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Looking For Strikeouts?

Today we have a guest article written by Brett Greenfield of Fantasy Phenoms.

Strikeout rate (K/9) is the most telling stat when looking for strikeout pitchers.  It's logical that if you were to pitch 300 innings you'd strikeout 200 batters if you were halfway decent.  But the best strikeout pitchers and the ones you want on your team are those who maintain the highest K/9 ratios. They usually strike out a batter per inning or more.

Because maintaining the high ratio is important, we'll be looking at the pitchers with 60+ innings pitched so far in 2008.  Here's your current top 10 and their respective K/9 ratios:

Edinson Volquez - 10.67
Chad Billingsley - 10.06
Randy Johnson - 9.47
Josh Beckett - 9.46
Jonathan Sanchez - 8.96
Tim Lincecum - 8.93
Ted Lilly - 8.77
Javier Vazquez - 8.68
A.J. Burnett - 8.67
C.C. Sabathia - 8.57

Of this group, Burnett, Lincecum, Vazquez, Billingsley and Beckett all finished in the top 15 in K/9 ratio last year. They are no surprise.

Burnett makes one of the best targets right now. He's been quite unlucky with the amount of runners scoring that reach base. Because he's in a contract year and has maintained his dominant strikeout rate, he could be acquired cheaply.

Johnson may be a surprise to some, but in limited time last year, he actually had a K/9 ratio of 11. He's doing it again and remains a cheap source of strikeouts while healthy.

Sabathia was at 7.80 last year and is up almost a full strikeout. He'll contend for the league lead in strikeouts if he logs 240+ innings like he did in 2007. He's playing for a Santana-like contract.

Lilly was ranked 28th last year so he's a bit higher than normal. He happens to be the second cheapest course of strikeouts to Johnson though.

It's not fair to compare Sanchez to his 2007 stats. He made only four starts and pitched mostly in relief. He did, however, strike out 62 batters in 52 innings. It will be interesting to see how he holds up.

Volquez's success shouldn't come as a surprise to many. He struck out 166 batters in 144 minor league innings in 2007. He made a few starts with Texas last summer and struck out 29 batters in 35 innings. Think about Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. They both came from AL clubs and upon switching to the Reds of the National League, took full advantage of facing the pitcher 3+ times a game. Harang has gone on to strike out 200 batters in each of his last two years with the Reds and is on pace to make it three.  Lilly enjoyed the same success since he left the Blue Jays for the Cubs. Expect Volquez to keep up this rigourous pace and contend for the NL strikeout crown.

I'll leave you with a few starting pitchers who, despite having logged fewer innings, have K/9 ratios that make them worth watching. You may want to go so far as to add them if you are looking for strikeouts.

Jo-Jo Reyes - 8.40
Jason Bergmann - 8.79
Wandy Rodriguez - 7.75
Manny Parra - 7.65
Randy Wolf - 7.65

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