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Thread: The 200 IP, 10+ K/9 Pitcher

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    Senior Member Triple-A Teflon's Avatar
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    The 200 IP, 10+ K/9 Pitcher

    In the 1965 season, a threshold was passed on big league pitching mounds that had never been exceeded in the history of baseball up to that point. No pitcher throwing 200 innings or more - whether he be Bob Feller, Herb Score, Walter Johnson, or Rube Waddell - had ever struck out 10 or more batters per 9 innings. In 1965, both "Sudden" Sam McDowell and Sandy Koufax eclipsed that mark, ushering in a new era of strikeout proficiency in which the threshold would be surpassed 39 more times.

    What had changed from Feller's years to Koufax's? In the 1930's and 40's, the average pitcher making 30 or more starts in a season pitched around 255 innings and completed nearly 18 of the games he started. By the 1950's, he was throwing 10 fewer innings and completing about 3 fewer games. By 1965, the year of Koufax's and McDowell's accomplishments, the average pitcher was only completing about 10 games and throwing 238 innings. As the expectations for starting pitchers to go deep into games was lessening, pitchers were now able to hold less back, fostering an increasing trend of quality over quantity. In Koufax's case, this trend was not manifested in the innings he pitched in a season - as he threw a whopping 335.2 innings and completed 27 games in 1965 - but in the innings he pitched in a career, as he had to leave the game at age 30.

    In the 70's and 80's, Nolan Ryan would pitch 200+ innings and post K/9 rates over 10 seven times including an unbelievable 3 times at age 40 or older after having not done so since age 30. (And we think Roger Clemens was doping?) In the 1990's and 2000's, Randy Johnson would approach Ryan's numbers and surpass them, hitting the 10+ K rate ten times in his 22 professional seasons. Curt Schilling (4 times), Pedro Martinez (3) and Tim Lincecum (2) are the only pitchers to join Ryan and Johnson on this list multiple times. There are 13 one-timers on the list including the only Twins pitcher, Johan Santana, who did it in 2004.

    Here is the complete list:

    Randy Johnson (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007)
    Nolan Ryan (1972, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1987, 1989, 1990)
    Curt Schilling (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002)
    Pedro Martinez (1997, 1999, 2000)
    Tim Lincecum (2008, 2009)
    Roger Clemens 1998
    Dwight Gooden 1984
    Scott Kazmir 2007
    Sandy Koufax 1965
    Sam McDowell 1965
    Hideo Nomo 1997
    Mark Prior 2003
    Johan Santana 2004
    Jason Schmidt 2004
    Mike Scott 1986
    Ben Sheets 2004
    Justin Verlander 2009
    Kerry Wood 2003

    Here is the breakdown in average innings pitched and complete games for pitchers with 30+ starts by decade:

    1930s - 257 IP, 17.9 CG
    1940s - 253 IP, 17.9 CG
    1950s - 244 IP, 14.8 CG
    1960s - 241 IP, 11.2 CG
    1970s - 245 IP, 11.5 CG
    1980s - 224 IP, 6.9 CG
    1990s - 212 IP, 3.6 CG
    2000s - 204 IP, 1.7 CG
    2010s - 203 IP, 1.6 CG

    A breakdown of the number of 200 inning - 10 K/9 pitchers by year is shown below. I find it odd that there is such a aberation between the years of 1997 and 2004. While this total study comprises a very small sample (39 instances) it still seems odd that this period - which I equate to the peak steroid era - should appear and that years since have diminished to the point that no pitcher has passed this threshold for the last three seasons. The last period this long was in the early 80's. Conspiracy theorists - draw your own conclusions. Perhaps we are only seeing the end of one era and the beginning of another as teams move more and more to imposing inning restrictions and pitch counts on younger arms.

    tenkper9.jpg

  2. #2
    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teflon View Post
    What had changed from Feller's years to Koufax's? In the 1930's and 40's, the average pitcher making 30 or more starts in a season pitched around 255 innings and completed nearly 18 of the games he started. By the 1950's, he was throwing 10 fewer innings and completing about 3 fewer games. By 1965, the year of Koufax's and McDowell's accomplishments, the average pitcher was only completing about 10 games and throwing 238 innings. As the expectations for starting pitchers to go deep into games was lessening, pitchers were now able to hold less back, fostering an increasing trend of quality over quantity.
    And yet, in today's game, frequently the guys who strikeout the most hitters are among the leaders in innings pitched and complete games. Schilling and Johnson each lead the league in CGs 4 times, and each had 20 year careers. Pedro, Mussina, Smoltz, all threw 3000+ IP.and were perennially among strikeout leaders.

    This has always been the case (starters only, min 1000 IP).



    But, break it down by era. And you see that right now, strikeouts are a better predictor of ability to pitch deep into ballgames and have long careers, then they've ever been.






    Looking at just the last 6 years:


  3. #3
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer biggentleben's Avatar
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    In regards to your last comment, it has been shown many times over since testing began that pitchers have been doping as much or more than hitters, so higher K totals, which are often tied to more velocity, would be expected during the height of an era of doping.

    Regarding the changing times, I think you look at the construction of the bullpen as much as the limits on the starter in the modern game. If Justin Verlander loads the bases in the 8th inning after 122 pitches, he's likely coming out for a specialist to get the batter at the plate to attempt to ground into a double play, who will then be followed by a specialist for the next hitter to combat handedness. Then the 9th will bring the closer, and game over. In the 1940s and 1950s, you had a pitching staff of 7-8 on a number of teams.
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    Senior Member All-Star
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    I would think doping would help pitchers much more than hitters. I am a little skeptical that doping leads to much of an increase in overall talent but I do think it helps players recover quicker and stay healthier overall. That would be a huge boon to pitchers and would explain that spike in the 'roids era.

    Great writeup.

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    Senior Member All-Star Badsmerf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drjim View Post
    I would think doping would help pitchers much more than hitters. I am a little skeptical that doping leads to much of an increase in overall talent but I do think it helps players recover quicker and stay healthier overall. That would be a huge boon to pitchers and would explain that spike in the 'roids era.

    Great writeup.
    Agreed. Steroids allowed pitchers to overcome the aches and pains they feel during a season and the results are obvious. I wish it never happened, because now I wonder what all these great players in my lifetime would be like without the drugs.
    Do or do not. There is no try.

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