Starting Pitcher Draft Strategy: Strikeouts per 100 Pitches

USA TODAY Sports

Ray discusses another way to evaluate starting pitchers when preparing for your 2014 fantasy drafts based on strikeouts per 100 pitches.

In a Twitter conversation on Friday, discussing my Friday article on drafting ground ball pitchers who keep the ball on the ground at a 45% rate, strikeout seven or more batters per nine innings, and walk less than three batters per nine innings, a follower reminded me of an article I read several years ago over at Baseball Analyst. The article was written by Rich Lederer, and in his research evaluating starting pitchers based on strikeouts per nine innings, he dug deeper and created strikeouts per pitch, calculated as total strikeouts/innings pitched.

The number that resulted was hard to conceptualize because what did it really mean? So, he decided to multiply this number by 100 to give us strikeouts per 100 pitches:

Strikeouts/innings pitched x 100

Here is his reasoning for the 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.

We also know that pitch counts are important. The fewer, the better. As such, it seems logical that combining high strikeout and low pitch totals is a recipe for success . . . The best way to measure such effectiveness is via K/100 pitches. The formula is (strikeouts divided by total pitches) x 100.

With that said, here is a look at the 2013 leaders in strikeouts per 100 pitches (stats courtesy of FanGraphs). The data below includes all starters who pitched 80 or more innings in 2013. I will group them based on K/100 > 7.0, K/100 > 6.0, and so on:

K/100 > 7.00

Name

W

L

ERA

IP

SO

Pitches

K/100

Yu Darvish

13

9

2.83

209.2

277

3451

8.03

Jose Fernandez

12

6

2.19

172.2

187

2609

7.17

Max Scherzer

21

3

2.90

214.1

240

3388

7.08

Matt Harvey

9

5

2.27

178.1

191

2697

7.08

This group produced an average ERA of 2.58, but includes just four starting pitchers, and they are four of the best. Harvey will miss the 2014 season, but should be back to his normal strikeout ways in 2015. The other three starters in the table above are ranked in my top 10-12 starters for 2014.

K/100 > 6.00 < 7.00

Name

W

L

ERA

IP

SO

Pitches

K/100

Chris Sale

11

14

3.07

214.1

226

3248

6.96

A.J. Burnett

10

11

3.30

191

209

3021

6.92

Cliff Lee

14

8

2.87

222.2

222

3253

6.82

Felix Hernandez

12

10

3.04

204.1

216

3175

6.80

Anibal Sanchez

14

8

2.57

182

202

2974

6.79

Clayton Kershaw

16

9

1.83

236

232

3428

6.77

Stephen Strasburg

8

9

3.00

183

191

2851

6.70

Tony Cingrani

7

4

2.92

104.2

120

1816

6.61

Francisco Liriano

16

8

3.02

161

163

2496

6.53

Justin Masterson

14

10

3.45

193

195

3018

6.46

Madison Bumgarner

13

9

2.77

201.1

199

3204

6.21

Adam Wainwright

19

9

2.94

241.2

219

3533

6.20

Jeff Samardzija

8

13

4.34

213.2

214

3462

6.18

Craig Stammen

7

6

2.76

81.2

79

1280

6.17

Tom Gorzelanny

3

6

3.90

85.1

83

1351

6.14

Ubaldo Jimenez

13

9

3.30

182.2

194

3163

6.13

Homer Bailey

11

12

3.49

209

199

3292

6.04

Alex Cobb

11

3

2.76

143.1

134

2221

6.03

Tyson Ross

3

8

3.17

125

119

1981

6.01

This group of starters (two relievers) produced an average ERA of 3.06, which is pretty darn good. It includes the best pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw, as well as several other ace starting pitchers, including Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Adam Wainwright and others. The low ERA in this group belongs to Kershaw at 1.83, with the high ERA (4.34) going to Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija.

Excluding the two relievers , Stammen and Gorzelanny, Samardzija's ERA is an outlier, as the next highest ERA is 3.49, and some of them should be available in the later round of your 2014 drafts, including Tyson Ross, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tony Cingrani and Samardzija.

