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Relative Strikeout Rates of Mariner Pitchers

At the start of last week (assuming you count Monday as the start. I do), I wrote two pieces for FanGraphs about relative pitcher strikeouts. They covered the worst and the best such rates in baseball history. They ended up not having anything to do with the Mariners so I didn't bother linking them here. So here's to rectifying that by creating a Mariners spin off! Will it be as short lived as the original series?

You can go read the original FanGraphs pieces for the back story if you want but the gist of the idea is that I wanted to examine pitcher seasons totally within the context of the rest of the baseball league for each season. Perhaps most noticeably, strikeouts have risen over time so what seems pedestrian to us now was actually dominance back in those terrible years of history.

What came out of the all-encompassing look was finding out that Ted Wingfield existed and that Dazzy Vance really deserves to be more of a household name among households that routinely discuss the greats in baseball history. He probably does not need to be mentioned amongst families that don't because that would just get weird.

I decided to get a little more advanced for the Mariner section because I love you all. I cleaned all of your gutters and bathroom tile just the way you like them to be cleaned. I have also included z-scores (since I canvassed the entire population of pitchers) in my charts and used that to decide what I think are the worst and best relative strikeout seasons in Mariner history. It's a slightly different definition from what I did with FanGraphs, and I'm not claiming it's a better one, but I like different.

The six most Mariner Mariners' seasons (min: 500 batters faced).

Pitcher Year K% Lg K% Lg SD Rel K% Z
Bill Swift 1988 6.2% 14.6% 4.0% 42.5% 2.09
Glenn Abbott 1979 4.8% 12.4% 3.8% 38.9% 2.00
Ryan Rowland-Smith 2010 9.6% 18.0% 4.2% 53.3% 2.00
Jim Colborn 1978 5.2% 12.4% 3.8% 41.7% 1.91
Tom House 1978 5.7% 12.4% 3.8% 46.2% 1.77
Carlos Silva 2008 10.0% 17.1% 4.1% 58.5% 1.74

Poor Ryan :( I went to six solely so that I could include Carlos Silva here. You were terrible, Carlos. You were bad at pitching, unpleasant to watch and reportedly a bad teammate.

Glenn Abbott was the guy who I thought would top this list and it still gets me that Abbott was the Opening Day starter in 1979, but Bill Swift's 1988 season edged him out if you go by z-score. Abbott still has the lower relative strikeout rate, so I'm comfortable giving the title of worst strikeout season to either of them.

And because it maximizes the point, here are the seven most outlying (biggest z score) strikeout seasons in Mariner history.

Pitcher Year K% Lg K% Lg SD Rel K% Z
Randy Johnson 1995 34.0% 16.6% 4.2% 204.8% 4.10
Randy Johnson 1993 29.5% 15.0% 3.8% 197.3% 3.84
Randy Johnson 1997 34.2% 17.1% 4.8% 200.5% 3.60
Randy Johnson 1998 31.1% 16.7% 4.1% 186.2% 3.52
Randy Johnson 1994 29.4% 16.1% 4.1% 182.3% 3.27
Randy Johnson 1992 26.1% 14.6% 3.6% 179.2% 3.23
Randy Johnson 1991 25.7% 15.2% 3.9% 168.6% 2.71

Oh, Randy.

You might not be intuitively familiar with statistics (you should learn, even at a beginners level, it's a vastly helpful knowledge tool) and thus might not grasp how unlikely a z score over four is. With a normal distribution — of which these seasons closely approximate — a z-score of three represents the 99.9th percentile. A score of four or more (in either magnitude) is very rare. Randy Johnson was a special pitcher.