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A’s closer Sean Doolittle has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball history and it’s not even close

Jun 18, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Getty Images

A’s left-hander Sean Doolittle has posted excellent numbers since moving from first base to the mound in the minors, including a 3.09 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 116 innings through his first two seasons as a big leaguer.

This season he moved into the closer role when Jim Johnson struggled, converting eight saves so far, and Doolittle’s numbers now include an absolutely ridiculous 46-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings.

Seriously. He’s thrown 33 innings this season and has 46 strikeouts compared to one walk.

To get a sense of how absurd that is, here are the best K/BB ratios in the history of baseball among all pitchers with at least 30 innings in a season:

SEAN DOOLITTLE      2014     46.00
Dennis Eckersley    1989     18.33
Dennis Eckersley    1990     18.25
Koji Uehara         2013     14.33
Sergio Romo         2011     14.00
Mariano Rivera      2008     12.83

I mean, really.

In the entire history of baseball there are only 17 instances of a pitcher throwing at least 30 innings in a season with more than 10 strikeouts per walk. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley has the two best strikeout-to-walk ratios in baseball history at 18.33-to-1 in 1989 and 18.25-to-1 in 1990. That’s amazing, as were the seasons listed above from Koji Uehara last year, Sergio Romo in 2011, and Mariano Rivera in 2008. Yet what Doolittle is doing right now for the A’s makes those look like nothing special.

Oh, and Doolittle now has the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio of all time among pitchers with 100 or more career innings at 6.64, behind only Uehara at 8.90. Five years ago he was a Triple-A first baseman hitting .267 with an .811 OPS for the A’s affiliate in Sacramento. Baseball is crazy, man.

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  1. hammyofdoom - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    Ok, I’ve heard the little adage of relievers “just” being failed starters…But an utterly dominating one going from mediocre 1B to dominating reliever? That’s a new one. But holy crap I had no clue he was having this sort of season

    • Rich Stowe - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      which is what makes Babe Ruth’s career even more impressive – one of the best pitchers at the time to one of the best hitters

      other players have switched from position player to pitcher and vice versa but none with the success of Ruth (and Musial going from pitcher to position player) and maybe even this guy if he keeps it going!

  2. Rich Stowe - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    I’m guessing his end of year numbers will be closer to the all-time record numbers but for now, that is an eye-popping stat

  3. clydeserra - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    wow. blast from the past with that photo

  4. shoehole - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Just a thought, does intentional walks count in this equation?

    • seeinred87 - Jun 18, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Yes, intentional walks are included. His only walk this season is a regular old unintentional walk though.

  5. Detroit Michael - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    I don’t know whether Doolittle’s feat of recording 46 strikeouts (and counting) before yielding his 2nd walk of the season is a record, but I couldn’t find any counterexamples. In 1991, Dennis Eckersley had 38 strikeouts before his 2nd walk. In 2004, Billy Wagner had 36 strikeouts before his 2nd walk.

  6. RickyB - Jun 18, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    While it’s not professional baseball, Doolittle was a hell of a college pitcher at Virginia, posting a 22-7 record with a 2.23 ERA and 243 strikeouts (compared to 58 walks) over 222 innings in three seasons. His numbers at the plate were good for college, but not as impressive as his pitching totals — .905 OPS, 41 2B, 22 HR in 666 at-bats with 125 walks and 77 strikeouts. He was honestly a better prospect on the mound than at the plate, but of course, TINSTAAPP …

  7. soberlyf - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Oh I get it, this is a joke written by an A’s fan! Doolittle has a nice line, 46 K’s in 33 innings pitched, a 2.18 ERA., opponents are hitting a stingy .169 off him and he’s only walked one batter, but Yankee mid-reliever Delan Bettances has 68K’s in 40 innings which works out to 28 K’s more than innings pitched, (Doolittle just 13K’s over IP)…but the real numbers are ERA, Doolittle sports a 2.18 ERA, Bettances a measly 1.55 ERA. There’s opponents batting average against to consider, Doolittle holds the league to a .169 BAA, wait, Bettances .137 BAA. He also has 4 wins thrown in. Doolittle is doing a fine job. Bettances is absolutely frightening.

    • clydeserra - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      Betances (which is how you actually spell it) has walked 10. this story is about the strikeout to walk ratio, which for Betances is 15.00, which is fantastic. Historically good. but not what this is about.

      Also, ERA is not a real number. it is a sabr stat before sabr was around. It is also nearly meaningless in evaluating any pitcher’s performance, doubly so for relievers.

      • scatterbrian - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        Betances’s K/BB is actually 6.80 — still awesome, but not very noteworthy for this particular post.

      • clydeserra - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        oh, I was just writing it from memory after looking at his bref page, must have looked at the wrong column.

        thanks

  8. miguelcairo - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Is this real life? Wow.

  9. scatterbrian - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    The one walk went to Ryan Hanigan, which is justifiable. I was expecting it to be Adam Jones or someone else who’s allergic to walks.

  10. moogro - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Sample size. 3 more walks and he drops off this leader board.

    • scatterbrian - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      How many Ks come with those three walks? Or are you just adding numbers arbitrarily?

      The point of this is what he has done, not what he might have done if the outcomes were slightly different. You get that, right? I assume so, because I don’t see you commenting in the ATHs saying stuff like, “Two more runs for Team A and Team B would have lost.”

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