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Super-low strikeout pitchers of the 1970s and ?80s


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I found it an interesting read.

The lowest K/9 rate for a qualifying pitcher in 2013 was Jeremy Guthrie?s 4.72; in 1980, 48 of the 89 qualifying pitchers in the majors ? more than half ? had lower rates.
Scott McGregor: Never a high-strikeout pitcher, the Oriole lefty just slipped into the super-low zone in 1983 when his K/9 was 2.98. He went 18-7 with a 3.18 ERA for the World Series champions (and pitched effectively in three postseason starts), then followed that up with a so-so year and several poor ones.
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Thanks Corn. That's an awesome article. I was a really big baseball fanatic back in the late 60's through the late 70's. I'm familiar with almost everyone of those pitch to contact pitchers. Amazing how the game has changed and it's a lot harder to do these days.

The first pitcher since 1960 to have a good season with a super-low strikeout rate was Yankee right-hander Steve Kline, who went 16-9 with a 2.40 ERA in 1972 and a K/9 rate of just 2.21, still the lowest for a pitcher with an adjusted ERA better than league average since Sandy Consuegra in 1954. Kline’s K/9 rate was half what it had been as a rookie in 1970 and one-third less than what it was in 1971. He succeeded thanks to allowing just 11 home runs and two stolen bases in 236-1/3 innings, walking 1.7 batters per nine innings, getting 26 ground-ball double plays behind him and allowing a BABIP of .242 (ridiculously low, but not as ridiculous as it sounds today; the league BABIP in the 1972 AL was .267, compared to .298 in the 2013 AL). He ranked third in the league in BB/9 and fourth in HR/9, a powerful combination. Kline wasn’t able to continue his success (which we’ll find to be true for most super-low strikeout pitchers), spending just two more years in the majors with a record of 9-17.
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I think I read in the Bill James Abstract from a few years ago that a k/9 of 4.5 was absolute bare minimum for any kind of real success. I think guys like Scotty McGreggor and Ballard got away with it because it was still a time of big ballparks. In today's bandboxes, I think a lot of their flyball outs would be in the seats.

Guthrie was about a 5 k/9 guy with us. He was not particularly good with getting groundballs, either, but he knew how to induce weak contact. He was one of the few guys that I felt Mazzone really taught how to pitch when he was our coach. Locate low and away and you'll be fine.

Guys like Chien-Ming Wang make sense because of being a sinkerballer. It's just very difficult to be a flyball, low K/9 pitcher these days.

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I had a hunch and just looked up Jeff Ballard's 1989 season, 2.6 K/9. (1.09 K/BB ratio as well how the heck did he win 18 games? He finished 6th in the CY voting!)

I remember watching a nationally televised game on a Saturday afternoon between the Orioles and the Yankees in June of 1988.

While Ballard was on the mound, the announcers (NBC-TV) said that Ballard was "trying to finesse his way through the majors", and wondered if he would/could be successful.

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