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Pitchers & K's

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#1 Ncgo4

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 12:53 PM

I've always thought the weight put on pitchers K's per 9 innings was one of the most overrated things in baseball. So I went to the Baseball almanac and looked up several H of F pitchers. Names and (K's per 9).

Blyleven (6.7), Clemens (8.6), Drysdale (6.5), Ford (5.6), Glaven (5.3), Hunter (5.3), Walter Johnson (5.3), Koufax 9.0), Maddux (6.1), Palmer (5.0), Ryan(9.5), Spahn (4.4).

Draw your own conclusions, I guess, but there's a lot of number 1's here that might not get out of low "A" ball by today's standards. I think I'd be glad to have Warren Spahn, Walter Johnson, Dan Glaven and Jim Palmer as my top starters. I'll take a chance when I need a fifth man.

Remember, also, most of these men pitched every 4 days and most outlasted today's over managed pitchers.

#2 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 12:58 PM

It was a different game. Hitters choked up on the bat with two strikes. They didn't swing for the fences on an 2-2 count. Competition was less fierce. Starters went deeper into games.

Even despite those things happening in the past, how many HoF pitchers with above average strikeout rates did you have to pass over to form that list?

#3 Ncgo4

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:02 PM

None. I made up a list and looked each one up separately. If I was creating a list to prove a point, Koufax, Ryan & Clemens would never have appeared.

#4 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:16 PM

Either way, there's a strong correlation between strikeouts and above average pitching. Does that mean every pitcher needs to strike out an inordinate number of batters to succeed? No, of course not... but if they do, they have a better chance at prolonged success in Major League Baseball.

#5 drivlikejehu

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:17 PM

Spahn was a strikeout pitcher in his prime. He finished in the top 10 in K/9 5 times, and led the league in total strikeouts 4 consecutive seasons.

Drysdale once led the league in K/9 and 6 other seasons finished in the top 10.

And there's Walter Johnson... to use him as an example of strikeouts being "overrated" is absolutely laughable. He led the league in K/9 7 times and 10 other seasons finished in the top 10. He practically invented the strikeout as a key weapon for pitchers.

The OP cites some good examples that prove the exact opposite of the poster's attempted point.

#6 Boom Boom

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:23 PM

Comparing active pitchers with historic pitchers isn't apples-to-apples.

http://www.baseball-...ne_career.shtml

Not a lot of guys at the bottom of that list that I recognize until you get to Hall of Famer Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown at #780. He retired in 1916. Not a whole lot of active pitchers down there.

Conversely, 22 of the first 50 pitchers on the list are active, and most of the rest are guys who retired very recently.

#7 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:25 PM

I guess you mean Tom Glavine, rather than Dan Glaven.

Edited by tarheeltwinsfan, 21 May 2014 - 01:51 PM.


#8 gunnarthor

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:26 PM

Strike outs can be a bit overrated - several very good pitchers have thrived without being much more than avg or less strike out pitchers - Doc Halladay, Radke, Buerhle, Maddux, Oswalt, Glavine - and several high strike out pitchers have been massively overrated. The important thing is that most of those guys didn't walk anyone. Fewer men on base, fewer chances to score runs.

#9 gunnarthor

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:35 PM

One other point about the lower strike out pitchers - all of them had at least one plus pitch and excellent control/command. David Wells was another like that. So, in prospect terms, you can get around it but the problem comes when you have a guy like Liam Hendriks - no plus pitches, probably ok control but iffy command ... boom. (The opposite is true, too. Tons of guys flame out that can throw mid 90s).

#10 drivlikejehu

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 01:41 PM

Strike outs can be a bit overrated - several very good pitchers have thrived without being much more than avg or less strike out pitchers - Doc Halladay, Radke, Buerhle, Maddux, Oswalt, Glavine - and several high strike out pitchers have been massively overrated. The important thing is that most of those guys didn't walk anyone. Fewer men on base, fewer chances to score runs.


Actually, Maddux, Halladay, and Oswalt all had seasons in the top 10 in strikeout rate. Not to mention, K/9 is a rough statistic - strikeout percentage is more accurate. In 1995 Maddux was #4 in strikeout % in MLB, behind Randy Johnson, Hideo Nomo, and John Smoltz. Halladay and Oswalt also posted solid strikeout rates in their prime.

