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Rocket Science
2004-05-07 01:29
by Mike Carminati

As Mike Piazza passed Carlton Fisk in the farcical catcher home run "record", another much more important milestone was passed and is somehow being marginalized by the Piazza story and Spidey-Gate. The other milestone was Roger Clemens passing lefty Carlton for second all-time on the all-time strikeout list. I know that it's just second, but at least it's a real record.

Clemens is over 1500 K's behind Nolan Ryan for first place so he appears to have achieved his ultimate position on the list. For the record here it is:

Nolan Ryan1966199353865714
Roger Clemens1984200443174140
Steve Carlton196519885217.3334136
Randy Johnson198820043122.3333922
Bert Blyleven1970199249703701
Tom Seaver196719864782.6673640
Don Sutton196619885282.3333574
Gaylord Perry196219835350.3333534
Walter Johnson190719275914.6673509
Phil Niekro196419875404.3333342
Fergie Jenkins196519834500.6673192
Bob Gibson195919753884.3333117
Jim Bunning195519713760.3332855
Mickey Lolich196319793638.3332832
Cy Young189019117354.6672803
Greg Maddux198620043968.6672791
Frank Tanana197319934188.3332773
David Cone198620032898.6672668
Chuck Finley198620023197.3332610
Curt Schilling1988200425862587
Warren Spahn194219655243.6672583
Bob Feller1936195638272581
Tim Keefe188018935047.6672562
Jerry Koosman196719853839.3332556
Christy Mathewson190019164780.6672502

You might notice a few things about that list. For one thing, there are a number of recent pitchers. Critics charge that home run numbers in baseball have gone through the roof. They forgot, however, how many more strikeouts have been introduced by the recent style of play. One other thing is that there are a large number of pitchers, including Clemens and all-time K record holder Nolan Ryan, that pitched a ridiculous long time. That's not a knock on those two who will be remembered as great strikeout pitchers. However, when you see names like Greg Maddux and Frank Tanana, who will be remembered more for finesse than power (besides early in Tanana's career), you start to think that there's a better way to present the all-time power pitchers.

It got me to thinking about a way to compensate for era and career length. What I did was take for a given pitcher in a given year the strikeout-to-innings ratio for the league in which he pitched. Then I multiplied the pitcher's innings pitched by this ratio to get the expected number of strikeouts for the pitcher. I subtracted the expected strikeouts from the actual and recorded the difference. Then I summed that difference over a pitcher's career. Now, here are the top 50 for career strikeouts above expected through 2003 (Sorry, the Lahman database isn't updated dynamically):

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiff
Nolan Ryan196619935386.057143177.672536.327
Randy Johnson198820033122.338712166.201704.797
Roger Clemens198420034278.740992819.701279.305
Walter Johnson190719275914.735092317.701191.298
Rube Waddell189719102961.323161200.411115.587
Dazzy Vance191519352966.72045959.341085.663
Steve Carlton196519885217.341363155.37980.632
Bob Feller193619563827.025811617.34963.664
Sandy Koufax195519662324.323961437.43958.571
Pedro Martinez199220032079.024261482.38943.623
Sam McDowell196119752492.324531586.30866.701
Lefty Grove192519413940.722661422.08843.916
Bert Blyleven197019924970.037012896.28804.722
Tom Seaver196719864782.736402876.45763.550
Amos Rusie188919013769.719341183.60750.399
David Cone198620032898.726681940.42727.578
Bob Gibson195919753884.331172448.68668.322
Curt Schilling198820032586.025421883.57658.434
Toad Ramsey188518902100.71515885.57629.432
Tim Keefe188018935047.725621939.18622.815
Mickey Lolich196319793638.328322229.63602.373
Tommy Bridges193019462826.316741089.86584.139
Bobo Newsom192919533759.320821497.91584.089
Jim Bunning195519713760.328552276.34578.656
J.R. Richard197119801606.01493918.04574.965
Mark Langston198419992962.724641894.30569.699
Christy Mathewson190019164780.725021933.16568.845
Hal Newhouser193919552993.017961228.21567.789
Fergie Jenkins196519834500.731922653.34538.664
Sid Fernandez198319971866.717431222.86520.143
Lefty Gomez193019432503.01468954.57513.431
Dennis Eckersley197519983285.724011893.67507.329
Chuck Finley198620023197.326102127.06482.945
Hideo Nomo199520031787.318021322.02479.981
John Smoltz198820032618.023131837.48475.518
Rich Gossage197219941809.315021035.03466.975
Van Mungo193119452113.01242775.84466.159
Johnny Vander Meer193719512104.71294833.77460.230
Bob Veale196219741926.017031244.75458.246
Sam Jones195119641643.31376919.68456.319
Ron Guidry197519882392.017781322.30455.696
Dwight Gooden198420002800.722931843.49449.513
Dizzy Dean193019471967.31163725.48437.522
Tom Gordon198820031807.016371201.01435.988
Lee Smith198019971289.31251818.73432.265
Camilo Pascual195419712930.721671735.35431.653
Red Ames190319193198.017021285.47416.532
Jim Maloney196019711849.016051191.81413.190
Ed Walsh190419172964.317361324.49411.506
Mario Soto197719881730.314491041.58407.423

