Chances are, one would imagine that Shane McClanahan is leading all professional pitchers in strikeouts. The Tampa Bay Rays hurler has struck out 74 batters heading into Wednesday as he is in the midst of a breakout campaign. He appears well on his way to his first All Star Game and can be considered an early frontrunner for the AL Cy Young award.
However, he is not the professional leader in strikeouts. Instead, that title belongs to Chiba Lotte Marines standout Roki Sasaki who has continued to carve up the opposition in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Roki Sasaki making case as best pitcher on planet
McClanahan has put together an excellent season for the Rays. He has posted a stellar 2.06 ERA and a 0.879 WHiP in his 52.1 innings, striking out 74 batters with just 12 walks. The 25 year old appears to be the next ace for the Rays, another piece in their assembly line of pitching.
Sasaki has been even better. He had exploded on the map with his perfect game earlier in the year and then followed that up with another eight perfect innings in his next outing. However, Sasaki has been far more than just those two games, as he has posted a 1.47 ERA and a 0.673 WHiP in his 55 innings, striking out an incredible 87 batters with just eight walks.
Obviously, there are differences. While NPB has become a place where players can resurrect their careers and is a breeding ground for prospects, it is viewed as being the equivalent of Quad-A, just a notch below the majors. That difference in talent may lead some to discount Sasaki’s accomplishments.
That is a disservice to the pitcher that he has become. Sasaki has a high octane fastball that is one of the best in the world while his splitter and breaking pitches have reached another level this season. He had already attracted the attention of major league scouts while in high school and would be in high demand the second he came available to the majors. That demand is only going to increase as he continues to dominate.
Shane McClanahan may be leading the majors in strikeouts, but he is still far behind Roki Sasaki. The Japanese star is the professional strikeout leader.