When profiling a pitcher, the depth of analysis someone can perform is nearly endless. But if you want to boil down the quality of a pitcher to the most basic level, all you need to understand are their strikeout and walk rates. With those two stats, you’ll know enough to form a generally well-informed opinion about their quality.
With that in mind, the major league leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last three years is none other than Evan Scribner (min. 80 IP). Since 2014, Scribner has struck out 15 batters for every walk he’s allowed. The second highest strikeout-to-walk ratio over that period of time is Clayton Kershaw’s 8.5 K/BB. Scribner’s lead over Kershaw isn’t even close. Of course, comparing these two pitchers is a little unfair —one’s a reliever and the other is the best pitcher on the planet — but the stats are interesting nonetheless.
In terms of raw numbers, Scribner has walked just 1.8% of the 334 batters he’s faced since 2014. That’s just six batters total. He’s been able to strikeout a little more than a batter per inning but his outrageous strikeout-to-walk ratio is mainly driven by his extreme aversion to allowing walks. As an interesting exercise, I went back through the game logs for those six walks, just to see what in the world caused Scribner to allow a walk.
April 15, 2015 – Scribner allows a seven-pitch walk to Jason Castro. He fell behind 2-0 before working a full count and then lost him on a fastball in the dirt. This was the first walk he had given up since September 2013. Also of note, Luis Valbuena hit a homer off Scribner earlier in the inning.
May 1, 2015 – Scribner walks Carlos Peguero (!) on five pitches. The first three balls aren’t particularly close to the zone and the fourth is just below the knee.
June 12, 2015 – After allowing two home runs earlier in the inning, Scribner walks Johnny Giavotella on six pitches. None of the four balls were close and he was removed from the game after the at-bat.
July 8, 2015 – Scribner walks Chris Young on four pitches. This walk came right after Mark Teixeira took Scribner deep on a 1-2 pitch. It’s likely his nerves were a little shaken after that.
September 11, 2016 – In the seventh inning of a tie game, Scribner intentionally walks Yonder Alonso after allowing a triple in the previous at-bat. He would induce the inning-ending double play on the first pitch of the next at-bat.
September 19, 2016 – With two outs in the inning, Scribner faced Jose Bautista with a runner on first. On the second pitch of the at-bat, the runner stole second. With first base open, Scribner pitched around Bautista for an unintentional intentional walk.
Two of the six walks were intentional (assuming he was working around Bautista). One was against a batter who was four times more likely to strikeout than take a walk. The remaining three came during an inning where he had previously given up a home run. And therein lies the rub with Scribner, he’s particularly home run prone.
With a batted ball profile that skews heavily towards fly balls, it’s no surprise some of them leave the yard. In addition, his walk-averse pitching style requires pitching in the zone more often which also contributes to the loud contact he allows. Despite these two factors, it’s unlikely that he’ll continue to run a home run per fly ball rate over 20%.
With his excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio and homer-prone profile, Scribner would be best used in relief to start an inning. His extremely low walk rate helps him avoid rallies and any home runs he allows would most likely be solo shots. He’ll most likely work with Nick Vincent as the seventh inning man out of the pen and could find himself as the primary setup man if Steve Cishek falters.