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Predicting Pitchers Strikeout Totals

MLB Pitcher Strikeout Predictions - Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

Hey, we are through Daylight Saving Time, which means baseball season has been close, right?

I have already broken down a couple of player over/unders so far with both home runs totals and pitcher win totals in the rearview mirror.

Now, I will stick with the pitchers and check out some of the strikeouts totals being brought to us my MyBookie.

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As I’ve mentioned in previous pieces, please keep in mind I am assuming full health for these hurlers unless a pitcher has an injury history that we need to be aware of. Let’s see if we can keep earning some cake with these strikeout totals!

Max Scherzer (Nationals)

Over 273.5
-115
Under 273.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 300

Scherzer met the 300-strikeout barrier head on last season, the first time the elite right-hander has done so in his career.

His previous career-high was 284 set just two years prior in 2016 with a 268 mark mixed in between. These totals seem to be moving around quite a bit, something we will see as move down the list, but Scherzer has been among the league leaders for the last four years in this area.

Scherzer enjoyed the highest swinging strike rate of his career last year at 16.1%, so he seems to be getting better with age. As one of the most durable arms in the game, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

My Pick
OVER 273.5

Chris Sale (Red Sox)

Over 259.5
-115
Under 259.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 237

It would appear MyBookie is factor in some sort of injury concern for Sale as he struck out 237 batters in 2018 despite throwing just 158 innings thanks to late-season shoulder woes.

It appears Sale is healthy and ready to go for a full season in 2019, and the last time he had a full season he punched out 308 in 2017.

Given the nasty nature of his stuff and his 38.4% strikeout rate from 2018, I will easily go over here, assuming full health of course.

My Pick
OVER 259.5

Jacob deGrom (Mets)

Over 250.5
-115
Under 250.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 269

deGrom punched out 269 batters in his Cy Young-winning 2018 season, a career-high for the right-hander, as was his 32.2% strikeout clip.

It was a true breakout all around for one of the NL’s best pitchers last season, and at age 30, he is still well in his prime. Although 2018 was the only time he’s eclipsed this total, I don’t see any reason to expect notable regression in the strikeout department this season.

My Pick
OVER 250.5

Justin Verlander (Astros)

Over 244.5
-115
Under 244.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 290

The AL Cy Young was Verlander’s had it not been for Blake Snell’s incredible season with the Rays and his 290 strikeouts from last year were a career-high.

That’s certainly saying something as it even bested his AL MVP year of 2011 when he struck out 250. He’s eclipsed this total three times in his career, but boy is there some miles on this arm. I’m probably not as bullish on this Astros’ pitching staff as most are, and I am going to go with my first under here.

My Pick
UNDER 244.5

Gerrit Cole (Astros)

Over 244.5
-115
Under 244.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 276

While the names above have had a history of high strikeout totals, that hasn’t been the case for Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Prior to punching out 276 in 2018, Cole’s previous career-high was just 202 and that came back in 2015. In 2017 – his final year with the Pirates – Cole struck out only 196 batters.

So what accounted for the big increase in his strikeout total and 11.4% increase in his strikeout rate? He ditched a sinker and relied more on his four-seam fastball and enjoyed a career-high 14.1% swinging strike rate as a result.

Like I mentioned with deGrom, the breakout should be here to stay. He’s always been a good pitcher, but now he knows what works best, and he’s just 28 and therefore right smack-dab in his prime. I’ll take the over.

My Pick
OVER 244.5

Carlos Carrasco (Indians)

Over 224.5
-105
Under 224.5
-135

2018 Strikeout Total: 231

With much of the hype going towards his fellow right-handed rotation mates in Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, Carrasco has quietly been right there in terms of his production with this duo.

He struck out a career-high 231 last season, although he also punched out 226 in 2017. His 15.3% swinging strike rate from last season was by far a career-high and at just 31 years of age, he should stay in the same ballpark as the last two seasons, barring health.

With a weak bullpen behind him, perhaps he gets more leash in games this season as well. I’ll take the over here at much better odds considering he’s done it each of the last two years.

