The HyperTexts

Baseball's All-Time Leaders in Strikeouts per Nine Innings (SO/9)
Pitcher WAR per 100 Innings Pitched
Starting Pitcher WAR per 200 Innings Pitched

I think Strikeouts per Nine Innings (SO/9) is one of baseball's most important stats, and one of its most revealing stats, especially if one wants to understand why batting averages are at an all-time low, and if one wants to intelligently compare hitters of the past to modern hitters. How do we compare Mike Trout fairly to Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, if Trout is facing constant 95 to 100 mph heat, and they were facing much slower pitches that were much easier to make contact with?

First, let's prove there is a strong correlation between a pitcher's fastest pitch and his SO/9 rate. Then we can make a strong argument for modern hitters having lower batting averages than hitters of yore. And it's not just that modern pitching is much harder to hit, because modern defenses are much better also. The bottom line? If Babe Ruth were playing today, he would strike out a lot more and get fewer hits. He would probably still hit a lot of home runs, but he would not have the gargantuan stats that he compiled against slower pitchers and lesser defenses. Conversely, if we sent Willie Mays or Mike Trout back in time, their stats would balloon as they feasted on slower, tiring starters and defenses that would surrender more hits.

Strikeouts per Nine Innings (SO/9)

Josh Hader (15.3) - fastest pitch 100 mph against Luis Aaraez (video on YouTube).
Aroldis Chapman (15.0) - fastest pitch 105.1 per Baseball Almanac.
Craig Kimbrel (14.7) - fastest pitch 100 per Baseball Almanac.
Rob Dibble (12.2) - fastest pitch 102 per Baseball Almanac.
Matt Barnes (12.0) - fastest pitch 98.4 (video on YouTube).
Billy Wagner (11.9) - fastest pitch 101 mph per Baseball Almanac. Wagner regularly threw in triple digits.
Chris Sale (11.08) - fastest pitch 101 mph in 2010 as a reliever.
Yu Darvish (11.07) - fastest pitch 98.9 per Fangraphs.
Max Scherzer (10.67) - fastest pitch 99 mph in the second inning of an NL wild card playoff game against Milwaukee.
Jacob DeGrom (10.66) - fastest pitch 100 mph (video on YouTube). 
Randy Johnson (10.61) - fastest pitch 102, recorded in 2004 at age 40, suggesting that he threw even faster when younger.
Stephen Strasburg (10.6) - fastest pitch 101 mph twice, in the fifth and sixth innings of a game against Pittsburg (video on YouTube).
Kerry Wood (10.31) - fastest pitch 100 mph per Baseball Almanac.
Gerrit Cole (10.28) - fastest pitch 101 mph in a game against the LA Angels (video on YouTube).
Jonathan Broxton (10.1) - fastest pitch 102 mph per Baseball Almanac.
Pedro Martinez (10.03) - fastest pitch 97 mph per Sports Illustrated and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Erig Gagne (10.0) - fastest pitch 101 per Baseball Almanac.
Noah Syndegaard (9.7) - fastest pitch 100 mph against both Corey Seager and Justin Turner in an NLDS game.
Nolan Ryan (9.55) - fastest pitch 100.9 per Baseball Almanac.
Sandy Koufax (9.28) - fastest pitch
Justin Verlander (9.07) - fastest pitch 102 per Baseball Almanac.

These are the great strikeout pitchers who pitched prior to 1950. As far as I can tell, these are ALL such pitchers in the top 500 ranking for SO/9, unless there is a name I didn't recognize.

#165 - Rube Waddell (7.04) - fastest pitch unknown (1897-1910).
#287 - Smoky Joe Wood (6.21) - fastest pitch unknown (1908-1920).
#289 - Dazzy Vance (6.20) - fastest pitch unknown (1915-1935).
#307 - Bob Feller (6.07) - fastest pitch unknown (1936-1956).
#484 - Walter Johnson (5.34) - fastest pitch unknown (1907-1927).
#489 - Dizzy Dean (5.32) - fastest pitch unknown (1930-1947).

What does this tell us? I think it tells us that Walter Johnson wasn't throwing 100 mph heat. And Johnson himself said that no one in his day threw faster than Smoky Joe Wood. But it seems doubtful that Smoky Joe was throwing 100 mph either. I suspect they were very fast in comparison to the other pitchers of their day. But great pitchers who throw 100 mph are going to strike out a lot more batters per nine innings. We see a great leap with Nolan Ryan, who did throw 100 mph. Even when Ryan struggled with his control, he always struck out a lot of batters. That was a constant for him, as it was for Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. No matter what else was going on, they were always going to strike out a lot of batters, because it's hard to hit pitches in the 100 mph range. And this is why modern batting averages keep dropping, because more and more pitchers are throwing extreme heat, whereas in the days of yore almost no one did. The truth lies in the SO/9 statistic.

