Earlier this season I witnessed Mat Latos and the Cincinnati bullpen hang 17 strikeouts on the Pittsburgh Pirates. I was, at that point, dismayed by what I had seen and I figured that only really bad teams strikeout that many times in a single nine inning game. So, I dug into it and I was wrong. Whiffing that much in a single contest isn’t a guarantee of having a bad club.
With the performance yesterday in Milwaukee, the Pirates have now struck out 17 times in a game three times in 2012. Should I be dismayed about that? I checked on baseball-reference.com for all instances of 17 whiffs in a game going back to 1969. My previous effort had been just 2007 to 2011. The 2012 Buccos are the only team in that time frame to strike out 17 times in a nine inning game three times in a single season. There were five other teams that had been whiffed 16 or more times in a game three times in the same season. Let’s look at them just for fun.
1986 Seattle Mariners – finished 67-95
4/19/86 – young fireballer Jose Rijo of Oakland teamed with Bill Mooneyham to fan 18
4/24/86 – Rijo was back in his very next start and whiffed 14 (to go along with two from Steve Ontiveros) as Seattle managed to prevail behind homers from Ken Phelps and Alvin Davis and the arm of Mark Langston
4/29/86 – Roger Clemens 20 whiffs. Boom
4/30/86 – the very next day Bruce Hurst (eight), Sammy Stewart (six) and Bob Stanley (two) of Boston combined to get 16 Mariners. It was the fourth time in the month that they had struck out 16 or more times
2000 Oakland A’s – finished 91-70
4/10/00 – Chuck Finley, then of the Indians, contributes ten of the 16 strikeouts
6/15/00 – Eric Milton hit double digits in strikeouts just nine times in his career and only once after he left Minnesota. This one was with the Twins as he had eleven and reliever Travis Miller contributed five
7/9/00 – Randy Johnson got 13 whiffs in seven innings and Matt Mantei had three in the ninth for Arizona
2002 Milwaukee Brewers – finished 56-106
4/6/02 – Randy Johnson with Arizona combined with three relievers to strikeout 16
4/7/02 – the very next day Curt Schilling allows just one hit and two walks while striking out 17 in a complete game shutout
9/14/02 – the Unit is at it again. This time he tosses a three hit complete game shutout and Ks 17
2006 Florida Marlins – finished 78-84
6/6/06 – Jason Schmidt of the Giants established a career high by whiffing 16 Marlins in a complete game effort
6/9/06 – three days later, Chris Young of the Padres and three relievers also fanned 16 Marlins
9/12/06 – Oliver Perez and four Met relievers notch 16 strikeouts
2011 Seattle Mariners – finished 67-95
7/26/11 – CC Sabathia of the Bombers and two relievers combine to set down 18 Mariners
9/10/11 – Royals starter Felipe Paulino matches a career best with eleven strikeouts and KC gets five more from the bullpen
9/13/11 – A.J. Burnett and three Yankee relievers get 17 Mariners batters on strikes
While I certainly don’t feel good that Pittsburgh struck out 17 times again, as before, my conclusion is that there is little reason to point to this feat as a sign of impending doom. Of the five previous teams to go down 16 times or more three times in the same season, three teams lost 90 or more games. One of them floated near .500 and the fifth one – the 2000 A’s – made the post-season.