My Pick
OVER 224.5

Corey Kluber (Indians)

Over 222.5
-115
Under 222.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 222

2018 saw Kluber post the lowest strikeout total over the last five seasons, and a dip in four-seam fastball velocity and swinging strike rate could be to blame.

He’s only 32 years old still and doesn’t have nearly as many miles on his right arm as some of the other ace pitchers in his game like Scherzer or Verlander. Still, the fastball velocity decline is something that is of extreme concern here, and at this point, I don’t like his odds of getting over the total as a result.

My Pick
OVER 222.5

Luis Severino (Yankees)

Over 215.5
-115
Under 215.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 220

Severino was likely the front-runner for the Cy Young award in the first half of 2018, until disaster struck in the second half to the tune of a 5.67 ERA. Simply put, that type of production doesn’t happen to legitimate aces in their prime, but at 25 Severino likely hasn’t hit that phase of his career yet.

Still, there are a couple of causes for concern, one being that disastrous second half. The second would be the shoulder injury that has prevented him from throwing a single in-game pitch in Spring Training. At one point, he even had pain in his shoulder when he simply lifted his arm. That’s not good and that does not bode well for his early-season health.

Considering he hit just 220 strikeouts with a Cy Young-like first half, I don’t see how he cracks the 215.5 total as he is going to miss time to begin the season and the Yankees have the luxury to proceed with extreme caution given the elite depth of their rotation. This is the easiest one for me so far.

My Pick
UNDER 215.5

Trevor Bauer (Indians)

Over 219.5
-115
Under 219.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 221

Bauer is another name that was fully involved in the Cy Young race until an August line drive hit him in the shin and broke it. He only made a couple more postseason tune up starts after that early August incident, but he still went over the this total in only 175.1 innings.

Let’s keep in mind Bauer was absolutely filthy when healthy to the tune of an 11.34 K/9, 30.8% strikeout rate and a 13.3% swinging strike rate. The good news with that injury is that does not involve his right arm or upper body, but rather a freak incident that is more bad luck than anything else.

Bottom line is Bauer’s breakout is going to be here to stay and he is quite likely to throw his name into the Cy Young hat again this season. I’m easily hitting over the total on this one.

My Pick
OVER 219.5

Blake Snell (Rays)

Over 219.5
-115
Under 219.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 221

After mentioning some Cy Young candidates in the previous AL arms, let’s get to the guy who actually won the award in 2018.

Snell’s 221 strikeouts are nothing to scoff at, but usually, we see a larger total from a Cy Young winner. However, while he made big strides in dealing with control issues in 2018, he still walks more batters than your average ace, which comes at the cost of strikeouts. He won the award thanks to a big 88% strand rate and .241 BABIP last season.

Still, if he can improve his walk rate even further, he should be able to at least hit his 221 punchouts from last season. He’s just 26 years old, and it’s not uncommon to see young pitchers struggle with control at the big league level. Given his improvements, I’ll look for some more punchouts this season from the southpaw.

My Pick
OVER 219.5

Patrick Corbin (Nationals)

Over 215.5
+105
Under 215.5
-135

2018 Strikeout Total: 246

After tying a career-high with 178 strikeouts in 2017, Corbin blew past any and all expectations by striking out 246 on a career-high 33 starts and 200 innings pitched to boot.

His K/9 jumped from 8.05 in 2017 to 11.07 in 2018 while his swinging strike rate went from 11% all the way to 15.6%. Now, Corbin will test the vaunted NL East in his first year in a Nationals uniform, something that could harm his strikeout totals with only the Marlins serving as non-competitors in this division, rather than feasting on the Giants and Padres last season.

If you like the over, which I do, the good news is he can regress by a notable amount and still get there. At just 29 years old Corbin has ace potential and it stands to wonder if the Nationals rotation can be historically good in this area with Scherzer and Strasburg mixed in. I’m all over the over at excellent odds.

