Arthur: We’re seeing more strikeouts, but it takes many more pitches to get them

From SABR member Rob Arthur at FiveThirtyEight on June 27, 2015:

Last Saturday, Max Scherzer threw a no-hitter that was one regrettable pitch from being a perfect game. In the start before that, Scherzer racked up 16 strikeouts on his way to one of the best pitching performances of all time, and on Friday night, he was perfect through the sixth inning against the Phillies, striking out seven.

Scherzer is far from the only pitcher demonstrating his dominance: Corey Kluber, reigning AL Cy Young winner, tossed an 18-strikeout game not long ago, and Michael Pineda struck out 16 recently as well. When you line all those performances up, it feels like the pinnacle of single-game pitching — Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game — is waiting to be surpassed. But even in this era of strikeouts, the record is probably as safe as ever.

In 1998, a young Wood threw a complete-game shutout in which he walked no one and struck out 20.1 Wood’s game earned the highest-ever Game Score, a metric that measures the extent to which a pitcher controls the game. Combining both the positive (strikeouts, run prevention) and negative (walks, hits) aspects of a hurler’s performance, Game Score is an overall number that measures a pitcher’s mastery. Wood’s historic start earned him a 105. There have only ever been 12 games in which a pitcher met or broke 100 in nine or fewer innings.

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Originally published: July 1, 2015. Last Updated: July 1, 2015.