Discussion

Strasburg, Lou and long odds

Updated: August 23, 2010, 7:13 PM ET
By Jayson Stark

Strike One: Stras-No-Mas Dept.

Here at Three Strikes, the over-under on how many pitches Stephen Strasburg will throw the rest of this season is zero. That may not be official yet, but you can never go wrong betting on caution in this guy's case. And if Strasburg's season is in fact over, here's what we should make of it:

Strasburg faced 274 hitters and struck out 92 of them. That means he whiffed an astounding 33.6 percent of all the guys who marched up there. And among all starting pitchers in history who made at least 10 starts in a season, that would be the highest percentage ever -- by a pitcher not named Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez, anyway.

Pedro beat that percentage three times (in 1999, 2000 and 2001). The Unit beat it five times (1995, '97, '99, 2000 and '01). But no one else has ever topped it. Here's the all-time top five:

So what's the current record for a starter in the category known as "Not Pedro or Randy?" It's held by Kerry Wood -- at 33.3 percent (233 of 699) in 1998. Close -- but not Strasburgian. And in case you were curious, Nolan Ryan's all-time highest percentage was "only" 30.9 percent, when he punched out 270 of the 873 hitters he faced for the 1987 Rangers. Ohbytheway, Ryan was nearly TWICE as old that year (40 years, 8 months at season's end) as Strasburg is now (22 years, 1 month).

Speaking of age, Strasburg would also, obviously, set a record for best whiff percentage by a pitcher as young as he is. And only four other pitchers that age or younger have even come close:

Finally, here's one other way to look at Strasburg's dominance: Let's compare how much more often those poor hitters he faced struck out against him than reached base.

Here's that deal: He allowed 56 hits and 17 walks this year -- but struck out 92. So that's an incredible 1.26 whiffs per baserunner. (And we're limiting the definition of "baserunner," for simplification purposes, just to hits and walks allowed.)

I went through all the greatest strikeout seasons in history. Among the guys who topped a strikeout per inning, I could only find four starting pitchers who beat that whiffs-to-baserunner ratio. See if you've heard of any of these men:

    Pedro (four times)
    Randy (five times)
    Koufax in 1965 (1.33)

Johan Santana, barely, in 2004 (1.262).

Pedro is your all-time record-holder, at a mind-boggling 1.78 in 2000 (284 K's, 160 baserunners). But if these are the pitchers Stephen Strasburg is hanging with in his first big league season, it tells you all you need to know about how overmatched the guys with the bats in their hands really were.

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