Jack Flaherty struck out 13 Brewers last night in seven innings plus of one-hit, one-run ball. The Cardinals still lost, of course, because you can't give up two runs at Miller Park and expect to win apparently. At least not right now with this offense. But era be damned, 13 strikeouts is a lot. To date, there have only been 19 games in 2018 in which a starter struck out at least 13 batters. And since last night was the second time Flaherty has done that this season, he is responsible for around ten percent of these games. He also joins Gerrit Cole, Jacob DeGrom, and (not surprisingly) Max Scherzer as the only pitchers to do it more than once.
Courtesy of Baseball Reference's Play Index, here is the complete 2018 list of 13-or-more strikeout games, as sorted by the most recent.
(Teams are 13-6 in these games, so while it would be nice if the Cardinals could have won last night, take solace in the fact that they aren't the only ones to squander such a start.)
Flaherty is now striking out close to 30 percent of batters faced on the season, and is fifth in the NL in strikeout rate for pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings. Also, I noted on Twitter last night that Flaherty has now pitched two of the nine 13-or-more strikeout games for the Cardinals since Bob Gibson retired. Here is the complete list.
Todd Stottleymyre is the only other pitcher above to appear twice, and his two 13 strikeout games occurred almost exactly two years apart. If curious as to how many Cardinals pitchers have struck out 13 or more batters twice in one season since the mound was lowered in 1969, well, Flaherty is in pretty exclusive company.
Bob Gibson. Jack Flaherty. Fin.
Let's go back further. How about since the league was integrated in 1947?
Okay, how about we go all the way back to 1908 (which is as far as the Play Index allows for such a search).
That is not a mistake. It's the exact same list. Since 1908, only three Cardinals pitchers have struck out 13 or more batters twice in a season, with Flaherty now being one of them.
All in all, pretty remarkable for a rookie. And wait, that's right, Flaherty is a rookie. He's only started ten games this season and 15 for his career. Here are the most recent 25 pitchers to have struck out at least 13 batters in a game during one of their first 20 games pitched.
This takes us back over 30 years, so what Flaherty is doing is not all that common. And he joins players like Kerry Wood (that 20-K game will live on long after we are all dead) and Hideo Nomo, who both shot onto the scene like rockets, as the only pitchers listed above more than once.
Using these same parameters, but now only including Cardinals and dating back all the way to 1908 and this is what we have.
(Shelby Miller's near-perfect game against Colorado is sort of our version of the Kerry Wood 20-K game.)
What else do we know about Flaherty? We've established he still has rookie status which usually means a player is pretty young. True enough, this is only Flaherty's age-22 season. This will be a repeat of a lot of the names you have already seen, but here are the 25 most recent 13-or-more strikeout games by pitchers in their age-22 season or younger (you get all that?).
And agin, do the same search but only for those who have worn the birds on the bat, and these are the results.
(Gotta love that Steve Carlton trade.)
By now, you've seen enough and probably get the idea. The Cardinals are underperforming, having lost eight of ten with their current postseason odds sitting at around 32 percent. Not great for a team many picked to be better. If the season continues on that trajectory then that's a legitimate bummer considering the talent on this roster, even with injuries taking a significant toll.
Stipulating that will be the case (and to be clear, it's way too early to do that), we might still have something to really look forward to every five days. And that's not trivial. The Cardinals are on the verge of something very exciting here with Jack Flaherty. Even in this era, from a strikeout perspective, he's basically making history.
Credit to Baseball Reference's Play Index for the stats in this post. You can subscribe to the Play Index here.