ROTO MLB Top 5’s – Blue Eye Strikes (You Out) Again

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals poses for a photo during photo days at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 22, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals poses for a photo during photo days at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 22, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
Roto MLB
FanDuel MLB: ATLANTA, GA – JUNE 02: Pitcher and pinch hitter Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals is congratulated in the dugout after scoring in the 14th inning during the game against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on June 2, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) Roto MLB /

Welcome back for the second installment of ROTO MLB Top 5’s.  Let’s transition from hitters to pitchers and take a look at MLB’s strikeout leaders.

Hope everyone enjoyed a great Memorial Day weekend!  There has been a wealth of swing and misses among hitters with a mix of power and finesse while Roto MLB professional hitters are looking like little leaguers, slamming their bat on the plate and crying all the way to the bench.

According to Baseball-Almanac since the year 2005, strikeout numbers have risen incrementally.  In 2005, between the AL and NL there were a total of 30,644 strike outs.  Last year, strikeout totals reached a record high 40,104.

Below is a list of the top five strikeout leaders from each of the last three seasons.

2015:  Clayton KershawMax ScherzerChris SaleChris ArcherCorey Kluber

2016:  Max ScherzerJustin VerlanderJose FernandezMadison BumgarnerChris Sale

2017:  Chris Sale – Max Scherzer – Corey KluberChris ArcherJacob deGrom

Year in and year out familiar names pop up in the top five, with new names sprinkled in.  There are an exorbitant amount of factors that attribute to achieving the top five ranking in a stat category in a season.

Injuries happen, which keeps pitchers out for entire seasons, or just long enough to allow other pitchers the opportunity to shine and pitch a full season and earn that spot among the best in that given year.  The injury bug definitely took away a few compelling players, but the show must go on!

As we shift to pitching, there are a few key statistics that are important and to avoid any potential confusion.

K – Strikeouts

K% – Strikeout Percentage

K/9 – Strikeouts per 9 innings

O-Swing% – Percentage of swings at pitches outside of the zone

SwStr% – Swinging strike percentage

Now that we got that out-of-the-way, let’s take a look at our current top 5 strikeout Van Gogh’s, Picasso’s, Michaelangelo’s (No not my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, because Raphael is the best) in baseball.

Roto MLB
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 23: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets pitches against the Miami Marlins during their game at Citi Field on May 23, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Roto MLB – Top  Strikeout Arms

5. NYM Jacob deGrom/ARI Patrick Corbin (98 K’s)

An impressive 13 K outing in a no decision versus the Cubs allowed deGrom to catch Corbin here for the fifth spot.

If it were up to me, deGrom should be 5a and Corbin 5b.  deGrom in 2018 not only cut off his luscious locks, but also cut down hitters ability to make contact.  He has a far away career best K/9 of 12.19 and a 33.9 K%.

Corbin is no slouch on the mound, but his career numbers do not suggest that he is a major strike out pitcher, rather he is more of a ground ball guy.  His K% (33.1) this year is 12 points higher than any other season in the majors since joining big league club in 2012.

4. HOU Justin Verlander (104 K’s)

Verlander was a huge spark plug for Houston after joining them in 2017, and played a big role in the World Series win.  He has continued to look like his former self as one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball so far in 2018.

JV may not have the 100 mph heater that he used to, but his fastball still sits in the mid to upper 90’s and rises on hitters.  He is well on his way to another 200 IP and 200 strikeout season with a K/9 of 10.72.  Verlander’s 31.9 K% is the best of his 14 year career.

Often times, pitchers will struggle with an offense a third time through the order.  Verlander is not one of those guys.  His fastball generates nearly the same percentage of swing and misses late in the game compared to early going from 19.52 to 19.48.

It is also worth noting that he likes to use his fastball more consistently the first time through the order and sprinkles in his curveball the second and third time facing a batter to keep hitters on edge.

3. BOS Chris Sale (110 K’s)

The Condor steps on the mound, spreads his wings, and delivers some of the most mind-boggling stuff to keep hitters uncomfortable.  Alex Speier of the Boston Globe wrote a truly interesting piece worth reading regarding What it’s Like to Face Chris Sale.

The way lefties see it is feeling the pitch is coming from behind their back.  I love the way Don Cooper, pitching coach of the White Sox described it as trying to hit the golden snitch in Quidditch.

Sale has a K/9 of 12.22 which is the third best of his career.  The slider is far and away his best swing and miss pitch.  In May, his slider was whiffed at 51.65% of the time.

Roto MLB
FanDuel MLB: OAKLAND, CA – MAY 09: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on May 9, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Roto MLB – Top Strikeout Arms

2. HOU Gerrit Cole (116 K’s)

Sitting just behind the leader with 116 strikeouts, Cole is proving his worth as a former #1 overall draft pick.  It seems almost unfair joining the already powerful Houston Astros rotation, which should be ranked in 2018 as one of the best of all time.

Cole likes to light up the radar gun with his four-seam fastball (54.8% of the time) that sits in the high 97 mph.  He also mixes in hard slider (21.3% of the time) and the occasional curveball (19.2% of the time).

More from FanSided

The most interesting stat is his ability to strike out lefties at a 44% rate compared to right-handed batters 32.5% of the time.

He has been a strike thrower more than doubling his strike/ball ratio 833/403.  Cole’s K% is 38.2 with an impressive K/9 of 12.78.  Hitters have been overwhelmed swinging at 30.5% of his pitches outside of the strike zone (O-Swing%).  He also has a career high SwStr% of 14.6 as hitters are showing little discipline at the plate when Cole is on the mound.

1. WSH Max Scherzer (120 K’s)

Scherzer is the total package after his late inning offensive heroics in Atlanta.  But the guy is lights out on the mound with his league leading 120 strikeouts.  When looking at his K/9 of 13.56, it is no surprise that he leads all of baseball in strikeouts.

Mad Max mixes his pitches well, keeping hitters off-balance.  He has a five pitch repertoire that includes a four-seam fastball, change-up, slider, curveball, and cutter.  He throws the heat most often 50.15% of the time and uses the slider as his best out pitch 17.23% of the time.

Hitters against him are swinging and missing 55.56% of the time and have been unable to figure him out throughout most of his career.  This year, he boasts a career high 38.7 K%.  Must be the terminator-like stare down, or more recently let’s compare the stare to Cable in Deadpool 2 (great movie).

Honorable Mentions

James Paxton

Stephen Strasburg

Luis Severino

Corey Kluber

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