Intentional or not, pitchers pile up K's

Intentional or not, pitchers pile up K's

CHICAGO -- Cubs starter Tom Gorzelanny struggled with his command on Friday, but still was in position to win the game when he departed in part because of his ability to get strikeouts in key situations.

Gorzelanny whiffed seven batters in his five innings against the Pirates, and now has struck out 83 batters in 78 1/3 innings for Chicago since being acquired from Pittsburgh last season, a rate of 9.5 batters per nine innings. In four seasons for the Pirates, he whiffed 5.9 batters per nine.

Do the Cubs preach a different approach?

"There probably is the same emphasis anywhere you go," said Gorzelanny. "It's the same mentality for every pitcher, you pitch to contact and try to get quick outs. I think for us, we've been fortunate to have guys on the staff with great stuff.

Despite the high K-rate, Gorzelanny does not consider himself to be a strikeout pitcher.

"We preach getting guys to make contact," Gorzelanny said, "and trying to get guys to make contact early, but there are just times you get two strikes and are able to finish guys off."

The Cubs entered Saturday's game with 288 strikeouts, the most in the Major Leagues. This is nothing new. Chicago led the National League in strikeouts in eight of the previous nine seasons. Yet, starter Randy Wells agrees that there is no particular organizational emphasis on striking batters out.

"As far as starters go, you want to try to get as deep into the game as you can and get as many quick outs as you can," Wells said. "Strikeouts are just accidents. I know for me they are, I'm not a power pitcher at all. For us, you [do] have guys like [Carlos] Marmol and [Carlos] Zambrano that can pile up a lot of strikeouts in a hurry."

Besides the power arms the Cubs have accumulated over the years, Wrigley Field itself may be a factor in the annual high ranking in strikeouts. During the decade in which the Cubs have lorded over the league strikeout standings, their pitchers have averaged 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings at home, versus 7.8 on the road.

"The wind, when it blows out, it pushes in pitchers' faces and makes the ball dance a little more," said Wells. "It's a Catch-22, when the ball is flying out, it kind of [stinks], but for sinkerballers and changeup guys, it helps. Then, obviously, when the wind is blowing in, pitchers have a big advantage."

Wells also thinks the cozy dimensions of Wrigley Field play a role in encouraging hitters to over-swing.

"The short porch leads to longer swings," Wells said.