While there is still plenty of baseball left in 2019, enough games have been played where we can start drawing certain conclusions. Moving forward, it’ll be up to the players themselves as to whether they can erase a slow start or sustain a fast one to prove those conclusions as right or wrong.
One trend that starts to get noticed with about a month of the season in the books is changes in strikeout rate. Strikeouts are more prevalent today than they’ve ever been in today’s game, and there are a handful of hurlers currently enjoying a surge in their personal strikeout rate.
The following list of pitchers is not exhaustive, but to be highlighted here, starters needed 20-plus innings pitched with at least a five-percentage-point increase in strikeouts from the year before. Relievers needed the same rise in strikeout rate as long as they’ve thrown 10-plus innings. As we all know, pitching wins baseball games. If you have the chance to wager at casino netbet when one of these hot pitchers takes the mound, you can almost take your money to the bank!
David Price, Boston Red Sox
Career Strikeout Rate: 23.7%
2018 Strikeout Rate: 24.5%
2019 Strikeout Rate (so far): 31.9%
Not much has gone right for the defending World Champs this season — especially if we’re talking about the starting rotation. As a group, starters are just 3-12 with a 5.98 ERA (third-worst in baseball), 1.52 WHIP (fourth-worst), 22.7% strikeout rate, and 9.7% walk rate.
The one who hasn’t been a complete bust is left-hander David Price. Through 24 innings (four starts), he leads the rotation with a 3.75 ERA and 0.7 fWAR. Since posting a 24.0% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate in his first year with the Sox, those numbers have gotten better each year.
Price is allowing hard contact at a 40.7% rate, though, which would easily be a career-worst mark if that pace is sustained. This can partially be attributed to a drop in cutter usage — he threw that offering at a career-high 28.1% clip last year, but that number is currently at 13.6%. Most of the change has gone to his fastball (46.8% in ’18, 54.6% in ’19, which includes his sinker).
Sonny Gray, Cincinnati Reds
Career Strikeout Rate: 21.2%
2018 Strikeout Rate: 21.1%
2019 Strikeout Rate (so far): 31.3%
The Reds are 9-14 and already taking up residence in the National League Central basement. Unlike in recent years, though, the blame can’t be put on the rotation. They’re entering Thursday’s games tied for the league’s second-best cumulative fWAR (3.0) and the fourth-best ERA (3.30).
After a disastrous 2018 with the New York Yankees, Sonny Gray is looking more like his old self, with the added bonus of more strikeouts. It took the right-hander 130.1 innings to accumulate 1.6 fWAR last year, yet he’s already produced 1.0 in just 24.2 innings this season.
Gray is also allowing a ton of hard contact (42.6%), but his 54.1% ground-ball rate is much more in line with his career norms (53.3%). Interestingly enough, his pitch mix hasn’t changed much from last year — he threw his fastball at a career-low 35.1% clip in ’18, and that number is even lower to start 2019 (33.1%).
Gray’s slider has been straight-up nasty, though. After producing a 41.2% strikeout rate and 73 wRC+ with it last year, those numbers have increased to 66.7% and -73 (!) in the early going.
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
Career Strikeout Rate: 27.2%
2018 Strikeout Rate: 31.6%
2019 Strikeout Rate (so far): 37.5%
There is no Cy Young hangover for Blake Snell. His season debut didn’t go well — he allowed five runs on six hits (three home runs), two walks, and three strikeouts in six innings. In the 22.1 innings following that performance, he’s allowed just four runs (three earned) and two homers while walking four and striking out 36.
Snell has generated the third-best soft-hit rate allowed (28.8%), fourth-best hard-hit rate allowed (23.7%), and fifth-best infield-fly rate (18.2%) in baseball among starters with 20-plus innings pitched. He’s accomplished this with a huge increase in curveball usage. After setting a single-season career high last year by tossing it at a 20.2% clip, it’s all the way up to 32.3% thus far in 2019.
This offering has generated a 33.3% infield-fly rate, while his four-seamer has actually induced infield flies at a 63.6% clip.