Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 3/7/13
Last season, after joining the Nationals, Gio Gonzalez threw 3,198 pitches in the regular season, plus 209 more in the playoffs. That is an awful lot of pitches, but this article isn’t about that sort of pitcher abuse. It’s about a different sort of pitcher abuse to which the headline can also misleadingly refer. Of those thousands and thousands of pitches thrown by Gonzalez in 2012, many were thrown to opposing pitchers. It is on those pitches that we’re going to focus. Pitchers have a lot of success when they’re pitching against opposing pitchers as batters. This is because pitchers are pitchers and not batters, and pitchers who are better at batting than pitching tend to become batters instead. Last season, pitchers struck out in 37% of their plate appearances. They struck out in nearly 42% of their plate appearances that didn’t result in sacrifice bunts. Collectively, they posted a .162 OBP. Collectively, they posted a .165 slugging percentage. Pitchers suck at hitting! You come to FanGraphs for the cutting-edge analysis. In the comments below a post about Derek Lowe yesterday, a reader mentioned Lowe generating strikeouts against opposing pitchers in 2011. I’m not going to sit here and write any more about Derek Lowe, because I think we’ve all had enough, but that inspired me to look up individual numbers against pitchers. I made liberal use of Baseball-Reference’s Play Index and ran a few 2012 queries to isolate pitcher strikeouts against pitchers. It was all much easier than I expected it to be, because I am a man of modest expectations. Overall, 312 pitchers recorded at least one strikeout against an opposing pitcher. Tied for fifth were Ryan Vogelsong and Lance Lynn, with 28 strikeouts of pitchers apiece. Tied for third were Tommy Hanson and Jeff Samardzija, with 29. Alone in second was Wandy Rodriguez, who struck out 34 pitchers. That’s a big gap between second and third. There’s a bigger gap, though, between first and second — ahead of Rodriguez, we find Gio Gonzalez, with 41 strikeouts of opposing pitchers. Gonzalez didn’t just finish atop the leaderboard; he blew his competition away (in a few different ways!). On a hunch, I started going through the history. In 2008, Derek Lowe struck out 37 pitchers. In 2003, Kevin Brown struck out 38, and in 2002, Randy Johnson struck out 39. You have to go all the way back to 1983 to find a 40 (Steve Carlton), and you have to go all the way back to 1972 to find a number bigger than Gonzalez’s 41. In 1972, Steve Carlton struck out 44 pitchers, and Nolan Ryan struck out 42 pitchers. In 1972, Carlton threw 346.1 innings, and Ryan threw 284 innings. Gio Gonzalez last season struck out more opposing pitchers than any other pitcher in the last 40 years. Though it’s a counting stat, that is an achievement worthy of some recognition. In all, Gonzalez had 57 matchups against pitchers. Of those, 41 ended with strikeouts, and three ended with sacrifice bunts. One ended with a hit. One ended with a walk. Against Gonzalez, pitchers batted .019/.037/.019, allowing themselves to be completely and utterly abused. No other pitcher finished with a better line against pitchers, not that a better line would even really be possible. The walk? Tim Hudson, on four pitches, on the first day of July. Here’s that walk: The hit? Josh Johnson, on the seventh pitch, on the third day of August. Here’s that hit: The hit was a legitimate hit, and with a better runner, it might’ve been a double. The walk was of lesser legitimacy, given the two pitches on the edges. Let’s pull back now because this stuff was included just for curiosity’s sake. Gio Gonzalez completely dominated pitchers a year ago. It would be easy to refer to this as being “cheap”, since pitchers aren’t real hitters, and indeed, being able to pitch against pitchers gives pitchers an edge in the National League. But Gonzalez deserves credit for being better against pitchers than most, and I’ll remind you: 40 years. Most strikeouts against pitchers in 40 years. Those strikeouts weren’t just handed to Gonzalez, even if he had to do less to earn them than usual. Now, however, we have to make a note. Gio Gonzalez’s raw strikeout rates: 2011: 22.8% 2012: 25.2% Gio Gonzalez’s raw walk rates: 2011: 10.5% 2012: 9.3% Let’s look at those again if we strip away the plate appearances against opposing pitchers. Adjusted strikeout rates: 2011: 22.8% 2012: 21.7% Adjusted walk rates: 2011: 10.6% 2012: 9.8% Before getting traded, against non-pitchers, Gonzalez posted a 2.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After getting traded, against non-pitchers, Gonzalez posted a 2.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Include the pitchers and that jumps all the way up to 2.7. We can’t just throw out Gonzalez’s performance against pitchers, because those plate appearances happened and were in accordance with the rules, but what we can see is that maybe Gonzalez didn’t actually take a step forward. Maybe he just took advantage of what the National League had to offer. I guess it doesn’t have to be one or the other; it can be both, and it probably is both. Gio Gonzalez probably did get a bit better with the Nationals, but against non-pitchers, he didn’t demonstrate an increased strikeout ability. A mostly unrelated note, before I conclude: R.A. Dickey throws a knuckleball. He actually throws a few knuckleballs! He pitched in the National League, and you’d figure pitchers would have a tough time getting the bat on a Dickey knuckler. Dickey, after all, finished among the league leaders in strikeout rate. Last year, Dickey struck out 25% of pitchers. He also struck out 24.8% of non-pitchers. Dickey’s been traded to the American League and maybe that won’t be so rough an adjustment. Amazingly, in 2011, Dickey struck out just five of 60 pitchers. In 2010, five of 48. This is the opposite of what I was expecting to encounter in the splits. Anyway: Gio Gonzalez struck out a bunch of pitchers. More than anybody else in four decades. That’s both really cool and really meaningful when it comes to analyzing Gonzalez’s statistically-improved performance. Let it never be suggested that there’s anything in baseball that can’t be analyzed.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Greg Jennings: Ryan Tannehill has had his hands tied by coaches

Josh McDaniels 'happy' with Pats but wants to be a head coach again

WATCH: Jim Harbaugh in cleats throws out first pitch at Cubs game

Why Rickie Fowler will win the PGA Championship

Warren Sapp bitten on arm by shark

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Fitzpatrick, Jets agree to one-year deal

Baker considering removing Papelbon from closer role?

Greg Hardy struggling to find work, reportedly even in CFL

Jets players told not to discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick situation

Brock Lesnar won't be punished by WWE for UFC drug test

Report: Cowboys to be fined up to $250K for suspended players

Report: Ravens WR Mike Wallace failed conditioning test

WATCH: Kobe Bryant drives Ferrari around Italian racetrack

Terrelle Pryor shouts out Ohio State after ban ends

Justin Timberlake advocates for Memphis to join Big 12

Poll: Las Vegas residents don’t support public funds for NFL stadium

Conor McGregor talks trash to Nate Diaz on ‘Conan’

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Real Madrid can’t train at Norwegian school because of the kids

Newspaper uses Michael Jordan ‘crying face’ as image

Equipment manager Blake Griffin punched no longer works for Clippers

Report: Nicks signing one-year deal with Saints

Reds 'picking up the pace' on Jay Bruce trade talks

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker