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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Max Scherzer and the Coming Wave of 3,000-Strikeout Pitchers

The strong start increases the likelihood that Scherzer will reach the 3,000 strikeout milestone this year. He entered 2021 needing 216 strikeouts to reach the mark, and with 61 so far, he’s at 2,845. Some quick back-of-the-envelope math suggests that at his current rates of 11.85 strikeouts per nine and 6.59 innings per start, he’ll need another 118 innings over 18 starts, which puts his date with destiny sometime in early to mid-August (calling my shot: August 10 at Citi Field). But whether it’s that date or another, Scherzer will become the 19th pitcher to reach the milestone, and the third in the past three seasons, after CC Sabathia (April 30, 2019) and Justin Verlander (September 28, 2019).

As for who’s next, Zack Greinke appears to be on track for late next season, and Clayton Kershaw for 2023. And then? Beyond that Hall of Fame-bound trio, it’s unclear. Inspired by a comment from reader @ajnrules on Twitter — that the 25th pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts is probably already active, even if we don’t know who he is — I asked Dan Szymborski to provide some ZiPS-driven odds. Here’s the leaderboard for the highest odds among active pitchers:...

Peering into the future, the ZiPS crystal ball has Scherzer reaching 200 wins at the end of next season, which also projects to be his 10th with at least 200 strikeouts. That would tie Tom Seaver’s total, and trail only those of Roger Clemens (12), Randy Johnson (13) and Nolan Ryan (15). Likewise, the above strikeout total would push Scherzer to fifth all-time, past Bert Blyleven (3,701) and behind only Ryan, Johnson, Clemens, and Steve Carlton, the four pitchers with at least 4,000 strikeouts, a milestone Scherzer figures to have some kind of shot at if he pitches beyond age 40.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 13, 2021 at 10:49 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: max scherzer

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   1. salvomania Posted: May 13, 2021 at 12:19 PM (#6018690)
I still remember when Bob Gibson became just the second pitcher ever, after Walter Johnson, and the first National Leaguer, to reach 3,000 strikeouts.
   2. Booey Posted: May 13, 2021 at 02:11 PM (#6018714)
Enjoy it. 3000 k's is one of the only major milestones that won't be severely reduced or possibly even go extinct entirely if current trends continue.

300 wins is a thing of the past, and even 200 wins will become very, very rare once the Kershaw/Scherzer group who debuted prior to 2010 wrap it up.

For position players, we'll still see a few 500 HR hitters, but plummeting batting averages will make 3000 hits extremely rare, and once Cabrera retires, career .300 hitters will be toeing the line of extinction. As for ribbies, even a modest milestone like a Fred McGriff-esque 1500 will be few and far between, since no one consistently gets well over 100 rbi's anymore (now that Arenado is out of Coors). 30 HR seasons just reach 75-85 rbi, and 40 HR seasons just produce 90-105.
   3. AndrewJ Posted: May 13, 2021 at 02:37 PM (#6018721)
I still remember when Bob Gibson became just the second pitcher ever, after Walter Johnson, and the first National Leaguer, to reach 3,000 strikeouts.

Back in an era when league records still carried weight. I think Steve Garvey surpassing Billy Williams for the NL consecutive games mark was the last time national attention was paid to an AL/NL-only record.
   4. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 13, 2021 at 02:58 PM (#6018723)
There's one category where current and future pitchers are going to completely dominate, and it's the main reason why baseball is having its most boring season since 1968. Batters refuse to adjust, and Manfred thinks the solution lies in gambling and Little League style rule changes.

Leaders in Strikeouts per 9 innings, 2021:

1. Jacob deGrom 14.6250
2. Freddy Peralta 14.0769
3. Shane Bieber 13.9091
4. Tyler Glasnow 13.6824
5. Gerrit Cole 13.3291
6. Joe Musgrove 12.4615
7. Andrew Heaney 12.2500
8. Tyler Mahle 12.0000
9. Trevor Bauer 11.9801
10. Max Scherzer 11.8489

Leaders in Strikeouts per 9 innings, 1981:

1. Steve Carlton 8.4789
2. Nolan Ryan 8.4564
3. Fernando Valenzuela 8.4229
4. Mario Soto 7.7657
5. Dave Righetti 7.6044
6. Bruce Berenyi 7.5714
7. Len Barker 7.4060
8. Ron Guidry 7.3701
9. Bill Gullickson 6.5784
10. Floyd Bannister 6.3049

And in the year (1946) when Bob Feller set a new season record with 348 strikeouts:

