Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lowest SO/9 While Qualifying for ERA Title

This is pretty out there, but I figured I'd try and take a look at starting pitchers who didn't strike out many batters. I figured the easiest way to do this was to examine pitchers qualifying for the ERA title. For those unfamiliar with Rule 10.22(b) of the Official Rules, which establishes the minimums for individual pitching champions, a pitcher must throw "at least as many innings in league championship games as the number of games scheduled for each club in his club’s league that season." Thus in most seasons, the minimum is 162 innings. I'm not sure if this is what MLB does, but has its own method for determining the minimum requirement in strike years (i.e., 1981 & 1994). That site uses the average number of games played by teams in the league during that season.

I also only looked at seasons since 1961. Those familiar with baseball history will note that was the first year of expansion. I wanted to keep a sense of the "modern game" (as in lots of strikeouts) in the list and by going further back in history, the top of the list becomes
clogged with guys from the 1940's and 1950's. I guess it's kind of arbitrary but I think that's alright. After all, it saves the lowest SO/9 figures from 1940-1959 as an entry for a rainy day. :)

To recap, the qualifiers are that the pitcher must have qualified for the ERA title in a season since 1961 to make the list. I included ERA for fun to see if the fact they didn't strike many batters out impacted their overall line. Most of the pitchers on the list had quite good ERA's. Here are the twenty-four seasons with 2.50 SO/9 or below:

Nate Cornejo2003194.7462.134.67
Ross Grimsley1977218.3532.183.96
Steve Kline1972236.3582.212.40
Bill Lee1978177.0442.243.46
Ed Lynch1983174.7442.274.28
Clyde Wright1973257.0652.283.68
Mike Caldwell1983228.3582.294.53
Tommy John1984181.3472.334.52
Bob Stanley1979216.7562.333.99
Paul Splittorff1980204.0532.344.15
Bill Lee1979222.0592.393.04
Lary Sorensen1979235.3632.413.98
Ken Holtzman1976246.7662.413.65
Bill Swift1988174.7472.424.59
Glenn Abbott1981130.3352.423.94
Paul Hartzell1979163.0442.435.36
Jim Barr1979163.0442.433.53
Dave Rozema1978209.3572.453.14
Mike Flanagan1989171.7472.463.93
Jim Palmer1981127.3352.473.75
Lary Sorensen1980195.7542.483.68
Clyde Wright1974232.0642.484.42
Tommy John1983234.7652.494.33
Lary Sorensen1978280.7782.503.21

I wonder if Nate Cornejo realized he did something that hadn't been done for 14 years (Flanagan's 1989 was the second most recent season on the list). To put his numbers in more context with recent baseball history, only four other qualifying pitchers had less than 3.00 SO/9 since 1990: Bill Gullickson (2.60, 1992), Kirk Rueter (2.65, 2004), Ricky Bones (2.78, 1993), and Mark Knudson (2.99, 1990). Note that 1,456 seasons qualifying for ERA titles have been recorded in that time.

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