My Pick
OVER 215.5

Chris Archer (Pirates)

Over 210.5
-115
Under 210.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 162

It was a forgettable 2018 season for Archer as he largely struggled with the Rays before moving over to Pittsburgh and getting injured early in his Pirates tenure.

His K/9 of 11.15 from 2017 fell to 9.83 in 2018, but Archer would still have been on pace to hit the over here had he pitched closer to 200 innings and not the 148.1 that he ended up throwing last season.

He’s generally been durable with at least 194 innings pitched in four straight years prior to last season and he cruised over this total with at least 233 strikeouts in the three season prior to 2018.

I think it’s going to be much closer this year. Archer is facing the scary-good offenses of the Brewers and Cardinals in this division while the Cubs’ offense could bounce back to being one of the best in the senior circuit. The Reds are also going to sport a good offense, and his outings could become short in a hurry against these clubs with an ERA over four in each of the last three years. I think this one is a toss-up, but I’ll take the under.

My Pick
UNDER 210.5

Aaron Nola (Phillies)

Over 210.5
-115
Under 210.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 224

At 25, Nola was the NL Cy Young runner up behind Jacob deGrom and I don’t see any reason why he should fall outside of that conversation again this year.

Nola’s 224 punchouts from 2018 were obviously a career-high, but he also struck out 184 across just 168 innings in 2017 while his 9.86 K/9 mark from that season actually bested his 9.49 mark from last season.

In other words, on a full workload basis, Nola has hit the over on this total two years in a row. He’s healthy, he’s got a great arm and he should be working with a lot of leads and pounding the strike zone with a dynamite Phillies offense in support. I’ll take the over here no problem.

My Pick
OVER 210.5

Robbie Ray (Diamondbacks)

Over 205.5
-115
Under 205.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 165

When healthy, Ray has some of the top strikeout upside in the league as he posted a 12.01 K/9 across 123.2 innings last season, but it was another injury-shortened year.

Ray has never eclipsed 174.1 innings in his career and has pitched 127.2 or under in two of his four big league seasons, including last season. That said, he has also posted exactly 218 strikeouts in his two healthy seasons in 2016 and 2017.

So, which Robbie Ray are we going to get in 2019? The one that will pitch just 5-6 innings on a regular basis and have 8-12 strikeout upside nonetheless or one that struggles to stay healthy and will simply not pitch enough innings to get near this total?

I’ll think positive here and look for a healthy season from Ray, which means more than 2-5 strikeouts.

My Pick
OVER 205.5

James Paxton (Yankees)

Over 204.5
-115
Under 204.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 208

The newest Yankees rotation member notched a career-best 208 strikeouts last season, but he also did it while dealing with more injuries as he was limited to just 160.1 innings.

That’s good news. Paxton can still miss four or five starts and still get over this total as he made 28 starts in the 2018 season.

He is certainly entering his prime as the late-blooming Paxton will play his age 30 season in 2019. He has a swinging strike rate of 15% from 2018 that is right in line with some of the game’s best. He can even pitch closer to 180 innings than the 160 he hurled last season and make another start or two, I’m very confident in him getting over this total.

My Pick
OVER 204.5

German Marquez (Rockies)

Over 199.5
-135
Under 199.5
+105

2018 Strikeout Total: 230

Marquez is another pitcher on this list that enjoyed his breakout season in 2018 as he pitched to a 3.10 xFIP while posting 230 strikeouts across 196 innings and 33 starts, all three of which were career-highs.

Clearly, the oddsmakers aren’t buying the breakout as they are predicting regression in the form of roughly 30 punchouts. Perhaps it makes some sense as his K/9 jumped from 8.17 in 2017 all the way to 10.56 last season, but he was also getting many more swings and misses with a 12.5% mark from 2018 compared to a 9.1% mark in 2017.

That said, it was a tale of two seasons for Marquez as he produced a 9.26 K/9 in the first half and a massive 12.00 mark in the second. If we combine the two in a 200+ inning season, we will still likely get over the total. However, If I’m looking for value, I’ll lean towards the inevitable regression and go with the under as he’s just still only 24-years-old.