1. Hal Newhouser 8.4567
2. Bob Feller 8.4345
3. Virgil Trucks 6.1225
4. Fred Hutchinson 6.0000
5. Kirby Higbe 5.7247
6. Tex Hughson 5.5683
7. Johnny Schmitz 5.4160
8. Mickey Harris 5.2949
9. Allie Reynolds 5.2527
10. Dizzy Trout 4.9180

Time of Games for those years:

1946: 2:07
1981: 2:38
2021: 3:09
   5. John DiFool2 Posted: May 13, 2021 at 05:58 PM (#6018756)
As for ribbies, even a modest milestone like a Fred McGriff-esque 1500 will be few and far between, since no one consistently gets well over 100 rbi's anymore (now that Arenado is out of Coors).


I just checked the last few full seasons, and to my surprise you're right. You'd think people like Giancarlo Stanton or JD Martinez would be cinch 120 RBI+ guys every year, but they each have exactly one season over 105. The issue of course is that there are few table setters at the top of lineups anymore, guys like Wade Boggs or Tim Raines who get on base over .400 of the time, but with low power. Now even the guys who do get up there in OBP are also sluggers, and likely middle of the order guys themselves; there's simply nobody to load the gun anymore.

The sport is currently changing so fast that I have zero idea what it will look like in 20 years. Scary times.
   6. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 13, 2021 at 06:04 PM (#6018757)
The sport is currently changing so fast that I have zero idea what it will look like in 20 years. Scary times.


If you believe Star Trek, the last ever World Series game will be played in 2042 in front of 300 fans.
   7. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 13, 2021 at 08:54 PM (#6018777)
I thought we all agreed strikeouts were just like regular ordinary outs?
   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 13, 2021 at 11:08 PM (#6018787)
I thought we all agreed strikeouts were just like regular ordinary outs?

What you mean, "we", kemo sabe? (smile)
   9. Walt Davis Posted: May 14, 2021 at 02:24 AM (#6018799)
The issue of course is that there are few table setters at the top of lineups anymore, guys like Wade Boggs or Tim Raines who get on base over .400 of the time, but with low power. Now even the guys who do get up there in OBP are also sluggers, and likely middle of the order guys themselves; there's simply nobody to load the gun anymore.

1. Clearly Boggs and Raines were never in big supply. And Raines topped 400 a few times but not regularly.

1a. "Table setters" are only guaranteed to have a chance to set the table once (first inning) and even Raines will fail over 60% of the time.

1b. 1986 NL #1 OBP was 329. Not surprisingly, lineup spots 3-6 all had higher OBPs; maybe a bit surprisingly so did #2.

1c. So far in 2021 NL, #1 has a whopping (genuinely) 356 OBP, by far the top OBP. Last year it was 337; the year before 331.

2. Raines was in Montreal for 1982-90 as a FT players. Only 5 times in those 9 years did the Expos have a player break 100 RBI. Wallach did make it to 123, 2nd best was 113. That Wallach year was the year Raines had a 429 OBP but the previous year (1986) Raines had a 413 OBP and not a single Expo made it to 100 RBI -- team high was 78, granted only 3 other than Raines qualified that season.

3. For the period 1982-90, 21 players had seasons of 120+ RBI; from 2011-19, 22 players have had 120+ RBI seasons. More teams and players so that is a lower rate recently but that's not dramatic. And FOUR players did it in 2019. The current top 10 stops at 27 RBI in a bit over 1/5 of the season so there are plenty of guys on pace for 120 RBI.

Obviously OBP leads to RBI opportunities which leads to runs. But average R/G so far this season (with no summer yet) is 4.33; in 1986 it was 4.41. Give or take, just as many runs are being driven in now as in 1986. If there are fewer guys with big totals (far from clear), that just means RBI are more evenly spread throughout the lineup ... would that be bad?
   10. DL from MN Posted: May 14, 2021 at 08:00 AM (#6018807)
there are fewer guys with big totals


I have noticed it is less likely that players play 162 games now than in the past. 10 days off makes a big difference for RBI totals.
   11. McCoy Posted: May 14, 2021 at 08:41 AM (#6018811)
I was going to say something like that as well. Injuries and rest are hobgoblins for records
   12. Booey Posted: May 14, 2021 at 10:47 AM (#6018829)
Walt - Well, my original post was comparing current baseball to the 1990's/2000's rather than the 1980's, since that was the era that immediately preceded this one. Look at today's biggest HR hitters; Mike Trout has only three 100 rbi seasons, none higher than 111. Bryce Harper has just two 100 rbi seasons, and one of them was exactly 100. During his MVP year, he hit .330 with 42 homers and 38 doubles...with just 99 rbi. Edwin Encarnacion averaged 37 homers from 2012-2019...and just 106 rbi. Nelson Cruz averaged 41 homers from 2014-2019...and just 105 rbi. Compare that, for example, to the top rbi seasons of some of the big HR guys from the original sillyball era (even leaving out Coors guys):

