Top 100 Pitchers By The Numbers
See also: Top 100 Prospects
See also: Top 100 Hitters By The Numbers
Yankees righthander Philip Hughes
Want to know which pitcher in the Top 100 had the highest strikeout percentage? Or which hurler's two-seam fastball produced the highest percentage of outs-in-play on the ground?
For the first time in our annual Top 100 Prospects feature, we highlight some of the best--and worst--performances of the 2006 season by elite prospects. We were especially interested in the prospects who compared most favorably with the average of the entire Top 100 Prospect pool.
We considered only statistics from full-season leagues, and to be eligible a pitcher had to compile at least 48 full-season innings. Thirty-six of the 51 pitchers to crack the top 100 met the threshold, with Greg Reynolds being the only 2006 draftee to make the cut.
The averages for the Top 100 Prospects Class of 2007:
|K%||Percentage of batters faced retired by strikeout||25%|
|BB%||Percentage of batters faced reached on walk||9%|
|GO%||Percentage of all outs-in-play recorded by ground out||52%|
|GO+SO%||Percentage of batters retired by groundout or strikeout||48%|
|SLG||Slugging percentage allowed||.332|
|OBP||On-base percentage allowed||.297|
|WHIP||Waks plus hits per inning pitched||1.17|
Talent evaluators have touted Philip Hughes' stuff since he was a Yankees first-round pick in 2004, and his performance last season more than lived up to those assessments. Hughes allowed the second-lowest opponent on-base percentage (.231) and third-lowest slugging percentage (.254) among top 100 pitchers. Though his 30 percent strikeout rate ranked just fifth, he managed a 4.9 strikeout-walk ratio, which was good for third-best.
But in terms of pure dominance, consider that of all the Class A Florida State and Double-A Eastern League batters to face Hughes last season, a full 58 percent of them were retired by either strikeout or groundout, a mark unsurpassed by any other top 100 pitcher. The top five in groundouts plus strikeouts per batter faced:
|Philip Hughes, Yankees||558||156||168||58%|
|Jaime Garcia, Cardinals||636||235||131||58%|
|Yovani Gallado, Brewers||610||144||188||54%|
|Adam Miller, Indians||656||188||161||53%|
|Nick Adenhart, Angels||642||196||145||53%|
Scan the bottom of the walk percentage list and you'll find three young lefthanders: Scott Elbert, Donald Veal and Franklin Morales. How did these pitchers succeed while handing out so many free passes? They were tough to hit (or hit hard), and they had three of the highest strikeout totals in the minors. It wasn't efficient, but it was effective for these three in 2006:
|Scott Elbert, Dodgers||14%||28%||46%||.190||.310|
|Donald Veal, Cubs||13%||28%||42%||.175||.253|
|Franklin Morales, Rockies||13%||27%||61%||.223||.340|
Though the three pitchers had similar seasons, Morales' performance was the most impressive when you consider that he is the youngest of the trio, had the highest groundout percentage and pitched in the Cal League, where batters hit a composite .275/.350/.414 in 2006.
No top 100 pitcher (and few other pitchers in the minors) commanded the strike zone quite like Kevin Slowey. The Twins righthander posted the lowest walk rate (4 percent) of anyone in the top 100 and combined it with an above-average strikeout rate (26 percent) to lead all pitchers with 6.9 strikeouts-walks. His .226 opponent on-base percentage also was tops, and he finished third with a 1.88 ERA. The top five K-BB ratios:
|Kevin Slowey, Twins||151||22||6.9|
|Will Inman, Brewers||134||24||5.6|
|Philip Hughes, Yankees||168||34||4.9|
|Matt Garza, Twins||154||32||4.8|
|Clay Buchholz, Red Sox||140||33||4.2|
So which pitcher had the highest strikeout rate? It wasn't Hughes or Homer Bailey or minor league strikeout leader Yovani Gallardo. It was Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Though he pitched just 55 minor league innings, Sanchez struck out 35 percent of batters he faced. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Sanchez also allowed a lower opponent average (.148) and slugging percentage (.203) than anyone on the list. The top strikeout artists:
|Jonathan Sanchez, Giants||213||74||35%|
|Will Inman, Brewers||432||134||31%|
|Yovani Gallardo, Brewers||610||188||31%|
|Jacob McGee, Devil Rays||561||171||30%|
|Philip Hughes, Yankees||558||168||30%|
A pitcher's ability to induce groundballs can be an underrated skill. Consider that of the top 10 finishers in groundout percentage, seven ranked as their organization's top pitching prospect. With 73 percent of his outs-in-play coming by ground ball, Cardinals lefthander Jaime Garcia held a slim advantage over Marlins righthander Chris Volstad, while nobody else was particularly close.
|Jaime Garcia, Marlins||235||87||73%|
|Chris Volstad, Marlins||236||101||70%|
|Nick Adenhart, Angels||196||124||61%|
|Greg Reynolds, Rockies||66||42||61%|
|Adam Miller, Indians||188||120||61%|
|Franklin Morales, Rockies||160||104||61%|
|Matt Albers, Astros||172||117||60%|
|Philip Hughes, Yankees||156||110||59%|
|Michael Bowden, Red Sox||125||90||58%|
|Mike Pelfrey, Mets||93||70||57%|
One the flip side, these top 100 pitchers recorded the highest percentage of outs-in-play in the air:
|Glen Perkins, Twins||74||149||33%|
|Brandon Erbe, Orioles||79||120||40%|
|Troy Patton, Astros||119||173||41%|
|Kevin Slowey, Twins||117||170||41%|
|Will Inman, Brewers||79||112||41%|
While lefthander John Danks allowed the highest slugging percentage (.455) and had the highest home run rate (4 percent) among top 100 pitchers, he had a few things working in his favor. Namely, his strikeout (25 percent) and walk (9 percent) rates were average or a tick above the top 100 field.
It also doesn't hurt that Danks was one of the youngest pitchers to reach Triple-A in 2006, and that he spent the entire season in two of the toughest environments for pitchers in the minors, the Texas and Pacific Coast leagues. An offseason trade from the Rangers to the White Sox--and the International League--could be just what the doctor ordered for Danks.
It's no exaggeration to say Nationals righthander Collin Balester had the worst season of any top 100 pitcher in 2006. He comfortably trailed the pack in ERA (4.72), WHIP (1.46), strikeouts-walks (1.6), groundout plus strikeout percentage (39 percent) and on-base percentage (.346). His slugging percentage (.417) and strikeout rate (16 percent) were also among the worst of the group, doubly bad considering that he worked in two pitchers' leagues (Carolina, Eastern).