Now that Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber is slated to miss, at least, the next couple of weeks (and potentially more), MLB’s premier strikeout artist will likely lose the chance to lead the league in punchouts, as he did last year with 122 in 12 starts and 77.1 innings.
Bieber suffered a right shoulder strain in his last outing, and has been shut down for two weeks, at which point the team will reevaluate him.
Bieber leads the circuit in strikeouts once again with 130, but if the best-case scenario presents itself and he misses about a month, that’s too many innings he won’t pitch, paving the way for several potential candidates to pass him.
If healthy, the likes of Tyler Glasnow, Max Scherzer, Zack Wheeler, Trevor Bauer, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, or Kevin Gausman can surpass his strikeout total when all is said and done, but here are the two most likely candidates to take the MLB strikeout crown now that Bieber will miss time.
2. Jacob deGrom
Jacob deGrom is arguably the best pitcher in MLB, and that’s not a secret to anybody.
He has a microscopic 0.56 ERA, which is flirting to be the lowest in baseball history, but he can also strikeout any hitter he wants.
As of now, deGrom is seventh in whiffs with 103, even though he has thrown the second-fewest innings among the current top ten pitchers in strikeouts, with 64.
If deGrom is healthy for the rest of the season, he has perhaps the biggest chance of finishing as the MLB strikeout leader.
In his last 2 starts, Jacob deGrom has 21 strikeouts.
None of his putaway pitches has been in the strike zone. Absurd. pic.twitter.com/AEvY1xDFnf
— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) June 12, 2021
Health, however, hasn’t come easy for the New York Mets hurler as of late.
He already has one injured list stint this year, with a right side issue, and he had some elbow issues in his last outing.
After pitching six scoreless frames last week, he was removed at just 80 pitches with what was later deemed as flexor tendinitis.
He vows he will make his next start on Wednesday, but stay tuned.
1. Gerrit Cole
Given how much the Mets are likely to take care of deGrom’s right arm as they prepare to make a deep playoff run, Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees is perhaps the likeliest candidate to league the league in strikeouts now that Bieber will be out for a while.
Cole is currently third in Ks with 113, 17 away from Bieber and 10 behind Glasnow, who manifested some injury issues in his last start, too.
The right-hander is armed with 100 mph gas that he uses up in the zone to generate whiffs, a fantastic slider, and a very good changeup and curveball.
Gerrit Cole’s 9 strikeouts tonight pic.twitter.com/16xlgcjl3u
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) June 10, 2021
That arsenal was good enough to lead the league in strikeouts in 2019, with a whopping 326.
One important thing working on Cole’s favor is his clean bill of health in recent years.
The Yankees, unlike the Mets, are in an uncomfortable position in the standings and can’t afford to manage Cole’s innings, at least not right now.
That means he will get all the innings he can handle and will challenge for the league lead in strikeouts.