There is nothing like watching a pitcher set down on a batter on a blazing fastball, or buckling their knees with a great breaking pitch. This list will look at the five best pitchers that are best at setting batters down on strikes.
How do you make the list? Simple, you have to strike out a lot of batters, obviously, and how well and often the pitcher strikeout hitters. You could be a pitcher with an ERA over four and still make the list as long as you are setting down hitters at an elite pace.
1. Justin Verlander: Verlander is the definition of a strikeout power pitcher. His fastball that touches 100 plus miles per-hour even on his 120th pitch of the night. Not to mention his filthy curve and slider. You want to sit on his fastball? His change up is pretty good, too. Verlander has had over 200 strikeouts in the last three years, lead the league in strikeouts two of those three years, and is on pace once more to set down over 200 hitters via the strikeout in 2012. Verlander is currently second in the AL, third in the MLB in K’s, with a 180.
2. Stephen Strasburg: When Strasburg was drafted, he was already one of the most well known pitching prospects of the last 20 years. Pitching under the watch full eye of Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn at San Diego State, Strasburg’s name exploded when people heard of a 21-year-old throwing over a 100 miles per-hour. When he made his debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, Strasburg struck out 14 Pirates on route to winning his first major league game. His career was de-railed for a bit after having to have Tommy John surgery, but in 2012, his first full season; Strasburg leads the NL in strikeouts, and it one of the top contenders for the NL Cy Young.
3. Felix Hernandez: This former Cy Young winner is no stranger to setting batters down on strikes. With his nasty slider and curve, and mid-90′s fastball, there is a reason why the man they call “King Felix” is on pace to strikeout 200 batters for the fourth straight year, and is one of the leagues best. Hernandez added a perfect game to his list of accomplishments in 2012. Hernandez also ranks among the top five in the league in strikeouts, yet doesn’t get the much attention because he plays in Seattle. You wanna see hitters look bad? Just watch a game when King Felix toes the slab.
4. Max Scherzer: Scherzer has always had a great repertoire of pitches, consistency? no so much until this year. Scherzer has really come into his own. After getting off to a bit of a shaky start in 2012, he has righted the ship. Scherzer hasn’t had an ERA over four since the month of May, and has been striking out 11.3 hitters per-nine innings; the best the MLB. Scherzer has a fastball that can get up to 99 miles per-hour, to go a long with a lethal slider and a great change up. He’s been battling with teammate Justin Verlander for the AL lead in strikeouts the last two months. Scherzer currently sits up atop of the AL strikeout lead with 186, and is on pace to strikeout over 200 hitters for the first time in his career.
5. R.A. Dickey: Before 2012, the most hitters Dickey had ever struck out was 134. At one point, Dickey had an ERA sub two this season. Although his ERA is up to 2.82, which is still outstanding, Dickey remains one of the games top strikeout pitchers. Batters have been getting tied in knots trying to swing at his dancing knuckleball. Dickey has 181 strikeouts, and is on pace for his first 200 strikeout season. He is one of the leading candidates for the NL Cy Young.
John Czech is a writer for Rant Sports. His main interests are the Detroit Tigers, but covers all of baseball. He can be found on Twitter at: @JohnCzech