Chris Sale Strikes Hitters Out At An Historic Rate

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Through two starts this season, Chris Sale is striking out 9.0 hitters per nine innings, or one per inning. For most starting pitchers, that's a very good number.

For Chris Sale, though, it's below average.

In fact, if Sale were to maintain the same pace all season, the 9.0 K/9 would be tied for the lowest in his career, as that's the same rate he struck out hitters back in 2012, his first season as a starting pitcher. That number would jump up to 9.5 in 2013, 10.8 in 2014, and it peaked at an insane 11.8 in 2015, which led baseball last season.

Over his career Sale has a K/9 of 10.28, which is really good.

In fact, a quick trip to Baseball Reference shows that it's historically good. One of the best of all time.

I looked up the numbers of American League pitchers who have made at least 100 career American League starts. I chose these parameters because 100 starts is a nice bench number, and because including National League starts would skew the numbers a little bit.

National League pitchers get to face pitchers, after all, while American League starters are dealing with designated hitters multiple times per start.

So where did Sale rank?

Rk Player SO9 GS From To Age
1 Pedro Martinez 10.95 201 1998 2004 26-32
2 Chris Sale 10.28 118 2010 2016 21-27
3 Randy Johnson 10.09 333 1989 2006 25-42
4 Nolan Ryan 9.99 417 1972 1993 25-46
5 Max Scherzer 9.60 161 2010 2014 25-29
6 Johan Santana 9.50 175 2000 2007 21-28
7 Corey Kluber 9.48 103 2011 2016 25-30
8 Brandon Morrow 9.36 108 2007 2014 22-29
9 Francisco Liriano 9.06 141 2005 2012 21-28
10 Sam McDowell 9.05 317 1961 1974 18-31

Only second all time, behind some guy named Pedro Martinez, and ahead of stiffs like Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.

Since K/9 numbers can be a bit misleading -- a pitcher could conceivably allow 3 hits per inning while getting three strikeouts -- I also looked up the K rate numbers (percentage of batters faced struck out) and not much changes.

Rk Player K% GS From To Age
1 Pedro Martinez 30.6% 201 1998 2004 26-32
2 Chris Sale 28.4% 118 2010 2016 21-27
3 Randy Johnson 26.8% 333 1989 2006 25-42
4 Nolan Ryan 26.6% 417 1972 1993 25-46
5 Johan Santana 26.2% 175 2000 2007 21-28
6 Max Scherzer 26.0% 161 2010 2014 25-29
7 Corey Kluber 25.7% 103 2011 2016 25-30
8 Brandon Morrow 24.2% 108 2007 2014 22-29
9 Sam McDowell 23.8% 317 1961 1974 18-31
10 David Price 23.5% 214 2008 2016 22-30

Now, one thing that needs to be mentioned here is the time in which Sale is pitching. You'll notice that of the top 10 names on the two lists, five are still active, though both Max Scherzer and Francisco Liriano have moved on to the National League. There's no denying that we're living at a time when hitters are striking out at a very high rate, and it's inflating the numbers of pitchers everywhere.

What Sale has done thus far, however, is still very impressive, and a helluva lot of fun to watch.

But he needs to pick it up this season if he's going to catch Pedro Martinez and stay ahead of Randy Johnson. This 9.0 K/9 may be good for regular stiffs like Sam McDowell (a K/9 of 9.0 would rank 11th, just behind McDowell and ahead of Herb Score), but it's not good enough for Chris Sale.

Pick up the pace, Chris. Pass Pedro.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thoughts On The Trade With The Yankees

Zack Burdi's Injury Is A Reminder Of The Importance Of Quantity In A Rebuild

M&M's Guy Has Betrayed You