What does one call Mike Francesa’s radio show now that Chris Russo is gone? “The Mike Francesa Show”? I have no idea. Regardless, I caught a five minute segment of it today, during which Francesa methodically and monotonously compared CC Sabathia and Johan Santana’s numbers over the last five years. His tone indicated that he was trying to prove Santana is better than Sabathia. I will not argue against this, because it is true. Furthermore, I suspect his greater point was that the Yankees could have had Santana last year, and their decision not to trade for him led to huge spending for Sabathia. He is, of course, conveniently ignoring that the Yankees would have had to give up young players for Santana, while acquiring Sabathia cost only money. But that is not what I am posting about.
Eventually, Francesa put a caller on the air, who then tried to argue that the gap between the two pitchers is not that significant. Francesa would have none of it (paraphrasing):
“Santana is an elite pitcher. I don’t use that word often. He is an elite pitcher. Your best argument for Sabathia is that he’s gotten better the last couple years. But let’s be honest – he’s not elite. He doesn’t even average a strikeout an inning!”
As a knowledgeable baseball fan, I am aware that it is extraordinarily difficult to average a strikeout an inning for one season, much less for a career. So, I was pretty sure Francesa was knocking Sabathia for not doing something incredibly rare. I checked Baseball-Reference.com, and I urge you to guess how many pitchers have averaged a strikeout an inning for their career.
Six pitchers have averaged a strikeout an inning for their career. They are Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and…Johan Santana.
There you have it. CC Sabathia sucks for not being a top five performer in a particularly difficult pitching measurement.