Sammy Sosa - 160, 158, 141, 138, 119*, 119, 108, 103, 100
Manny Ramirez - 164, 145, 144, 130, 125, 122, 121, 112, 107*, 107, 104, 102
Albert Belle - 152, 148, 129, 126*, 117, 116, 112, 103, 101*
Juan Gonzalez - 157, 144, 140, 131, 128, 118, 109, 102
Ken Griffey Jr - 147, 146, 140, 134, 118, 109, 103, 100
Alex Rodriguez - 156, 142, 135, 132, 130, 125, 124, 123, 121, 118, 111, 106, 103, 100
Frank Thomas - 143, 134, 128, 125, 115, 114, 111*, 109, 109, 105, 101*
Jeff Bagwell - 135, 132, 130, 126, 120, 116*, 111, 100
Rafael Palmeiro - 148, 142, 123, 121, 120, 112, 110, 105, 105, 104*
Barry Bonds - 137, 129, 123, 122, 116, 114, 110, 106, 104*, 103, 101, 101
Mark McGwire - 147, 147, 123, 118, 113, 108, 104
Vlad Guerrero - 131, 126, 125, 123, 116, 115, 111, 109, 108, 108

* = strike season

Ortiz, Pujols, and Cabrera put up big rbi totals well into the 2010's, but they all debuted from 1997-2003. They were/are some of the last remnants of the previous era.

If there are fewer guys with big totals (far from clear), that just means RBI are more evenly spread throughout the lineup ... would that be bad?


"Bad" is obviously subjective, of course, but from my personal POV, yes, it's certainly less interesting when numbers are spread out amongst the masses rather than concentrated into a handful of outlier performances. What's more memorable, a game that features 3 homers by 3 different players, or a game where one player hits 3 homers? What about a game where a dominant starter strikes out 15, vs a game where the starter k's 9 and then 3 anonymous, interchangeable relievers come in and combine for 6 more? Seasonal stats are no different, IMO. One of my biggest gripes with modern baseball (other than pace of play) is the homogenization of the game, where there's only ONE correct way to produce value (increase your launch angle and swing for the fences on every AB) and everyone's stats are starting to look the same. If we're going to set overall HR records, I'd much prefer the late 90's/early 2000's version where a few McGwire/Sosa types can jack 60 with ease while the Gwynn/Ichiro types are producing just as much value while only hitting 8, rather than the current model where everyone and their mother hits 20-30.

Variety is interesting. Statistical outliers are memorable.
   13. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: May 14, 2021 at 11:29 AM (#6018832)
Ortiz, Pujols, and Cabrera put up big rbi totals well into the 2010's, but they all debuted from 1997-2003. They were/are some of the last remnants of the previous era.


Given what the previous era was known for, this might not be something to brag about.

But also, context changes. It's not a big deal. In 1963 (so, before things got really extreme) Yastrzemski won a batting title hitting .326, in 1937 that doesn't make the top ten. Baseball has changed before, it'll change again.
   14. Booey Posted: May 14, 2021 at 11:50 AM (#6018833)
#13 - The 1960's probably aren't your best example, since MLB recognized a problem and FORCED change by tinkering with the mound. Why spend years or possibly decades waiting for an aesthetically displeasing style of play to change naturally when the powers that be could force meaningful changes NOW? It's not like the boring current trends just started a couple years ago, either. Batting averages and pitcher innings have been dropping for years. We've set new strikeout records what, like a dozen seasons in a row?

Regarding rbi's specifically, that was just one stat amongst several I mentioned in my original post. I'm personally much more bothered by the k's, the low batting averages, and the increased reliance on miscellaneous relievers I've never heard of (but yeah, fixing all those things could increase rbi's too ;-)
   15. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 14, 2021 at 01:14 PM (#6018838)
"Bad" is obviously subjective, of course, but from my personal POV, yes, it's certainly less interesting when numbers are spread out amongst the masses rather than concentrated into a handful of outlier performances.

That's exactly my take on strikeouts, both by pitchers and hitters. A few Nolan Ryans and Dave Kingmans are fine, and add variety to the game, but now every team's got at least one or two pitchers and position players with strikeout rates like they had. We're getting to the point where the strikeout is almost becoming the default option for every plate appearance.
   16. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: May 14, 2021 at 01:56 PM (#6018840)
The 1960's probably aren't your best example, since MLB recognized a problem and FORCED change by tinkering with the mound.


