I found a straightforward way to redo the normalized strikeout rate study. Check out my previous post on the subject for the rationale.

For those who care, here is the updated method:

- Instead of taking a single league-average K/9 rate, I took 5 numbers for each player’s career–the league average from his first season, his final season, as well as the points 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 through his career. I then averaged those numbers and used that as the league average for that given player. This is of course not entirely precise, but is really a very good approximation.
- I made a lookup table in Excel, which made this exercise a lot easier. I then just listed one set of numbers for the league-average K/9 rate in each season, and then for each player did 5 lookups to get his 5 numbers.
- By using this method, it was easy to put the top 200 pitchers (by innings pitched) into the table. I could easily do more, as well.

Click through for the results.

Here are the top 25 pitchers all time in normalized K/9 (among the top 200 in innings pitched):

Rank Player K/9 Avg K/9 Normalized K/9 1Rube Waddell7.04 3.22 2.19 2Dazzy Vance6.20 3.22 1.93 3Nolan Ryan9.55 5.58 1.71 4Randy Johnson10.61 6.28 1.69 5Lefty Grove5.18 3.22 1.61 6Walter Johnson5.34 3.34 1.60 7Bob Feller6.07 3.88 1.56 8Pedro Martinez10.04 6.44 1.56 9Amos Rusie4.64 2.98 1.56 10Tommy Bridges5.33 3.52 1.51 11Chief Bender5.10 3.44 1.48 12Hal Newhouser5.40 3.76 1.44 13Bill Donovan4.71 3.30 1.43 14Ed Walsh5.27 3.74 1.41 15Bobo Newsom4.98 3.54 1.41 16Roger Clemens8.55 6.16 1.39 17Curt Schilling8.60 6.22 1.38 18Jack Stivetts3.81 2.76 1.38 19Tim Keefe4.57 3.34 1.37 20Mark Baldwin4.33 3.18 1.36 21David Cone8.28 6.16 1.34 22Tom Hughes4.66 3.50 1.33 23Christy Mathewson4.71 3.54 1.33 24Red Ames4.79 3.62 1.32 25Bob Gibson7.22 5.46 1.32

There aren’t a lot of surprises here, except maybe that Rube Waddell and Dazzy Vance are way out in the lead.

There are only 10 pitchers who were at least 50% above league average for their careers–and as strikeouts get more frequent, that’s getting harder and harder to do. It seems unlikely we’ll see another pitcher join the upper ranks of this list any time soon.

Now here are the bottom 25 guys–remember, though, that these pitchers would good enough to make the top 200 list for most innings pitched, so they couldn’t have been horrible–they just got it done a little bit differently.

Rank Player K/9 Avg K/9 Normalized K/9 1Lew Burdette3.15 4.92 0.64 2Frank Dwyer1.80 2.80 0.64 3Tom Zachary2.07 3.02 0.69 4Ted Lyons2.32 3.38 0.69 5Bob Forsch3.65 5.18 0.70 6Bob Caruthers2.86 4.02 0.71 7Al Spalding0.77 1.04 0.74 8Slim Sallee2.67 3.60 0.74 9Vern Law3.68 4.92 0.75 10George Bradley2.05 2.72 0.75 11Freddie Fitzsimmons2.43 3.22 0.75 12Mel Stottlemyre4.25 5.58 0.76 13Jim Slaton3.99 5.22 0.76 14Clark Griffith2.54 3.30 0.77 15Doyle Alexander4.08 5.24 0.78 16Mike Torrez4.15 5.32 0.78 17Claude Osteen4.19 5.34 0.78 18Mike Morgan4.55 5.78 0.79 19Jim Perry4.32 5.46 0.79 20Tommy John4.29 5.40 0.79 21Joe Niekro4.39 5.48 0.80 22Danny MacFayden2.65 3.30 0.80 23Al Orth2.54 3.10 0.82 24Bert Cunningham2.36 2.84 0.83 25Eppa Rixey2.70 3.24 0.83

This group is also mostly pitchers from long ago, which surprised me a bit since, as I mentioned above, it’s easier to be below average now since the average is so much higher. (Compare, for example, Bob Forsch and Al Spaulding, who have nearly identical normalized K rates despite a 5-fold difference in their raw K rates.)

I guess the main issue is that there’s a smaller spread in talent these days. 100 years ago, pitchers used a lot of different styles. These days, just about all pitchers have a power arm to some degree and the strikeout is an essential part of successful pitching. It could also be that teams these days select for pitchers with good K-rates, knowing that a guy who can’t consistently strike out batters doesn’t have a chance at long-term success. This may result in a smaller standard deviation of K rates around the average today.

Anyway, as reader kds suggested, I will re-run this analysis using strikeouts per plate appearance to see how much difference that makes.

If anybody wants the numbers for a specific pitcher, let me know and I’ll pull them off my spreadsheet.