Jered Weaver notched just four strikeouts over seven innings against the Rangers last night, however they were just enough to give him the major league lead in strikeouts (233) over Tim Lincecum (231) and Felix Hernandez (232).
Armed with a fastball that averages around 90 mph, Weaver entered the season averaging 7.3 K/9 over his first four seasons in the major leagues. This year he has fanned 233 batters over 224 1/3 innings, good enough for 9.3 K/9, fifth among qualified starters.
According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Weaver could be the first Angels pitcher to lead the majors in strikeouts since Nolan Ryan struck out 341 in 1977.
“Changing speeds with every pitch has been a key,” Weaver said.
“Anything you can do to keep the hitters off-balance is good. When you
throw 91, you have to figure out ways to get people out.”
It’s a pretty simple way of describing his success, but not far off. I mentioned his early strikeout prowess way back in June and as the season has continued, we have seen that he has relied on his curveball more than ever before. The pitch has been nine runs above average this season according to Fangraphs, easily a career-high. This alteration in his repertoire has made his fastball — which had negative value over the past two seasons — a much more effective pitch.
You know, we have spent a lot of time lavishing praise on Felix Hernandez, and rightfully so, but the 27-year-old Weaver is another prominent example of a pitcher who is having a Cy Young-type season without the shiny win-loss record to match. By the way, he’s also 13-12, like King Felix.
Note: There’s still a chance that Weaver won’t lead the majors in strikeouts. If the Giants are forced to play a tiebreaker game on Monday, Lincecum would likely get the start. At the very least, Weaver has clinched the AL lead in strikeouts.