Strikeouts, by definition, cannot be overrated. Individual pitchers could be over- or under-rated based on strikeouts, but this is true of any statistic.

#11 gunnarthor

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 02:03 PM

Actually, Maddux, Halladay, and Oswalt all had seasons in the top 10 in strikeout rate. Not to mention, K/9 is a rough statistic - strikeout percentage is more accurate. In 1995 Maddux was #4 in strikeout % in MLB, behind Randy Johnson, Hideo Nomo, and John Smoltz. Halladay and Oswalt also posted solid strikeout rates in their prime.

Strikeouts, by definition, cannot be overrated. Individual pitchers could be over- or under-rated based on strikeouts, but this is true of any statistic.


I assumed the conversation was basically about perceived strike out pitchers and I named a few that weren't - as Brock mentioned in passing. I suppose we could have just gone year by year and picked out the seasons instead but that seemed overkill. And I think most of us reading this thread understood it to be about rating pitchers based on strike out rate and not an actual discussion about strike outs. Good now?

#12 mike wants wins

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 02:29 PM

http://www.athletics...eouts-do-matter

http://www.chicagono...s-to-a-pitcher/

there are lots more out there.....

http://www.fangraphs...s-k9-kbb-and-k/
Lighten up Francis....

#13 drivlikejehu

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 02:30 PM

I assumed the conversation was basically about perceived strike out pitchers and I named a few that weren't - as Brock mentioned in passing. I suppose we could have just gone year by year and picked out the seasons instead but that seemed overkill. And I think most of us reading this thread understood it to be about rating pitchers based on strike out rate and not an actual discussion about strike outs. Good now?


The OP argued that strikeouts are overrated, a clearly false statement. You partially agreed by noting that control pitchers can be successful (let's put aside that some of your examples also struck guys out) and that strikeouts "can be a bit overrated."

Who is being overrated? Who is being underrated?

#14 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 02:35 PM

There's a problem with history here as Ks weren't emphasized the way they are today. Teams were also quite willing to have low hit good defense guys at a number of positions too. The game has changed quite a bit. I'd argue that a many of the HOF pitchers were still high K guys relative to their peers, and that I think is more important.

Where the K/9 stuff comes from is the fact that for the most part, when a ball is put in play the amount of time a batter reaches base doesn't vary much from pitcher to pitcher. I think there's quite a bit of assuming going on here, and I get annoyed when it's attributed to luck, but the bottom line is that the best hitters in the world tend to fall into a bell curve in terms of the amount of times they reach base once they make contact. As such, the best way to prevent runs is to prevent contact. A guy that can record 1K/inning is generally going to record one or two less hits per game over a guy with a 4.5K/9.

#15 gil4

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 02:42 PM

K/BB was (and may still be - I'm not sure if some advanced metrics have passed it) the best predictor of future success for a pitcher. Also, there is a point where K/9 indicates that success is unsustainable (and I think K% is actually a better measure.) There has been a lot of research done in this area since the original Bill James Baseball Abstract annuals, and while I haven't kept up with the details, everything I have seen has confirmed these ideas.

For today's game (and yesterday's game), an out is an out (for the most part.) If you want to predict what will happen in tomorrow's game, then the K is king.

#16 edavis0308

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 08:35 PM

Interesting thread. A few thoughts:

Don't you need to have a baseline of some sort with each guy - like mentioning or accounting for what the average k/9 for each guy would have been? Along the lines of what Brock kind of touched on - some of those older guys...the game was different back then.

One other thing that immediately jumped out at me was, what are the ground ball %'s for all these guys?

To further that statement, you can be a really good pitcher that conserves your pitches, gets weakly hit balls for outs, saves pitches, and go deeper into games. Maybe you don't pitch for strikeouts to allow you to go deeper in games, but when you need a K you can get one. Halladay especially always seemed like a really good example of that.

#17 nicksaviking

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 10:14 PM

Strikeouts are probably accurately appreciated these days as opposed to the previous century of contact heavy pitching.

