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Brandon Beachy

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has 152 strikeouts and 7 pitcher wins (or “wins,” emphasis on the scare quotes). That gives him a strikeout-to-”win” ratio of more than 21. How does this compare to the highest such ratios of all time?

To rule out pitchers (especially relievers) who have only a couple wins, I’m going to set the strikeout bar pretty high: a minimum of 150 strikeouts. This indicates a more-or-less full season and a good amount of Ks. With that in mind, Beachy’s ratio is very high but hardly historic. In fact, it rates only 5th-highest in MLB this season (with another player all but certain to pass Beachy as well).

  1. Bud Norris
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    , 28.3 (170 K, 6 “wins”)
  2. Anibal Sanchez
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    , 23.0 (184 K, 8 W)
  3. Mat Latos
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    , 22.7 (159 K, 7 W)
  4. Matt Garza
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    , 21.9 (175 K, 8 W)
  5. Brandon Beachy, 21.7 (152 K, 7 W)

As you can see, Beachy is within easy reach of 2nd place. He could even finish ahead of all these pitchers if Norris gets a couple more “wins” and Beachy does not.

Of course, there’s one pitcher not on the list who is very close to qualifying: Brett Myers

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, who has 146 strikeouts and only 5 wins (a 29.2 ratio). And that is after Myers got the W last night with only 4 strikeouts; before last night, his ratio was an astronomical 35.5! Myers is all but certain to get the 4 remaining strikeouts he needs to qualify, and if so he’s got a great chance to lead MLB in K/W ratio. It’s not like the Astros are likely to score a lot of runs for him.

It’s no coincidence that the two highest ratios both play for the Astros, obviously. That team really stinks aside from Norris, Wandy Rodriguez, and one or two other guys. Assuming Norris, Myers, or both finishes with a strikeout-to-win ratio near 30, that would rank among the top ratios of all time. Here are the 19 pitchers to have a K/W ratio of at least 25, with a minimum of 150 K.

Rk Player K/”Win” Ratio SO W Year Tm G GS L IP ERA+
1 Jerry Koosman
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53.33 160 3 1978 NYM
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38 32 15 235.1 93
2 Nolan Ryan
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33.75 270 8 1987 HOU
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34 34 16 211.2 142
3 Andy Benes
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31.5 189 6 1994 SDP
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25 25 14 172.1 107
4 Nolan Ryan
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31.4 157 5 1992 TEX
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27 27 9 157.1 103
5 Tony Saunders
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28.67 172 6 1998 TBD
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31 31 15 192.1 116
6 Bud Norris
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28.33 170 6 2011 HOU
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29 29 9 176.1 100
7 Hideo Nomo
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27.83 167 6 1998 LAD
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/NYM
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29 28 12 157.1 84
8 Camilo Pascual
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27.0 162 6 1956 WSH
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39 27 18 188.2 71
9 Tom Gordon
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26.5 159 6 1997 BOS
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42 25 10 182.2 125
Dick Stigman
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26.5 159 6 1964 MIN
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32 29 15 190.0 89
11 Brad Lidge
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26.17 157 6 2004 HOU
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80 0 5 94.2 230
12 Bob Welch
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26.15 183 7 1986 LAD
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33 33 13 235.2 106
13 Bob Sebra
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26.0 156 6 1987 MON
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36 27 15 177.1 96
Nolan Ryan
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26.0 260 10 1978 CAL
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31 31 13 234.2 98
15 Bob Johnson
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25.75 206 8 1970 KCR
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40 26 13 214.0 121
16 Roger Clemens
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25.7 257 10 1996 BOS
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34 34 13 242.2 139
17 Aaron Harang
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25.5 153 6 2008 CIN
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30 29 17 184.1 93
18 Ken Johnson
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25.43 178 7 1962 HOU
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33 31 16 197.0 98
19 Bill Stoneman
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25.14 176 7 1970 MON
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40 30 15 207.2 89
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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: View Play Index Tool Used
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Generated 9/12/2011.

Norris is currently in 6th place; if he goes winless the rest of the year, he has a chance to break the 30 K/W barrier, something only 3 other pitchers have done. Myers’ 29.4 ratio would rank 5th if he had enough strikeouts to qualify. So both pitchers have a great chance to end up in the top 10 all-time*. That’s pretty remarkable that one team could spawn two such historic ratios. Don’t ever say the 2011 Astros weren’t good for anything.

Jerry Koosman’s ridiculous 1978 easily leads the list–you could add a win to his total and he’d still be comfortably in 1st. Still, though, this list belongs to Nolan Ryan. The Express posted 2 of the top 4 ratios, and 3 of the top 14. Ryan’s 3 seasons on the list span 14 years and 3 teams. No one else even appears twice on the list.

Ryan’s 1987 season, which ranks 2nd, is one of the great unlucky years of any pitcher ever. He led the NL in strikeouts (270, 37 more than anyone else), K/walk ratio (3.10), ERA (2.76), and ERA+ (140), but finished with only those 8 wins. Thanks to a relatively low innings total, Ryan wasn’t quite the best pitcher in the league that year (that’d be either Orel Hershiser or Mike Scott), but he was close, and he was certainly a lot better than his record.

The most anomalous guy on this list is obviously Brad Lidge. He’s the only one to qualify entirely as a reliever, though several others saw significant time in the bullpen. It’s actually kind of ridiculous for a reliever to have 150+ strikeouts. It’s been done only 6 times in history by full-time relievers, and Lidge’s 2004 is the only one of those with fewer than 130 IP. And of course he’s WAY below that. It was a remarkable season, though obviously it’s not that surprising that his K/”win” ratio was very high.

The main theme of this list is that these players were better than their records. Only Camilo Pascual was really terrible, and many of the pitchers were above average. Over half the pitchers had an ERA+ of 100 or better (though Norris is right on the cusp and Myers, if he makes it, has been pretty bad). Even many of the pitchers with below-average numbers were only slightly below average, not terrible as their W-L would imply. Not that we needed any more proof that pitcher-wins are often silly, but there it is.

* Technically, Toad Ramsey of the 1888 Louisville Colonels from the old American Association put up a 28.4 ratio that would rank 6th-highest. I don’t really count the AA as a major league though.

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