Sunday, May 10, 2015

Where Have All the Strikeouts Gone?

Over the past two games, the Tigers' starters have only 3 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.  Anibal Sanchez had 2 in yesterday's game and David Price only had 1 two days ago.  This is a microcosm of the whole year as the Tigers' starters are only averaging a little over 6 K/9.  Remember when the Tigers starting rotation was regularly striking out batters on a daily basis?  Here's how the ranked in recent years:

Year K/9 MLB Rank

In 2013, the Tigers pitching staff as a whole set a MLB record with 1,428 strikeouts helped by 3 starting pitchers who had 200+ K's each, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.   Of course Scherzer is now gone along with Doug Fister and Rick Porcello.  Verlander has been on the DL all year.  The only one remaining from the 2013 rotation is Sanchez, who is now in a rotation consisting of David Price, Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon and Kyle Lobstein.  

Anibal Sanchez is the only member of the starting rotation who currently has a K/9 of over 7 at 7.74, which isn't much different than his career mark of 7.92.  Sanchez has had two big strikeout years, a 9.26 K/9 in 2011 and a 9.99 K/9 in 2013.  Sanchez has been struggling this year, mainly due to giving up the long ball.  He has given up 6 home runs already this year, which is 2 more than he gave up all of last year.  

David Price, who usually is a strikeout machine, only has a 6.41 K/9 so far this year, which is by far the lowest of his career and almost 2 K/9 below his career 8.38 K/9 mark.  Last year, Price led MLB with 271 strikeouts. So far the lack of strikeouts hasn't effected him much as his 3.30 ERA is exactly the same as his 3.30 FIP and isn't much different than his 3.26 ERA that he posted last year.  

Shane Greene surprised everyone by striking out over a batter per inning last year at 9.27 K/9 in his shortened rookie year last year.  He had an 8.15 K/9 in 562 minor league innings, so it was expected that he'd have an above average strikeout rate in the majors.  Along with a decent FIP and SIERA, it was expected that Greene would be decent going forward.  However, he's only at 5.56 K/9 so far this year and his ERA has suffered at 5.56.  

Alfredo Simon was already a questionable acquisition among Tiger fans before he even threw one pitch in a Tiger uniform.  However, his strikeout rate isn't much different than it was last year (5.82 in 2014 and 5.65 in 2015) and his ERA is exactly the same at 3.44.  

Out of the 6 regular pitchers who started games for the Tigers last year, only one had a K/9 below 6, Rick Porcello.  This year the Tigers have 3: Green, Simon and Kyle Lobstein.  Lobstein has held his own filling in for the injured Justin Verlander with an ERA of only 3.00.  However, his strikeout rate of only 4.09 K/9 leaves a lot to be desired.  His K/9 ranks 6th lowest in all of MLB, (right ahead of former Tiger Doug Fister who is currently at 4.06 for the Nationals).  This is way below his minor league mark of 7.79 K/9.  

This is cause for concern for the Tigers as there's usually an inverse correlation between strikeouts and ERA.  The Tigers' rotation currently stand with a 4.15 ERA, which ranks 17th in MLB.  However, their SIERA ranks 25th at 4.24.  Whether this is a change in philosophy on the pitching coach's part to have these pitchers pitch to contact more or just random variation, this isn't a good sign going forward.  The best thing to happen would be if some of these pitchers would put up strikeout rates that they are capable of.  

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