Strikeouts take luck, chance, fate or whatever you'd like to call it, out of the game. The strikeout prevents the seeing-eye-single, the Texas Leaguer, errors, sac flies, moving runners over, missed calls by the umps, Jose Canseco noggin homeruns, Milton Bradly tossing balls to fans with two outs, Steve Bartman and any other unpredictable play that could occur on the ball field.

Preventing walks on the other hand is highly overrated. People (Gardenhire) act like a BB is an apocalyptic play, even worse than a hit. It's not. A walk doesn't bring a guy in from 3B unless the bases are loaded. No runner ever went from 1st to 3rd on a walk. This is why WHIP is such a pointless stat. Why would anyone give a walk equal weight to a single, let along a double, triple or HR.

#18 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 05:58 AM

walks are less valuable than singles, I don't think anyone would argue, but walks do pose a few problems:

1) increased pitch count
2) it puts a guy on base.

I don't think WHIP is that pointless, limiting walks is within a pitcher's control, and less of them means less runners.

#19 nicksaviking

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 06:38 AM

No arguement that walks aren't a negative, but it seems in Twins territory that walks are the epitome of bad pitching. There are worse things, like singles, doubles, triples and HR.

#20 markos

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 09:10 AM

For pitchers who lack the ability to get hitters swing and miss on pitches in the zone, there will always be some tradeoff between strikeouts and walks. I'm sure that every pitcher wants to strike out as many batters as possible. However, for many pitchers increasing strikeouts means throwing more balls out of the strike zone, which often leads to more walks as well. Overall, the value of strikeouts is closely tied to the corresponding walk rate. If a pitcher's K/BB ratio is too low, then the benefit of preventing balls in play via strikeouts is outweighed by the extra men on base via walks. A rough back-of-the-envelope calculation makes me think that the cutoff is somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 K/BB. In certain cases, increasing that ratio may be more valuable than just focusing on increasing strikeouts, which for many pitchers will also increase the number of walks.

Example: Sam Deduno has a K% of 18% and a BB% of 9%. His K/BB is 2.0 - or in other words, 33% of the non-BIP (ball in play) PAs end up on base. Now let's say that through some change he is able to drop his BB% down to 5%, but at the expense of dropping his K% down to 15%. Now his K/BB ratio is 3.0, so only 25% of the non-BIP PAs end up on base. However, the tradeoff is that he is now allowing more balls in play. Is that tradeoff worth it? Maybe. I would have to figure out the run expectancy in both scenarios to know for sure. But it certainly seems reasonable that he may be a more effective as a significantly lower walk, slightly lower strikeout pitcher.

#21 Willihammer

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 12:01 PM

Now let's say that through some change he is able to drop his BB% down to 5%, but at the expense of dropping his K% down to 15%. Now his K/BB ratio is 3.0, so only 25% of the non-BIP PAs end up on base. However, the tradeoff is that he is now allowing more balls in play. Is that tradeoff worth it?


I think so. Tthe correlations of K-BB% and K/BB to some popular stats for starters in 2013.[TABLE="width: 500"]
[TR]
[TD][TABLE="width: 320"]
[TR]
[TD="width: 64"][/TD]
[TD="width: 64"]ERA[/TD]
[TD="width: 64"]FIP[/TD]
[TD="width: 64"]x FIP[/TD]
[TD="width: 64"]SIERA[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]K-BB%[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.60767[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.77164[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.89135[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.96261[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]K/BB[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.53073[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.66139[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.74294[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]-0.77169[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]
[/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]

Basically the tradeoff's worth it if you drop your walk rate by more than you drop your K rate.

#22 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 11:57 PM

All the metrics and the %'s and x/9's are all so convincing, and I like NicksV's comments, but yet I see Mark Buehrle just pitched another game tonight (I will hesitate to say he "won" another game tonight, because as everybody in the saber metrics world knows, wins are meaningless :) ) but even so, I find myself agreeing with the general sentiment of the original post -- a pitcher can be successful without being a strikeout pitcher. An entire staff might even be successful over the course of the season without being top heavy in strikeouts, I don't know.