My Pick
UNDER 199.5

Mike Clevinger (Indians)

Over 197.5
+105
Under 197.5
-135

2018 Strikeout Total: 207

You know you have a good staff when four of your five starters are on this list whereas many teams don’t have a single one.

Clevinger is technically the Indians’ fourth starter, but he would be much higher on most other clubs as he logged a 3.02 ERA and 3.52 FIP last season. That said, his 10.13 K/9 from 2017 actually bested the 9.32 mark from 2018, so last year wasn’t the first year he posted strong strikeout numbers. Clevinger also posted that 10.13 K/9 over a solid 121.2 inning sample size and 21 starts with six relief outings to boot.

He doesn’t give us much reason to doubt he can produce strong numbers again and coming off his first 200-innings season I will hit the over at nice odds.

My Pick
OVER 197.5

Jose Berrios (Twins)

Over 194.5
-115
Under 194.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 202

If Berrios strictly made his starts at home, I’d bet the farm on the over here. He posted a 9.93 K/9 at home last season, but that number fell to 8.86 on the road.

However, there are some serious signs of encouragement when it comes to the Twins’ young right-hander. First, Berrios is set to eclipse the 200-inning mark after pitching 192.1 innings last season.

Second, he posted an 11.62 K/9 in September last season – his highest number of any month last season. In other words, when most young arms wear down, Berrios was lighting hitters up.

Third, he posted an 8.59 K/9 mark in 2017 and followed that up with a 9.45 mark in 2018. While he’s young, he’s getting better and better and appears ready to take on full-ace status after being named Minnesota’s Opening Day starter. I’ll hit the over all day here.

My Pick
OVER 194.5

Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks)

Over 194.5
-115
Under 194.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 199

Greinke’s strikeout total fell to under 200 for the first time in a mostly-healthy season since 2013 with the Dodgers when he punched out only 147 in 177.2 innings.

Is age starting to win the battle? Let’s not get it twisted, Greinke produced a 3.21 ERA and 3.44 xFIP across 33 starts and 207.2 innings last season, a production that still resembles an ace-type arm.

However, the general rule is that your strikeout total is going to decrease into your mid-30s, unless your name is Scherzer or Verlander, although I picked the under for the latter. Greinke is 35 years old at this point and has plenty of miles on that arm. He’s made at least 26 starts in 11 straight years, so durability isn’t a concern.

That said, his swinging strike rate fell almost 2% last year and his four-seam fastball velocity dipped to 90 mph, the lowest of his big league career and a full tick under his 2017 figure.

I don’t see the diminutive right-hander getting nastier as the years move along, so I’ll fall under the total here.

My Pick
UNDER 194.5

Mike Foltynewicz (Braves)

Over 192.5
-115
Under 192.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 202

Foltynewicz busted out with a breakout season of his own as he lowered his ERA from a 4.79 mark in 2017 all the way down to 2.85 in 2018 while his K/9 jumped from 8.36 all the way to 9.93.

He’s a power pitcher to be sure with an average four-seam fastball velocity of 96.8 mph last year, a notable jump from the 95.7-mark he averaged the year prior. He used that pitch 40.5% of the time last season compared to just 33.7% the year prior, so perhaps more use of this pitch can help his strikeout numbers moving forward.

At this point, I’m not seeing much that would suggest his strikeout numbers will go anywhere but up moving forward.

My Pick
OVER 192.5

Jack Flaherty (Cardinals)

Over 190.5
+105
Under 190.5
-135

2018 Strikeout Total: 182

Flaherty enjoyed a massive rookie season in 2018 and the 10.85 K/9 was particularly impressive along with his 3.34 ERA in 28 starts.

He pitched just 151 frames in those starts, however, averaging just over five innings per start as his 3.52 BB/9 clip hurt his ability to go deep into games.

