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Marty’s musings: the month of Ks

Strikeouts overtake hits for the first time in MLB history.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout baseball, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.

This week, we take a look at the current ‘strikeout era’, analyze the Yankees great week, and discuss a Pirates rookie whose debut made history. It’s all in this week’s Musings.

News and Notes

6908/7163 - Hits / strikeouts so far through April 29th. We’re in an era of strikeouts, so it comes as no real surprise that April 2018 will be the first month ever that strikeouts outnumbers hits. The lack of balls in play has presented an interesting conundrum for Major League Baseball, as more players sell out for power, sacrificing contact.

9 - Game winning streak for the surging Yankees who trail the Red Sox by only two games. The Yankees swept the Angels over the weekend, following a three-game inevitable sweep of the Twins (more on this debacle below).

62 - Runs scored by the Rays in their eight-game winning that ended Sunday afternoon against the Red Sox. Tampa Bay put a pounding on the Orioles and Twins before taking the first two games against Boston.

9 - Consecutive series won by the Diamondbacks to start the season. Arizona has an NL-best 19-8 record, and has a five-game lead over the second place Rockies. They face-off against the Dodgers this week.

10 - Homers by Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius. Didi’s been one of the biggest offensive surprises of the year so far, and in only one month has amassed nearly half as many home runs as he hit all of last season. With a home run / fly ball rate of 24.4 percent, his pace won’t be sustainable, but it’s been a fun last few weeks.

33-94 - Twins’ record against the Yankees under Ron Gardenhire. The Twins of recent past have always had trouble with the Yankees, and being outscored 29-8 in a three-game set last week just added salt to the wound. In last year’s wild card game, Minnesota got off to an early lead, but anyone who has watched these two play over the last decade knew it wouldn’t last.

6 - Walks given up by Clayton Kershaw in his five-inning outing against the Marlins. It’s only the third time in his career he’s walked that many batters, and the first time since April 2010. In 2016, it took him 12 starts before he walked batter number six.

6 ⅔ - Perfect innings to start Nick Kingham’s career. The Pirates rookie shutdown the Cardinals handily Sunday afternoon, going seven innings and allowing only one hit. It’s the longest stint of perfection for any rookie making their Major League debut in the modern era. Kingham struck out nine and walked zero, leading the Buccos to a 5-0 victory.

4 - Game sweep of the Brewers by divisional rivals, and clear NL Central favorite, Cubs. The Brewers were in control of the Central before they went to Wrigley, but are neck-in-neck with Chicago upon their departure. Over the weekend, Chicago starters threw 26 innings and allowed zero runs.

Matchups to Watch

Monday, April 30

Ross Stripling (LAD) v.Zack Greinke (ARI), 9:30 ET

Ross Stripling will make his first start of the year against the red-hot Diamondbacks Monday night. The DBacks look like the toast of the NL so far, despite Zack Greinke’s mediocre performances. He has only put up one quality start this season, despite a 32:3 strikeout to walk ratio.

Tuesday, May 1.

Chris Kuhl (PIT) v. Max Scherzer (WAS), 7:05 ET

One of these teams if four games under .500, while the other is 17-11 and sitting atop their division. With the Nationals unable to put it together the first month of the year, this week’s series against the Pirates can get them to start-off May with a bang. It can also legitimize the PIrates, who per FanGraphs’ Cool Standings, are still projected to finish below .500.

Wednesday, May 2

Luis Severino (NYY) v. Dallas Keuchel (HOU), 8:10 ET

In his six regular season games against New York, Keichel has his best strikeout to walk rate (7.50), and has held Yankee hitters to a paltry .190/.218/.234 slash line. Last season he dominated New York in game one of the ALCS, but couldn’t get out of the fifth inning in game five. This week’s series will be a fun rematch.

Friday, May 4

Gerrit Cole (HOU) v. Robbie Ray (ARI), 9:40 ET

A potential World Series matchup pits Houston’s shiny new object against Robbie Ray, whose last start was shortened due to an oblique strain. Cole has been nothing short of masterful in his first month as an Astro. In 41 ⅔ innings, he has allowed only 33 baserunners. His 61 strikeouts lead the majors.

Sunday, May 6

Kyle Freeland (COL) v. Noah Syndergaard (NYM), 1:10 ET

Neither the Mets nor the Rockies were projected to win their respective divisions, but both are amassing enough wins to stay in early playoff contention. This weekend’s series in Queens will pit the Mets top-three starters against the Rockies potent offense. In a post-Harvey rotation, New York remains well situated.

*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables


Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano