finishing fourth in the Cy Young Award voting. However, he ranked below the average and median in K/100P (4.37) that season, perhaps portending a difficult repeat performance in 2008 when he went 8-7 with a 5.44 ERA.
Although Luke Hochevar is only 25, it doesn't appear as if he is going to make good on being the No. 1 selection in the 2006 draft. Kudos to the Dodgers in holding the line on his bonus demands when taken with the 40th pick in the 2005 draft.
Pay attention to K/100P. This metric will add more value than K/BF and K/9.
Update: 2008 K/100P Rankings (100 or more IP).