So, is he going to issue fewer walks or will he continue to struggle to go deep into games? The first thing I want from his is 30+ starts, and he should be able to do so after taking the ball 28 times as a rookie. If we can get that, we should be able to get over the total here and I will roll with that notion at +105 odds.

My Pick
OVER 190.5

Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)

Over 185.5
-115
Under 185.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 156

The injury alarm bells are going off here.

The strikeout totals from Strasburg from last year in reverse order are: 156, 204, 183, 155, 242, 191, 197. Can you venture a guess in which years he dealt with injuries?

Durability and injury risk is massive here. Fully healthy, Strasburg cruises over this total. If he misses 8-10 starts as he did last season, he will fall well under. With a career 10.57 K/9, he could still miss 4-5 starts and get over this total, as he almost hit it in 2016 despite making just 24 starts.

After an injury-plagued season, I’ll look for better health for Strasburg in 2019, and I’ll head over the total as a result.

My Pick
OVER 185.5

Walker Buehler (Dodgers)

Over 185.5
-115
Under 185.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 151

In 2017, Buehler pitched 98 innings in the minor leagues. In 2018, Buehler pitched 161 innings in the big leagues and 177 innings total including the postseason.

That is a massive jump for the young right-hander, but his excellent postseason showed us that the increased workload didn’t bother him, especially the high-exertion innings of postseason baseball. With Clayton Kershaw almost certain not to pitch Opening Day, we could be talking about the Dodgers’ ace to open the season here, regardless of Opening Day duties.

He has posted video game strikeout numbers in the minors and posted a 9.90 K/9 mark in the regular season in the big leagues last year. While his 2.62 ERA could regress, I’m not sure he will stop striking out hitters at an elite rate given his work in the minors and his 2018 as a whole. I’ll take the over.

My Pick
OVER 185.5

David Price (Red Sox)

Over 185.5
-115
Under 185.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 177

Price missed a few starts with injuries last season, however he still reached just 177 strikeouts despite making 30 starts.

It’s obvious at this point that the 33-year-old Price is not fooling as many hitters as he used to while his risk of injury has never been higher.

You can look at a solid 9.05 K/9 rate as a higher mark than earlier in his career, but his 9.5% swinging strike rate from 2018 was his lowest mark since 2013 while with the Rays. It was also more than 2% under his 2017 figure.

He’s going to be reliable in that Boston rotation, however, Price’s days of 200-plus innings and 200-plus punchouts could very well be over. I’ll go under this total.

My Pick
UNDER 185.5

Noah Syndergaard (Mets)

Over 185.5
-115
Under 185.5
-115

2018 Strikeout Total: 155

Another injury-plagued season for Syndergaard led him to just 155 strikeouts across 25 starts and 154.1 innings last season.

The tough thing is those 154.1 innings were the second-highest he’s accumulated in his career aside from his 183.2-inning season from 2016.

When healthy, he’s lethal as he owns a career 9.95 K/9 clip while his 98.3 mph career average velocity on his four-seam fastball and career 13.4% swinging strike rate are straight-up nasty.

So, if he stays healthy, he’s darn-near guaranteed to go over the total. If he gets around 180 innings and 28-32 starts, he’s going over. I’m going over.

My Pick
OVER 185.5

Charlie Morton (Rays)

Over 182.5
+105
Under 182.5
-135

2018 Strikeout Total: 201

Morton is one of those rare arms to find velocity last in his career as he struck out a career-high 201 hitters in 2018, besting his previous mark of 163 in 2017 with the Astros. Before that, his best single-season mark was only 126 in 2014 with the Pirates.

Morton’s 3.45 BB/9 rate last season had him throwing too many pitches to pitch deep into games which is why he finished 2018 with just 167 innings pitched despite making 30 starts.

This season, Morton has moved to the Rays where he will be one of three starters on the team. That shouldn’t mess much with his career-high 96.6 mpg average four-seam fastball velocity from last season. There are plenty of weak offenses in the American League, however, so Morton could get deeper into games this year and if he can stay healthy, that will lead to an increase in strikeouts this season.

My Pick
OVER 182.5