Jaffe: Verlander’s twin milestones cap a year of record strikeouts

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs on September 30, 2019:

In a season that had already seen strikeout rates and totals reach unprecedented highs, Justin Verlander helped himself to not one but two impressive, K-related milestones on Saturday night against the Angels in Anaheim. With his fourth-inning strikeout of Kole Calhoun, he became the 18th pitcher to reach 3,000 for his career, and the second this season after CC Sabathia. Two innings later, he whiffed Calhoun again for his 300th (and final) strikeout of the season. The two milestones — which had been paired in a single game once before, by the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson on September 10, 2000 against the Marlins — added a couple more bullet points to his case for a second AL Cy Young award, but they also served to remind us what a silly season it’s been for swings and misses.

After leading the AL for the fifth time last year with a career-high 290 strikeouts, Verlander began this season 294 short of 3,000, a distance that suggested that the 36-year-old righty would need until early in the 2020 season to reach the milestone. That still appeared to be the case when I checked in on him on May 1, in the context of Sabathia joining the 3,000 club; on June 24, when I wrote about Verlander dominating despite so many home runs surrendered; and on August 16, when I checked in on the progress of several stars who had enhanced their Hall of Fame cases this year. At that last juncture, Verlander was averaging 12.0 strikeouts per nine and needed 77 to reach 3,000. Figuring six innings and thus eight strikeouts per start, times eight starts — either actual or their equivalent via shorter late-season outings as the playoffs approached — my back-of-the-envelope math suggested he’d fall short.

Read the full article here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/verlanders-twin-milestones-cap-a-year-of-record-strikeouts/

Originally published: October 2, 2019. Last Updated: October 2, 2019.