I don't think it's any secret how the Giants and Padres have gotten to where they are. The Padres have gotten a lot of help from Adrian Gonzalez. The Giants have gotten a lot of help from guys like Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff. But first and foremost, the Padres and Giants owe thanks to their run prevention units for keeping the teams in the playoff hunt entering the season's final weekend.
This isn't new news. Everyone knows the Padres haven't allowed many runs. Everyone knows the Giants haven't, either. Especially over the past month. When I was going over the numbers, though, what I was struck by were the strikeouts. The Giants, as a team, have averaged 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, tops in baseball. The Padres are in second, at 8.0.
It makes some sense. Strikeouts are great for run prevention. Great run prevention units, then, we can expect to rack up the strikeouts. What stood out to me is how many weapons these teams have. The Giants have Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla. The Padres, meanwhile, have Mat Latos, Luke Gregerson, Heath Bell, Edward Mujica, and Mike Adams. All ten of these guys have thrown at least 50 innings on the season, and all ten of these guys have K/9 ratios of 9.0 or higher.
Five each. There are five regular big-strikeout guys on each team. How many teams like these have there been in baseball history?
Three. Since 1901, only three teams have had five pitchers with 50+ innings and a strikeout rate of 9.0+. The 2010 San Diego Padres, the 2010 San Francisco Giants, and the 2003 Chicago Cubs. You'll remember that Cubs team as being the one that came within a win of going to the World Series.
Strikeouts are a more recent focus. There were fewer strikeouts in the olden days, making the ‘since 1901' parameter less meaningful. This is nevertheless an impressive feat, for both teams. Strikeouts are good things for run prevention - perhaps the greatest of things - and they get them, from a lot of guys, by the handful.
What's crazy is that the 50+ innings condition excludes Joe Thatcher, who's made 63 appearances out of the Padre bullpen and struck out 45 batters over 35 frames. He's another regular guy with a sky-high strikeout rate. The Giants, however, can counter with the fact that two of their high strikeout rates belong to starters, in Lincecum and Sanchez. So they get a broader whiff distribution.
Both San Diego and San Francisco have had phenomenal years on the mound. The overwhelming probability is that only one of them will get to make the playoffs, but both of them certainly deserve it. Teams this good at punching batters out don't come around very often.