High Strikeout Games

Baseball has changed in the last twenty years or so. (And I’m old enough to recognise it.) Gone are the days of the high strikeout/high pitch count starts from the likes of Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Kerry Wood. In are high strikeout/low pitch count games…

What does that mean? You can read this article from FiveThirtyEight to make the most sense of it. But this chart explains part of it:

More strikeouts per game
More strikeouts per game

Basically, baseball is played with a lot more data than it used to be. We now know empirically that pitchers are most effective the first time through the lineup. Less so the second time. Even less so the third. The great pitchers, obviously, lose less effectiveness, but everybody does. So, if you can maximise your strikeouts (which come at a great cost of pitches thrown per arm—separate story that) by limiting a start to, say, twice through a lineup, you do so. Because then you can plug in hard-throwing relievers who, in their first and often only time through the lineup, can rack up a few strikeouts. So the result from that is higher strikeouts, lower pitch counts.

And that means that it is highly unlikely you will see games where a starting pitcher throws 120, 130, 140 pitches in a start and strikes out 16+ batters. Which is a shame, because I’m clearly old as those were my favourite ball games to watch.

Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.

Author: Brendan Barry

I am a graphic designer who focuses on information design. My day job? I am the data visualisation manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (This blog is my something I do on my own time and does not represent the views of the Fed, blah blah blah legal stuff.) And with my main interest in information design—be it in the shape of clear charts, maps, diagrams, or wayfinding systems—I am fortunate that my day job focuses on data visualisation. Outside of work, I try to stay busy with personal design work. Away from the world of design, I enjoy cooking and reading and am interested in various subjects from history and geography to politics to science to the arts. And I allow all of them to influence my work.

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