They are some of my favorite things so long as it is the Pirate pitchers who are causing the whiffing. As Tim noted earlier today, the Bucco hurlers have been chucking the ball pretty well. Erik Bedard’s eleven whiffs in the win this afternoon against St. Louis came just a couple of days after James McDonald hit double digits in Ks against Atlanta. The Pirates haven’t gotten 10 or more whiffs from a starting pitcher twice in the same season since 2008 when Paul Maholm and Ian Snell each did it once. In the last three season’s the team has had just one starter reach double figures in punch outs – Ross Ohlendorf back in 2009. To find such close proximity in double-digit strikeout performances by a Pirates starting pitcher, you have to go all the way back to 2004 when Oliver Perez hit double figures in three straight starts on 7/23/04, 7/28/04 and 8/3/04.
The starting pitchers for the Pirates have posted awful K/9 ratios over the last several years. Here are the actual numbers (for Pirate starters collectively) and the MLB average (for starters) along with NL rank and overall MLB rank for the Buccos:
2011 – 5.6 for Pittsburgh versus 6.8 in all of baseball. That was good for last in the NL and last in the Majors (best was James McDonald with 7.5 whiffs per nine innings)
2010 – 5.6/6.8 for 16th/29th (McDonald registered 8.6 in eleven starts. Next best was Charlie Morton with 6.7 in 17 starts)
2009 – 5.2/6.7 for 15th/29th (Kevin Hart was 6.6 in ten starts. Morton made 18 starts and was 5.8)
2008 – 5.6/6.5 for 15th/25th (Snell was best with 7.4)
2007 – 5.8/6.3 for 13th/22nd (Snell was at 7.7)
2006 – 6.1/6.2 for 11th/17th (Snell at 8.2)
2005 – 5.9/6.0 for 12th/19th (Perez came in at 8.5 despite a terrible year)
2004 – 6.8/6.2 for 5th/6th (Perez with 11.0 per nine innings!)
2003 – 5.6/6.1 for 12th/19th (Kip Wells was best on the club with 6.7 K/9)
2002 – 5.1/6.2 for 15th/28th (Wells with 6.1 was tops on the team)
So other than the big year Perez had in 2004, the Pirates have been very, very bad. Other than 2004, they failed to finish in the top half of the league or all of the Majors in K/9 since 2002. There were also a couple of seasons when the Pirates top strikeout artist wasn’t even league average. Ugh.
Over at baseball-reference.com, I looked at pitchers with the most wins for the ten-year span of 2002 to 2011. There were 30 pitchers who have notched 100 Ws in that time frame. Starting pitchers in that ten-year window averaged 6.4 whiffs per nine innings. So, how many of those 30 pitchers to pick up 100 wins had better than 6.4 K/9? 21 out of 30 were better than league average in their strikeout rate. The nine big winning soft tossers are:
Tim Wakefield – 106 wins and 5.97 K/9
Bronson Arroyo – 105/5.97
Brad Penny – 101/5.91
Derek Lowe – 146/5.71
Tim Hudson – 132/5.68
Jamie Moyer – 116/5.33
Livan Hernandez – 117/5.28
Mark Buehrle – 141/5.03
Jon Garland – 122/4.84
Looking at a more recent set of years, the five years from 2007 to 2011 saw the average starter fan 6.6 batters per nine innings. In that same window, 46 pitchers picked up 50 or more wins. Ten of those 46 failed to average 6.6 whiffs in nine innings or better. So, here’s to more and more whiffs. They are long overdue.