I saw this article today about a pitching stat I hadn't seen much about before: strikeouts per 100 pitches. It essentially combines control with efficiency: can a pitcher get a lot of Ks, and get them quickly? Apparently it correlates quite well with the number of runs a pitcher allows. To give an example of the range of K/100P, the current MLB leader among starters qualified for the stat crowns is Javier Vazquez at 7.96. Other notables near the top include Tim Lincecum (7.54), Justin Verlander (7.33) and Jake Peavy (7.07). Rounding out the pack at the absolute bottom is Washington's own Shairon Martis, with a paltry 2.38K/100P.
A look at how the rest of the staff are doing with this stat, and what it means going forward, after the jump (including the Triumph of DCMR and the Doom That Comes For Smarty...).
(Updated to add a bit about whether these stats are reliable.)
First off, let's take a look at how the starters are doing:
J-Zimm leads the pack: he gets strikeouts, and he gets them quickly. By way of comparison, his K/100P is between Cole Hamels and Chad Billingsley! As for Shairon Martis, his K/100P is pretty close to Daniel Cabrera's 2.08... Ross Detwiler's K/100P is a bit below the middle of the pack--below Jair Jurrjens, but above Paul Maholm.
Now, what about the bullpen?
See, this is why I love looking at stats in isolation: Colome and Hanrahan are obviously the bullpen aces--just like the other night against the Red Sox! Let's pair up the K/100P with a few other things that pitchers can and can't control to get an idea of why people are doing well (or aren't) and whether we can expect it to continue. Things the pitcher can control (and by "control" I mean that they may depend on pitcher's particular style, rather than being random) are GB% (more balls on the ground is better) and LD% (more line drives are bad). Things a pitcher can't control are Home runs per fly ball (whether a fly ball goes out doesn't depend on how the pitcher pitches once he gives up the fly; whether a pitcher's HR/F is above/below league average is bad/good luck) and defensive efficiency ratio (DER is how many hits turn into outs; it depends on where the balls land and your defense, and if it's much above or below league average that's usually due to luck). Now, I was going to put this all in a nice table, but SBN's table tool doesn't want to let me paste into it directly from Excel, and I'm not going to do it all again by hand, so I'll just describe the results:
Martis worries me. His K/100P is awful, as is his K/BB (0.83!). He has a low GB rate (40%), but he manages to hold hitters to an also-low LD rate of only 15.6%--lowest of all the current Nats pitchers. His DER is a probably-unsustainable 0.753 (average is just below 0.700), and his HR/F is around 9%, below the league-average of around 11%. As Shairon regresses to the mean, he'll get more dingers and base hits driving in all those people he's walking and not striking out. Things may get ugly for Smarty later in the season (like Tuesday?).
Lannan confounds his stats, too, to an extent. His K/100P is not dominant, although he manages to strike out more people than he walks. He's had bad luck with dingers (above-average 14% HR/F) but good luck with fielding (0.731 DER). However, he's got a strong 51% GB rate, and an average 18.7% LD rate, which may warrant the above-average DER. As the dingers regress to the mean, Lannan has a good shot at maintaining his magic.
Zimmermann can bring teh Kayz, but when he gets hit, he gets hit hard. His GB rate is a low 40%, while his LD rate is a fences-rattling 25% (highest on the staff). He's had some poor luck (17% HR/F, 0.667 DER), although some of that, especially the below-average DER, may come from his high LD%. His K/BB is a team-leading 3.32, so his hard hits won't find a lot of free baserunners to drive in (his 2.7BB/9IP is second-lowest on the staff). Zimmermann is one to keep watching--as he learns what to pitch, he could turn into a real star.
Detwiler isn't particularly good, bad, or lucky. The middling K/100P is nice for a young pitcher. He's been a bit lucky with his 7% HR/F, but his 0.700 DER is almost exactly league average. His GB% is lowish at 40.3, his LD% is slightly high at 20.9. He's doing about as well as he should be doing, so don't look for dramatic improvements or disastrous regressions later in the season.
Stammen is another mixed bag. The low K/100P comes with a lucky 6% HR/F and 0.729 DER. He gets a fair number of ground balls (47.9%--second to Lannan among starters), but he gives up a lot of line drives (21%). His walk rate is still pretty low (2.4BB/9IP--lowest on the staff), so he'll have fewer freebie runners when the HRs inevitably creep upward.
I won't comment on the bullpenners in detail, except to say that Hanny and Colome have atrociously unlucky DERs, and Colome has been extremely lucky not to give up any HRs, especially given how much of a flyballer he is. There's hope that Hanny, at least, might turn things around--Colome could get worse! Tavarez and Villone have both been lucky to have high DERs and low HR/F, although Tavarez has a high GB% (51.4)--some of his is skill. MacDougal has a sick 66% GB rate, more than justifying his 0.733 DER--that's only based only 10.2 IP, though, so check back with me after the AS break.
Much as I hate to predict this, look for Martis to fade in the second half--perhaps catastrophically. Lannan will continue to be dependable, unless he gets sick of the lack of run support and starts walking everyone in protest. Zimmermann is looking like a real comer if he can keep the ball down. Detwiler looks about like he should, so any changes in his performance will come from learning, not luck. Stammen could become a solid back-of-the-rotation guy or could end up back in Syracuse.
Update! Are any of these numbers meaningful?
Basil makes a good point in the comments about there being a good chance that we're catching Smarty at a fluky part of the season. I consulted this post about how many batters a pitcher has to face before his stats become "reliable" to get a point of comparison. The important nuggets for this comparison are that a pitcher's LD% and GB% become reliable quickly, after 50 batters faced or less. Strikeout rate per PA (which roughly correlates to K/100P) becomes reliable at 150 BF, while K/BB and BB/9 take 500-600 BF before they're reliable. So, how many batters has our current rotation faced?
We've seen enough from all of the young guys to be confident that their LD and GB rates are close to what they should be, rather than representing statistical fluctuations. We've also seen enough to be fairly confident in their K/100P rates--especially for Lannan, Smarty, and DCMR. My carping/crowing about walks is a obviously a bit premature, however--it'll take most of the season before we can say for sure how well pitchers are doing with walks.
[As an interesting side note, the speed with which pitching stats become "reliable" depends on how closely the stat is driven by pitcher skill. The more a stat is linked to pitcher skill, the fewer BF it takes to become reliable; conversely, the more a stat is random or linked to batter skill, the more BF it takes to become reliable. The implication, then, is that strikeouts (which converge quickly) are largely a function of pitcher skill (throwing strikes, being deceptive, having good "stuff"), while walks (which converge slowly) depend on both pitcher skills (inability to throw strikes or fool hittings) and hitter skills (ability to recognize pitches and not chase). Stats like DER and HR/F never become reliable, even after an entire season--they don't depend on the pitcher's skill, being either random (DER) or dependent on the hitter's skill (HR/F).]
(Stats courtesy baseball-reference.com and hardballtimes.com, through 6/23/09)