Pitcher WAR per 100 Innings Pitched

Mariano Rivera 4.49
Smoky Joe Wood 3.88 (*)
Craig Kimbrel 3.87
Billy Wagner 3.11
Clayton Kershaw 3.07
Tom Henke 2.98
Pedro Martinez 2.97
Roger Clemens 2.85
Chris Sale 2.81
Walter Johnson 2.80
Lefty Grove 2.63
Trevor Hoffman 2.61
Johan Santana 2.54
John Hiller 2.49
Randy Johnson 2.47
Zack Greinke 2.47
Corey Kluber 2.47
Curt Schilling 2.45
Dan Quisenberry 2.43
Jim Devlin 2.41
Max Scherzer 2.40
Brandon Webb 2.38
Bruce Sutter 2.36
Roy Halladay 2.35
Wes Ferrell 2.35
Mike Mussina 2.33
Rich Gossage 2.32
Bob Gibson 2.31
Pete Alexander 2.31
Tom Seaver 2.31
Bret Saberhagen 2.31
Kid Nichols 2.30
Lee Smith 2.30
Cole Hamels 2.29
Cy Young 2.29
Dizzy Dean 2.28
Stephen Strasburg 2.26
Roy Oswalt 2.24
Justin Verlander 2.22
Ed Walsh 2.21
Harry Brecheen 2,21
Noodles Hahn 2.20
Urban Shocker 2.19
David Cone 2.16
Madison Bumgarner 2.16
Bob Caruthers 2.14
Greg Maddux 2.13
Christy Mathewson 2.12
Kevin Appier 2.11
Sandy Koufax 2.11
Hal Newhouser 2.10
Hoyt Wilhelm 2.10
Kevin Brown 2.10
Felix Hernandez 2.09
Adam Wainwright 2.08
Al Spalding 2.04
Dazzy Vance 2.02
John Smoltz 2.00
Eddie Plank 2.00
Rube Waddell 1.98
Dave Stieb 1.98
Rick Reuschel 1.97
Don Drysdale 1.96
Eddie Rommel 1.96
Stan Coveleski 1.95
John Franco 1.94
David Price 1.93
Bert Blyleven 1.92
Dennis Eckersley 1.92
Jimmy Key 1.91
Luis Tiant 1.91
Warren Spahn 1.91
Dwight Gooden 1.90
Fergie Jenkins 1.89
Carl Hubbell 1.88
Addie Joss 1.88
Jon Lester 1.88
Tim Hudson 1.88
Dizzy Trout 1.86
C.C. Sabathia 1.85
John Clarkson 1.85
Tom Glavine 1.85
Robin Roberts 1.84
Andy Pettitte 1.83
Amos Rusie 1.83
Kent Tekulve 1.83
Clark Griffith 1.83
Chuck Finley 1.83
Charlie Buffinton 1.82
Orel Hershiser 1.81
Whitey Ford 1.81
Tommy Bridges 1.81
Juan Marichal 1.80
Eddie Cicotte 1.80
George Uhle 1.80
Phil Niekro 1.79
Three Finger Brown 1.78
Mark Buehrle 1.78
Jim McCormick 1.77
Roberto Hernandez 1.77
Jack Stivetts 1.76
Jim Palmer 1.76
Bucky Walters 1.75
Babe Adams 1.74
Steve Carlton 1.73
Ted Breitenstein 1.73
Ted Lyons 1.72
Tim Keefe 1.72
Bob Lemon 1.71
Sparky Lyle 1.71
Mark Langston 1.71
Gaylord Perry 1.70
Candy Cummings 1.69
Tommy Bond 1.68
Old Hoss Radbourn 1.68
Joe McGinnity 1.68
Carl Mays 1.66
Bob Feller 1.66
Spud Chandler 1.64
Chief Bender 1.64
Silver King 1.63
Red Ruffing 1.62
Billy Pierce 1.61
Larry Jackson 1.60
Jim Whitney 1.59
Red Faber 1.59
Vic Willis 1.59
Jim Bunning 1.58
Al Orth 1.57
David Wells 1.56
Kenny Rogers 1.56
Wilbur Cooper 1.55
Rollie Fingers 1.53
Lefty Gomez 1.53
Nolan Ryan 1.52
Tony Mullane 1.50
Jack Quinn 1.48
Jack Chesbro 1.43
Jerry Koosman 1.40
Frank Tanana 1.38
Waite Hoyt 1.38
Early Wynn 1.34
Tommy John 1.32
John Lackey 1.32
Mickey Welch 1.31
Jack Powell 1.29
Don Sutton 1.28
Burleigh Grimes 1.27
Herb Pennock 1.26
Jamie Moyer 1.24
Eppa Rixey 1.23
Pud Galvin 1.23
Catfish Hunter 1.20
Jack Morris 1.15
Jim Kaat 1.13
Bobby Mathews 1.11
Jesse Haines 1.02
Rube Marquard 0.96

