The 2017 season is more known for it’s massive amounts of offense, but there were still plenty of pitching stats that are pretty crazy. Below are five pretty unique stats you may not be aware of. #WhatTheBaseball
Masahiro Tanaka had a 21.2% home run to fly ball ratio
Masahiro Tanaka gave up a lot of home runs last year, 35 to be exact which was tied for third most in 2017. But the crazy stat that makes you say what the baseball was his extravagant home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB). Tanaka had the highest home run to fly ball ratio of a qualified pitcher since at least 2002 (Fangraphs does not have this stat recorded prior to 2002), and only one other player has exceeded 20% in that time frame, Jaime Garcia at 20.2% in 2016.
So what does his mean? Well clearly he gave up to many long balls, but it appears to be just a run of bad luck. For starters, 2017 saw the most home runs ever hit in a season and many blame a juiced ball for that phenomenon. Tanaka had a very similar fly ball and hard hit rate compared to both 2015 and 2016, but more balls still left the yard. He does pitch in Yankee Stadium, a notorious hitters park, which had the second highest park factor for home runs according to ESPN. However, it’s a bit more interesting when you dive into his splits.
Tanaka actually had a lower HR/FB at home than he did away throughout the season. He did get rocked pretty bad pitching against lefties at home, but the real damage happened against lefties away from Yankee Stadium. So it appears Yankee Stadium wasn’t the biggest culprit here.
We need to chalk this up to some bad luck. Tanaka’s HR/FB was only 12% in 2016 and 16.9% in 2015. I’d expect those numbers to come back down to earth in 2018.
Chris Sale exceeds 300 strikeouts
Chris Sale turned in the best strikeout performances we have seen in the past decade. Only Clayton Kershaw has surpassed the 300 mark (301) in the past century, and Sale’s mark of 308 is the highest since Curt Schillings 316 in 2002. That’s a lot of strikeouts.
Sale is only the fourth player since 1990 to exceed 300 strikeouts, although some of those players such as Randy Johnson exceeded it numerous times, but he did it pitching in the American League East. That’s quite an accomplishment.
This an important development for Sale coming off the 2016 season where he made it a goal to throw to more contact and saw his lowest strikeout rate since 2012. It looks like the dominant strikeout pitcher has returned.
Max Scherzer had a batting average against of .176
Max Scherzer is coming off one of the best seasons of his career at the ripe age of 33. The 2017 season saw him set career bests in strikeout rate and ERA. But there is one pretty crazy stat that stands out, Scherzer held opponents to a .176 batting average. Do you know the last qualified pitcher to hold batters to such a low average? Some guy named Pedro Martinez held batters to a .166 average way back in 2000.
Any time your name is mentioned along side Martinez, you know you have accomplished something special. This stat really isn’t that surprising as Scherzer has regularly posted a WHIP below 1 and has held batters under a .200 average now for three different seasons. He is a high strikeout pitcher with great control. There’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to hold batters to such low averages against.
Jeff Samardzija only walked 1.39 batters per nine innings
Yes, Jeff Samardzija still pitches, and pretty darn well. After two pretty disappointing season Samardzija finally turned it around in 2017. He bumped his strikeout rate back up to 8.88 per nine innings and significantly reduced his walks. The number itself really isn’t that crazy, it’s been achieved hundreds of times by numerous players, but we all didn’t expect Samardzija to walk so few batters.
So what allowed this number to decrease so significantly? Well, for starters, as mentioned earlier he struck out more batters per nine innings than the previous four seasons. His pitch velocity was about the same, but he did make one pretty big change in his pitch arsenal. According to fangraphs, Samardzija threw a cutter only 9.3% of the time compared to 20.8% in 2016. He relied more heavily on his curve balls and sliders which according to pitch values were two of his best pitches. Samardzija should be viewed a strong pitching option in 2018 as he almost guarantees to rack up over 200 innings and with this better pitch selection should once again hit the 200 K mark.
Kenley Jansen struck out 15.57 batters for every 1 walk
Now that’s some efficient pitching. Kenley Jansen was only the second pitcher since 1990 (yes 1990!) to strikeout more than 15 batters per base on balls. Jansen completed one of the most dominant seasons we’ve seen from a closer and shows no signs of slowing down. Jansen averages nearly 14 strikeouts per nine innings and a batting average against of .170 over his entire career. And let’s not forget he racks up saves for one of the strongest teams in the National League. Nothing else really needs to be said.