K/100 > 5.00 < 6.00

Name

W

L

ERA

IP

SO

Pitches

K/100

Hisashi Iwakuma

14

6

2.66

219.2

185

3102

5.96

Corey Kluber

11

5

3.85

147.1

136

2290

5.94

Marco Estrada

7

4

3.87

128

118

1995

5.91

Lance Lynn

15

10

3.97

201.2

198

3351

5.91

Scott Kazmir

10

9

4.04

158

162

2742

5.91

Cole Hamels

8

14

3.60

220

202

3423

5.90

Clay Buchholz

12

1

1.74

108.1

96

1629

5.89

Julio Teheran

14

8

3.20

185.2

170

2885

5.89

Tim Lincecum

10

14

4.37

197.2

193

3281

5.88

Justin Verlander

13

12

3.46

218.1

217

3692

5.88

Gio Gonzalez

11

8

3.36

195.2

192

3315

5.79

Gerrit Cole

10

7

3.22

117.1

100

1727

5.79

Mike Minor

13

9

3.21

204.2

181

3126

5.79

Patrick Corbin

14

8

3.41

208.1

178

3082

5.78

Mat Latos

14

7

3.16

210.2

187

3239

5.77

Derek Holland

10

9

3.42

213

189

3281

5.76

Shelby Miller

15

9

3.06

173.1

169

2968

5.69

Chad Gaudin

5

2

3.06

97

88

1550

5.68

Carlos Torres

4

6

3.44

86.1

75

1324

5.66

Josh Johnson

2

8

6.20

81.1

83

1470

5.65

Matt Garza

10

6

3.82

155.1

136

2425

5.61

John Lackey

10

13

3.52

189.1

161

2873

5.60

David Price

10

8

3.33

186.2

151

2707

5.58

Ivan Nova

9

6

3.10

139.1

116

2093

5.54

Josh Collmenter

5

5

3.13

92

85

1555

5.47

Matt Moore

17

4

3.29

150.1

143

2621

5.46

Dan Haren

10

14

4.67

169.2

151

2778

5.44

Matt Cain

8

10

4.00

184.1

158

2922

5.41

James Shields

13

9

3.15

228.2

196

3657

5.36

Tommy Hunter

6

5

2.81

86.1

68

1274

5.34

A.J. Griffin

14

10

3.83

200

171

3212

5.32

Ian Kennedy

7

10

4.91

181.1

163

3089

5.28

David Phelps

6

5

4.98

86.2

79

1500

5.27

Zack Greinke

15

4

2.63

177.2

148

2814

5.26

CC Sabathia

14

13

4.78

211

175

3336

5.25

Ryan Dempster

8

9

4.57

171.1

157

2997

5.24

Jordan Zimmermann

19

9

3.25

213.1

161

3083

5.22

Carlos Villanueva

7

8

4.06

128.2

103

1985

5.19

Ricky Nolasco

13

11

3.70

199.1

165

3183

5.18

Kevin Slowey

3

6

4.11

92

76

1467

5.18

Brad Peacock

5

6

5.18

83.1

77

1488

5.17

Erik Bedard

4

12

4.59

151

138

2679

5.15

C.J. Wilson

17

7

3.39

212.1

188

3651

5.15

Kris Medlen

15

12

3.11

197

157

3049

5.15

Chris Tillman

16

7

3.71

206.1

179

3477

5.15

Jake Peavy

12

5

4.17

144.2

121

2367

5.11

Hector Santiago

4

9

3.56

149

137

2697

5.08

R.A. Dickey

14

13

4.21

224.2

177

3505

5.05

Ervin Santana

9

10

3.24

211

161

3199

5.03

Dan Straily

10

8

3.96

152.1

124

2465

5.03

Hyun-Jin Ryu

14

8

3.00

192

154

3070

5.02

Rick Porcello

13

8

4.32

177

142

2836

5.01

This group produced an average ERA of 3.67, with ERAs ranging from Clay Buchholz's 1.74 ERA to Josh Johnson's 6.20 ERA. The list includes several ace-cailber starters like Matt Cain, David Price, Zack Greinke and others, but also includes a large number of starters who will be available in the later rounds of drafts next season, and these are the guys you should target to complete your pitching staff on draft day.

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