Kenley Jansen racking up strikeouts at historic rate

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Last season Carlos Marmol set the all-time record by striking out 16.0 batters per nine innings, becoming the first pitcher in baseball history with a strikeout rate above 15.0.

Marmol’s record is probably safe, but Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen looks set to join him in the 15-plus club. Last night Jansen closed out a 3-2 victory for his fourth save of the season and struck out the side in the process, giving him 83 strikeouts in 48 innings overall.

That works out to 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings, which is the second-highest rate of all time:

                  YEAR     SO/9
Carlos Marmol     2010     16.0
KENLEY JANSEN     2011     15.6
Eric Gagne        2003     15.0
Billy Wagner      1999     15.0
Brad Lidge        2004     14.9

Predictably the top five spots all belong to relievers from the past 15 years. In terms of strikeout rates for starting pitchers Randy Johnson has the all-time record with 13.4 in 2001, when he whiffed 372 batters in 250 innings for the Diamondbacks.

Jansen, who began his pro career as a light-hitting catcher and didn’t move to the mound until 2009, has a 2.28 ERA, .156 opponents’ batting average, and 124 strikeouts in 75 innings as a big leaguer.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.