I have watched a lot of baseball this season. Nothing excites me more than watching extreme strike throwers: Pitchers who are ahead in the count, pound the strike zone and if they do get behind in the count put the ball in play or have swing and miss stuff and refused to walk the batter.
The worst sound in baseball for me is “Ball Four” unless it is intentional or a pitch around.
I got all excited this week when several of my best friends in the Phillies minor league organization did not give up any base on balls in their outings. Feliberto Sanchez in a start for Williamsport threw five innings, stuck out three and did not walk a batter and Elniery Garcia for the GCL Phillies pitched three no- walk innings in relief. “Ball Four” was never heard even once in those outings.
Another friend Ranfi Casimiro showed improvement in his start for Lakewood going six innings striking out five and walking three to get a quality start win for the BlueClaws.
Yesterday at the GCL Phillies game, I had the opportunity to shake the hand of Franklyn Kilome to congratulate him for being selected as the Phillies most recent Minor League Pitcher of the Week. Kilome pitched a five inning start back on July 24th striking out four with “no walks” to pick up his first win of the season for the GCL Phillies. Franklyn turned 19 years old the next day.
My beau of a pitcher this season has been Masahiro Tanaka who before his injury had struck out 135 and walked only 19 in 129.1 innings, a 7-1 ratio in his first season in MLB. That is a bit much to expect from any pitcher but you get the point: command the strike zone go to the major leagues. The Phillies have a new generation of pitchers in their system who are showing they can do just that!
What is not too much to expect though is at the very least have pitching prospects at every level in your organization be close to the MLB average of 2.5 strikeouts per walk. For example, Tanaka when he pitched in Japan averaged 4.5 K’s for every walk, the best of any Japanese pitcher to appear in the major leagues here.
I believe a pitcher’s strike out to walk ratio is the best indicator of success at the major league level.
Fortunately, the Phillies have several extreme strike throwers with high strike out to walk ratios that I have watched pitch this season: the Phillies Ken Giles (IP 20.2 MLB, 30 K/5 BB and IP MiLB 28.2, 38 K/13 BB ); at High A, Aaron Nola ( IP MiLB 31.1, 30 K/5 BB) and at rookie and short season A ball, Brandon Leibrandt (IP MiLB 37.1, 40K/6BB).
Out of the pen now in higher stress situations, Giles has a 6-1 strike out to walk major league ratio. He is also in his first season in the MLB, like Tanaka, and gets my vote for the NL pitcher ROY award so far.
We watched, Kenny as we knew him then, pitch the last two seasons with the Clearwater Thresher.
It was not until Giles started to throw strikes in the Arizona Fall League and this spring training did we know that Ken was major league ready. Prior to this year in injury plagued minor league seasons he had only a 2-1 strike out to walk ratios.
If Aaron Nola (6-1 ratio) and Brandon Leibrandt (6.8-1 ratio) can come close to maintaining their current strikeout to walk ratios, they too will be joining Ken Giles and Masahiro Tanaka at the major league level sooner than later.