That eliminates the era issue. There are a good deal more old-time players on this list. It's interesting to see Toad Ramsey ending up #19. And it's great to see J.R. Richard up there, too.

So Ryan is still number one but Randy Johnson blows past Clemens for #2. And guys like Walter Johnson, Rube Waddell, and Bob Feller climb up the list.

By the same token, this method provides us with a list of the worst strikeout artists of all time, the ones that fell shy of expectations by the most Ks. Here they are:

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiff
Lew Burdette195019673067.33310741729.92-655.92
Claude Osteen195719753460.33316122184.537-572.537
Tommy John196319894710.33322452801.42-556.42
Bob Forsch197419892794.66711331666.6-533.6
Pud Galvin187518926003.33318062312.49-506.49
Kirk Rueter199320031620.3337371209.338-472.338
Bob Purkey195419662114.6677931255.483-462.483
Mike Morgan197820022772.33314031847.9-444.9
Jim Barr197119832065.3337411185.13-444.13
Vern Law19501967267210921528.15-436.15
Joe Niekro19671988358417472170.455-423.455
Terry Mulholland198620032390.33312461669.074-423.074
Mel Stottlemyre196419742661.33312571676.358-419.358
Bob Tewksbury1986199818078121229.537-417.537
Ted Lyons19231946416110731490.353-417.353
Doyle Alexander197119893367.66715281937.417-409.417
Ross Grimsley197119822039.3337501159.383-409.383
Jim Perry195919753285.66715761982.313-406.313
Clyde Wright196619751728.6676671042.284-375.284
Mike Caldwell197119842408.6679391311.167-372.167
Bill Lee196919821944.3337131085.143-372.143
Tom Glavine19872003352821362507.083-371.083
Randy Jones1973198219337351100.793-365.793
Lary Sorensen197719881736.333569934.6785-365.679
Brian Anderson199320031350.333636981.9731-345.973

There are some famously soft tossers on the list, Bob Teksbury for one and Kirk Rueter among the current players.

However, there is still the issue of career length to deal with. If we just add up the figures over the years, pitchers with longer careers get buoyed. So my next idea was to use a ratio of actual strikeouts to expected. This would indicate which pitchers exceeded expectations the most. (I set a minimum cutoff to 500 IP, otherwise OF Mike Anderson would rank among the all-time leaders.) Here are the results for the highest ratio:

