The strikeout is the foundation of a pitchers success in Major League Baseball. The ability to strike out a batter makes a good pitcher, a great one. A pitcher that can get out of a jam by striking out a couple hitters is what separates ordinary starting pitchers from outstanding Fantasy Pitchers. It doesn’t matter if your league uses strikeouts as a category or not. The best pitchers in the majors are top Strikeout pitchers.
Consider these facts from the Top 20 MLB Strikeout Leaders from 2010:
-They won Cy Young awards in both the AL & NL.
-They pitched 3 no-hitters during 2010, including a perfect game by Roy Halladay.
-All Three 20+ game winners Halladay, Wainwright, Sabathia.
-No starting pitcher in the top 20 had fewer than 12 Wins.
-The highest ERA of any pitcher on the list was 3.91 by Dan Haren
-Only Two pitchers on the list had a WHIP over 1.30 Gallardo & Dempster
Now let’s look at the top 20 2011 First Half Strikeout Leaders:
-Only one has a losing record, Bud Norris (5-6)
-They have thrown 1 of 2 no hitters this year. One by Jason Verlander – the other by Fransisco Liriano who was top 20 K’s in 2010.
-Ten have an ERA below 3.00
-The worst ERA among them is David Price 3.70
-Ten have a WHIP 1.055 or better; four have a WHIP below 1.00The worst WHIP among them is Gio Gonzalez at 1.27
-Eight of these top 20 in K’s have double digit Wins, the rest of the league totals five.
-Eleven pitchers are in the top 20 for strikeouts both years (Verlander, Kershaw, Halladay , Hamels , King Felix, Lester, Sabathia, Lincecum, Weaver, Haren, & Price) Two members from 2010’s top 20 in K’s are close (Gallardo at #24, Dempster at #26)
-18 of the 20 on the list are All Star selections this year (Tommy Hanson & Ian Kennedy are missing)
WHIP is the second component to evaluating pitchers. The theory of WHIP(Walks + Hits divided by Innings pitched) is that the fewer batters that get on base via a hit or walk, the more valuable the pitcher is to his team. Makes sense, if you don’t allow more runners on base, there are fewer opportunities for the other team to score runs. Pitchers that walk hitters will infuriate their real life managers and fantasy owners alike. Look for the best pitchers to have a WHIP right around 1.20 or better, 1.10 is outstanding. So here is the real key to evaluating pitchers – You must look at Both Strikeouts and WHIP. The best pitchers have both. You can not focus on wins. Wins happen sometimes when they shouldn’t, but hardly ever when a pitcher gives up a ton of hits, walk a bunch of guys, and doesn’t strikeout anybody. They can’t get out of a jam by striking out a couple guys like the better pitchers. Take a long hard look at pitchers that can strikeout 150+ and pitchers that strike out a batter per inning. Pitchers such as Carl Pavano don’t strike anybody out and occasionally get beat up. While he may be innings eaters for his team, Pavano’s three year average for ERA & WHIP are above where you want to be in both categories (4.50 ERA & 1.30 WHIP) He doesn’t have hardly any strikeouts and his WHIP is weak, which is why you will never see him on a Scholar’s roster. Relievers like Carlos Marmol 52 K’s in 41 IP(he had 138 K’s in 77 IP in 2010), & Craig Kimbrel with 70 punch outs in 45 IP helps explain why each is a dominant closer in their own right.
If you’re not sold on the fact that K’s and WHIP are the most important factors then just look at the last two Cy Young award winners from each league.
Felix Hernandez 232 K’s 1.05 WHIP
Roy Halladay 219 K’s 1.04 WHIP
Zack Greinke 242 K’s 1.07 WHIP
Tim Lincecum 261 K’s 1.04 WHIP
The bottom line is that when you’re scouting or drafting pitchers strikeouts and WHIP are by far the most important statistics to consider.