Good point. Tony Gwynn's .313 in 1988 then.

Sure, you can change things by, well, changing things. But they'll also change all by themselves.

(I'm also not necessarily against changing things: I'm the one who advocates making every ball that leaves play foul.)
   17. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 14, 2021 at 02:06 PM (#6018842)
A few Nolan Ryans and Dave Kingmans are fine, and add variety to the game, but now every team's got at least one or two pitchers and position players with strikeout rates like they had.


You're understating the transformation here. In his career, Dave Kingman struck out in 24.4% of his plate appearances. This year, major league hitters as a whole have struck out in 24.2% of their plate appearances. We're all Dave Kingman now.
   18. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 14, 2021 at 02:12 PM (#6018843)
Exactly my point, Tom.
   19. Booey Posted: May 14, 2021 at 02:25 PM (#6018847)
#16 - Yeah, Gwynn leading the NL with a .313 avg in 1988 was weird, but focusing on that ignores Boggs' .366 and Puckett's .356 that same year in the AL, or the fact that the previous season Gwynn hit .370 (and Boggs .363, Molitor .353, etc).

For the record, I DID find the mini deadball era of 1988-1992 to be a little "blah" compared to what came immediately before and after, but it was also just 5 seasons. The current stretch of "meh" has already lasted longer than that (and only gets worse every year).
   20. Darren Posted: May 14, 2021 at 03:19 PM (#6018856)
Does anyone have a good theory about who Trout and Harper (and others?) aren't racking up the RBIs? I have to admit that seeing their low totals really make me cringe. Both guys take a lot of walks but so did Williams, Ruth, Bonds, Yaz, Mantle, etc.

I want to see some .330/45/150 seasons, dammit!
   21. Darren Posted: May 14, 2021 at 03:31 PM (#6018857)
For the pitchers/strikeouts, there was this one stat that my dad always loved: For a long time, there was only one pitcher who retired with more than 3,000 Ks and fewer than 1,000 BBs. Another joined him in the 2000s. This is probably not a tough one for most of you smart folks.

But look at these guys coming down the pike now:

Verlander 3,013 K, 851 BB
Scherzer 2,845 K, 648 BB
Greinke 2,724 K, 686 BB
Kerhsaw 2,572 K, 593 BB
Hamels 2,560 K, 767 BB


The K/BB ratios are off the charts these days. Of the top 21 career K/BB ratios, 14 have been starters who have been active as of last year. (Two others were guys who pitched in the 1870s-80s. The other 5: Schilling, Pedro, Mariano, Haren, and Lee, all fairly recent).




   22. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 14, 2021 at 03:47 PM (#6018858)
Does anyone have a good theory about who Trout and Harper (and others?) aren't racking up the RBIs?


One reason Trout doesn't is because he usually bats second.

One reason Harper doesn't is because he walks as much as anyone in the game. Compare Mickey Mantle's RBIs with Willie Mays'.
   23. SandyRiver Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:03 PM (#6018860)
I want to see some .330/45/150 seasons, dammit!

Those 150+ RBI totals come in bunches - the 1930s alone had 21 seasons of 150+. (And 7 of the 9 with 170 or more.) The '40s had 4 but between Williams/Stephens tied at 159 in 1949 and Gallaraga's 150 in 1996, there was exactly one - Tommy Davis in 1962 and he needed 165 games to do it. Then '96 thru 2007 produced 8 more.
Edit: Davis actually reached exactly 150 in the regular season, then got 3 more in the playoff series with SF.
   24. Hank Gillette Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:14 PM (#6018862)
One reason Harper doesn't is because he walks as much as anyone in the game. Compare Mickey Mantle's RBIs with Willie Mays'.


Mantle also spent much of his career batting behind Bobby Richardson (career OBP: .299) and Tony Kubek (career OBP: .303).

   25. Darren Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:18 PM (#6018863)

One reason Harper doesn't is because he walks as much as anyone in the game. Compare Mickey Mantle's RBIs with Willie Mays'.


I take your overall point but I'm not sure this illustrates it. They were pretty close in RBIs through 9900 PA. After that, Mantle retired and Mays tacked on 2,500 PA and 200+ RBIs. Bonds is probably a better example. From 2000 to 2004, he averaged 52 HR, 109 RBIs, 174 BB.
   26. John DiFool2 Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:27 PM (#6018865)
Does anyone have a good theory about who Trout and Harper (and others?) aren't racking up the RBIs?