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiffRatio
Cy Seymour189619021029.0584267.92316.082.1798
Dazzy Vance191519352966.72045959.341085.662.1317
Rube Waddell189719102961.323161200.411115.591.9293
Herb Score19551962858.3837451.53385.471.8537
Ryne Duren19541965589.3630344.83285.171.8270
Billy Wagner19952003504.3694379.92314.081.8267
Nolan Ryan196619935386.057143177.672536.331.7982
Armando Benitez19942003584.3764427.23336.771.7883
Mark Clear19791990804.3804449.80354.201.7875
Randy Johnson198820033122.338712166.201704.801.7870
Troy Percival19952003537.0647374.02272.981.7299
Tom Henke19821995789.7861499.56361.441.7235
Toad Ramsey188518902100.71515885.57629.431.7108
Sandy Koufax195519662324.323961437.43958.571.6669
Dick Radatz19621969693.7745448.07296.931.6627
Bill Caudill19791987667.0620376.50243.501.6467
Duane Ward19861995666.7679414.68264.321.6374
Pedro Martinez199220032079.024261482.38943.621.6366
Amos Rusie188919013769.719341183.60750.401.6340
J.R. Richard197119801606.01493918.04574.961.6263
Doc McJames189519011361.3593367.81225.191.6122
Dizzy Dean193019471967.31163725.48437.521.6031
Van Mungo193119452113.01242775.84466.161.6008
Joe Page19441954790.0519325.14193.861.5962
Bob Feller193619563827.025811617.34963.661.5958
Lefty Grove192519413940.722661422.08843.921.5934
Ugueth Urbina19952003563.7661417.52243.481.5832
Mark Littell19731982532.0466295.53170.471.5768
Jeff Nelson19922003721.7771490.77280.231.5710
Kerry Wood19982003902.71065680.55384.451.5649
Johnny Vander Meer193719512104.71294833.77460.231.5520
Pat Malone192819371915.01024660.17363.831.5511
John Wetteland19892000765.0804518.75285.251.5499
Sam McDowell196119752492.324531586.30866.701.5464
Trevor Hoffman19932003710.0808524.00284.001.5420
Tom Hall19681977852.7797517.16279.841.5411
Lefty Gomez193019432503.01468954.57513.431.5379
Tommy Bridges193019462826.316741089.86584.141.5360
Jim Kern19741986793.3651425.38225.621.5304
Lee Smith198019971289.31251818.73432.271.5280
Orval Overall190519131535.3935612.59322.411.5263
Jakie May191719321562.3765503.09261.911.5206
Walter Johnson190719275914.735092317.701191.301.5140
Joe Wood190819201436.3989657.11331.891.5051

Now here are the lowest:

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiffRatio
Ted Wingfield19231927553.368170.14-102.140.3997
Benny Frey192919361160.0179415.84-236.840.4305
Ernie Wingard19241927688.3101210.06-109.060.4808
Jim Britt18721873816.72857.95-29.950.4831
Wild Bill Widner18871891522.0110224.23-114.230.4906
Jeff Ballard19871994773.3244486.08-242.080.5020
John Doherty19921996521.3177336.94-159.940.5253
Sandy Consuegra19501957809.3193366.22-173.220.5270
Patsy Flaherty189919111302.7271514.05-243.050.5272
Sam Zoldak19441952929.3207391.57-184.570.5286
Steve Kline19701977750.3240448.32-208.320.5353
Jimmy Anderson19992003559.0235424.45-189.450.5537
Johnny Couch19171925643.0112197.90-85.900.5659
Harry McCormick18791883884.0157277.07-120.070.5666
Bill Reidy18961904601.7109191.21-82.210.5700
Jack Russell192619402050.7418732.37-314.370.5708
Bill Hubbell19191925931.0167288.78-121.780.5783
Peaches Davis19361939542.0123212.64-89.640.5784
Heinie Meine19221934999.3199343.75-144.750.5789
Doug Sisk19821991523.3195330.57-135.570.5899
Chris Welsh19811986537.7192322.86-130.860.5947
Jack Dunn189719041076.7171286.49-115.490.5969
Brian Meadows19982003738.3329547.24-218.240.6012
Fernando Arroyo19751986535.7172286.04-114.040.6013
John Coleman18831890842.7224371.93-147.930.6023

Poor Ted Wingfield. By the way, if you're interested the most average strikeout pitcher all time, the only that best fit the expected strikeout value, was Rich Gale with a ratio of 1.0001 (518 actual, 517.95 expected).

I'll tell you I like both sets of tables, but I'm not pleased with the last set entirely. Either one, however, is preferable to the all-time K list.

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