The Braves' Brandon Beachy: A Surprise Strikeout Artist

Brandon Beachy's odyssey from undrafted free agent to quality MLB starter has been well documented. Almost nobody saw much potential in him, and at first, it's easy to see why. He's not a flamethrower, usually sitting in the low 90s on his fastball. He's not intimidating, and he doesn't have an unusual delivery or anything else to set him apart.

Yet here he is, thriving in the major leagues. Granted, it is very early in his career, but how many undrafted players even make it to the big leagues? He's already beaten the odds.

Actually, I think "beaten" is not a strong enough word. Perhaps "demolished" or "annihilated" would work better. So far this year, Beachy has struck out 66 batters in only 56 and a third innings. That's a 10.5 K/9 mark, which is otherworldly for a starting pitcher.

Normally when you see a young pitcher with a great strikeout rate, you expect a high walk rate as well, but Beachy hasn't shown much wildness. He's walked only 15 guys, and 4 of those were intentional (he's also hit 2 batters). That works out to a 2.4 BB/9 and a 2.08 (UIBB+HBP)/9. How rare is this combination of a super-high strikeout rate and a low walk rate? The following is a list of the only 11 players in MLB history to qualify for an ERA title with a K/9 of at least 10 and a BB/9 of no more than 3:

Rk Player Yrs From To Age
1 Randy Johnson 6 1995 2004 31-40 Ind. Seasons
2 Curt Schilling 5 1997 2003 30-36 Ind. Seasons
3 Pedro Martinez 4 1997 2002 25-30 Ind. Seasons
4 Sandy Koufax 2 1962 1965 26-29 Ind. Seasons
5 Justin Verlander 1 2009 2009 26-26 Ind. Seasons
6 Tim Lincecum 1 2009 2009 25-25 Ind. Seasons
7 Erik Bedard * 1 2007 2007 28-28 Ind. Seasons
8 Ben Sheets 1 2004 2004 25-25 Ind. Seasons
9 Johan Santana 1 2004 2004 25-25 Ind. Seasons
10 Mark Prior 1 2003 2003 22-22 Ind. Seasons
11 Mike Scott 1 1986 1986 31-31 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/28/2011.

* Quite a coincidence that Beachy's mound opponent last night, Bedard, made the list. Also, very surprising. Bedard's a good pitcher, but that one season is really an anomaly in his career.

Pretty impressive list, huh? If Beachy can keep up his current performance, he'll be in extremely select company.

Now it's time for the disclaimers: that is a huge "if" in the last paragraph. Even if Beachy stays healthy enough to qualify for the ERA title (and he can't afford to miss many more starts if he wants to do that), it is very likely that the league will adjust to him at least somewhat. His K/9 probably won't stay above 10, and his BB/9 will probably go up as well.

And, of course, even if Beachy does join the list, that does not mean that he is going to be the next Curt Schilling. I love Beachy as much as anyone, but even if he manages to stay healthy, I doubt that he has the ceiling of those dominant pitchers. Of course, it'll be years before we know how good Beachy really is. For now, let's just appreciate how awesome Beachy has been and hope he can beat the odds once more and keep it up all year.

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