NOTE: We did not create these rankings so we cannot explain some of the differences.

Starting Pitcher WAR per 200 Innings Pitched

NOTE: The WAR used below is from the rankings of the top 500 pitchers.

1 Clayton Kershaw 5.94
2 Smoky Joe Wood 5.57 (*)
3 Pedro Martinez 5.37
4 Roger Clemens 5.22
5 Lefty Grove 4.99
6 Johan Santana 4.92
7 Sandy Koufax 4.69
8 Roy Halladay 4.63
7 Randy Johnson 4.44
9 Brandon Webb 4.43
10 Bob Gibson 4.41
10 Tom Seaver 4.41
11 Roy Oswalt 4.38
12 Walter Johnson 4.32
13 Curt Schilling 4.27
14 Bret Saberhagen 4.27
15 Mike Mussina 4.20
16 Teddy Higuera 4.10
17 Harry Brecheen 4.07
18 Kid Nichols 4.05
19 Pete Alexander 4.04
20 Dizzy Dean 4.03
21 Kevin Brown 3.98
22 Tim Hudson 3.97
23 Cy Young 3.97
24 David Cone 3.97
25 C.C. Sabathia 3.95

(*) Smoky Joe Wood is a special case, with 40.0 WAR in limited playing time due to crippling arm injuries that ended his career ... but didn't. Smoky Joe Wood is seventh all-time with an otherworldly 146 ERA+ and he had a staggering 117 wins by age 25 despite only reaching 200 innings twice. What on earth would he have done if he had been healthy? The mind boggles. Smoky Joe got his nickname because his fastball—said to have been faster then Walter Johnson's (including by the Big Train himself)—sizzled as though burning through the air and setting it on fire. The only starting pitchers with a better ERA+ than Smoky Joe are Clayton Kershaw, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, and Walter Johnson. When the first all-star game was organized in 1912 to benefit the family of Adie Joss after Joss's untimely death, Smoky Joe started the game and Walter Johnson relieved him. Let's stick that in our pipes and smoke it. After serious injuries cost him two years in his prime and left him unable to pitch, Smoky Joe became an outfielder and hit .283 for the rest of his career. But it understandably took him some time to really excel as a batter. He hit .366 at age 31, drove in 92 runs at age 32, then retired. He could have been the greatest pitcher of all time, if he hadn't had such bad luck. But please consider what he did accomplish. How many pitchers could take two years off, then return to the majors to hit .366 and drive in 92 runs? Only a guy named Ruth did anything like that, and he was healthy. What Smoky accomplished was truly incredible. He has more WAR than hall-of-famers like Hack Wilson, Harold Baines, Lefty Gomez, George Kell, Roy Campanella, and quite a few others. And he did it in a LOT fewer games. He only played two full seasons at his best position. When he was able to pitch, he was a superstar for the ages. When he couldn't pitch, he became the best-hitting ex-pitcher of all time not named Babe Ruth. He belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so let him in!!!

Relief Pitcher WAR per 200 Innings Pitched

Mariano Rivera 9.16
Trevor Hoffman 6.05
Bruce Sutter 4.80
Lee Smith 4.70
Dan Quisenberry 4.66
John Hiller 4.54
Rich Gossage 4.42
John Franco 4.14
Related Pages: The Greatest Baseball Team of All Time, The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time, Is Mike Trout the GOAT?, Best Baseball Nicknames, Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia, All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team, Cincinnati Reds Trivia, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR7, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR5, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR per Plate Appearance, Baseball's 100 WAR Leaders, Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates, Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Baseball Timeline

The HyperTexts