I already did. [Only to get nitpicked & strawmanned to death a couple of posts later]

It simply can't be missed that the tablesetters are often setting their own tables anymore (annnd last I checked the 1st/2nd place guys still hit in front of the 3rd/4th guys all game long, not just in the 1st inning). The key difference is the teammate-relevant OBP (with homers subtracted out). Choosing 3 representative years:

1985 BA OBP SLG OBP-HR
---------------------------
1st .269 .333 .380 .317
2nd .271 .334 .395 .314

1999 BA OBP SLG OBP-HR
---------------------------
1st .277 .349 .408 .329
2nd .279 .345 .419 .319

2019 BA OBP SLG OBP-HR
---------------------------
1st .265 .335 .440 .300
2nd .272 .345 .475 .304

So no, they're for the most part not approaching what the sillyball guys did. But neither are they approaching what Mattingly and such did in the 80's. [Also interesting that recently OBP has gone back down for leadoff hitters after teams seemed to finally get the idea there in the 90's sometime, tho yes this year it's back up] And while yes the high OB/low Slg guys were certainly not common (tho more common the good teams with the top sluggers natch), they are pretty much extinct anymore, which is the entire point; I mean leadoff hitters now have an ISO around .175, which is historically insane. Mattingly is going to get his RBIs when Rickey and Randolph are up there in front of him; doubt we can find anyone close to them now in the 1/2 slots in any lineups you care to examine.
   27. Darren Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:29 PM (#6018866)
And Acuna and Tatis, yuck.
   28. Darren Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:30 PM (#6018867)
I already did. [Only to get nitpicked & strawmanned to death a couple of posts later]


Sorry, didn't mean to gloss over that.
   29. John DiFool2 Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:37 PM (#6018870)
#9, not you.

One more set of data points, just to drive the run home:

1930 BA OBP SLG OBP-HR
---------------------------
1st .292 .340 .407 .325
2nd .312 .372 .447 .349

That's why we don't see anybody over 150 anymore.

Again, I find it less aesthetically pleasing when the differences between players diminishes like that, even if it makes for more optimized lineups.

   30. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:52 PM (#6018876)
I take your overall point but I'm not sure this illustrates it. They were pretty close in RBIs through 9900 PA. After that, Mantle retired and Mays tacked on 2,500 PA and 200+ RBIs


The discussion here was specifically about 100-RBI seasons. Mantle only drove in 100 runs four times in his career. Mays did it ten times.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 14, 2021 at 04:53 PM (#6018877)
For the pitchers/strikeouts, there was this one stat that my dad always loved: For a long time, there was only one pitcher who retired with more than 3,000 Ks and fewer than 1,000 BBs. Another joined him in the 2000s. This is probably not a tough one for most of you smart folks.

Not as easy as I'd thought. Walter Johnson seemed like an obvious choice, but he had 1363 walks. Turns out Fergie Jenkins had only 997.
   32. Booey Posted: May 14, 2021 at 05:12 PM (#6018880)
I want to see some .330/45/150 seasons, dammit!


Thank you! Is that too much to ask?!
:-D

There are tons of really exciting young players in the game today. Unfortunately, they're all hamstrung from actually putting up big numbers or, you know - doing actual exciting things like putting the ball in play and stealing bases! - by the current trends of the sport.
   33. cardsfanboy Posted: May 14, 2021 at 07:27 PM (#6018894)
I still remember when Bob Gibson became just the second pitcher ever, after Walter Johnson, and the first National Leaguer, to reach 3,000 strikeouts.


Funny thing is I don't remember that, but according to my mom, my dad took me to every Bob Gibson start as a 3 year old (I was born in 1970, Gibby got his 3000th strikeout in 1974 11 days before my 4th birthday) so that I could see it. My dad score kept every game he saw, and after he died I was going through his stuff and saw a bunch of game score cards(the ones you buy when you get to the stadium) and almost all of them (pre-1977--after that, my dad would take us about 6 times a year) were Bob Gibson games. It's very possible I did see Bob Gibson 3000th strikeout live, I wouldn't remember it, as I always thought my first game ever at the stadium was when I was 7. Still, my dad was not a good father (not in an evil way, just in the way a guy who was never really the type of person to choose fatherhood... think of Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang theory, but add in a love of sports instead of comic books/video games---although my dad was a computer programmer and did eventually love video games when they actually became a thing) and was uncomfortable around kids, still it is nice to think that the love of baseball is something he instilled in me even before I knew that it was something.

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