Are strikeouts overrated?
I have to take some time away to fully assimilate the in-depth analysis of Cal Ripken's Hall-worthiness my compatriot provided yesterday. While I do that I wanted to share some findings. I realized that the Kansas City Royals strikeout leader last season was Jimmy Gobble. He K'ed an incredible 80 (EIGHTY!!!!) batters last season.
Surprising, to me, is that six teams in non-labor stoppage seasons since 1990 have done the same thing:
2003 Cincinnati Reds led by Paul Wilson's 93
2000 Anaheim Angels (Scott Schoeneweis 78)
1997 Oakland Athletics (Steve Karsay 92)
1996 Oakland Athletics (Carlos Reyes 78)
1993 St. Louis Cardinals (Bob Tewksbury 97)
1992 Detroit Tigers (Frank Tanana 91)
Here are those respective teams' winning percentages starting with the Royals of last season and following chronologically: .383,.426,.506,.401,.481,.537,.463.
You'll also note that none of the above pitchers had much success in the following seasons.
There are two reasons that a team doesn't have a guy strike out one hundred batters. Either they don't have pitchers good or healthy enough to throw enough innings to accumulate 100 K's or they don't have someone with enough talent, either in power or command, to get that many. Or both.
For a team to succeed, they need to have a strikeout guy or at least someone with enough innings to get the opportunity. Look at what it took to get to the postseason for these teams:
1992 Tigers: It took fourteen years for the Tigers to make the postseason after their strikeout dearth. Needless to say everyone from the 1992 Tigers is long gone. The Tigers young pitching is what many people feel is what carried them to the playoffs this season. Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander struck out 100+ at just age 23 while Nate Robertson got his hundred at age 28. Ancient wonder Kenny Rogers fell one short and young ace reliever Joel Zumaya missed by three.
1993 Cardinals: Donovan Osborne struck out 100 the year before and would not again until 1996, the first year the Cardinals reached the playoffs after the 1993 strikeout dearth. He would be joined by homegrown product Alan Benes who struck out 100 in his first full season with the team. His brother Andy and Todd Stottlemyre, both acquired during the pre-season also joined the hundred strikeout ranks giving them four pitchers in all.
1996 and 1997 Athletics: In 1999, the A's narrowly missed the playoffs. They had developed a pitcher in the minors by the name of Tim Hudson who led the team in strikeouts with 132 in his first major league season. The A's also got 100 from Gil Heredia, a fellow who had never had an opportunity to be a full-time starter until 1999 at age 33. The A's acquired Kevin Appier from the Royals to help make the playoff push. In 2000, all three struck out 100 as the A's reached the playoffs.
2000 Angels: Kevin Appier played a part in the quickest turnaround of this group of teams. The Angels acquired him from the Mets for Mo Vaughn before the 2002 season. Appier joined longtime Angels pitchers Ramon Ortiz and Jarrod Washburn in striking out 100. To this day I look at the 2002 Angels and wonder how the hell they became World Champions that season.
2003 Reds: They still suck. But they have Homer Bailey coming up. They have Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang. They might have some success.
2006 Royals: Gil Meche, Royal Savior. Everyone else on this list developed at least one pitcher who became an anchor of the staff. Who will that be on the Royals? Luke Hochevar?
Just some findings, no serious analysis. Take from it what you will.