The Red Sox have six games left in the regular season, but are using Zach Stewart as their starter on Sunday. Because of this, Friday night's start against the Baltimore Orioles might very well be Aaron Cook's last in 2012. Why is this relevant? Because Aaron Cook, for all of his failures at not striking hitters out lately, can still finish the year with fewer than two strikeouts per nine -- and might even be able to do so while throwing 100 innings.
Cook is currently striking out 1.94 per nine, after punching out 20 of the 400 batters he's faced in 93 innings. Minimum 93 innings, that's the second-lowest rate since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973, behind Glenn Abbott, who whiffed 1.93 per nine back in 1979. (To throw this out even further, Abbott was at 1.928, Cook is at 1.935. It's very, very close.) If Cook throws five innings tonight, and doesn't strike out a single Oriole, his strikeout rate will sit at 1.83, the lowest of the DH era. If he strikes a batter out, though, and throws just five frames, he'll be ahead of Abbott's by 0.0005 strikeouts per nine. If Cook strikes out one batter, he needs to go 5-1/3 innings in order to be worse at striking hitters out than Abbott was. If he strikes out two, then not even a complete-game can save him from only being the second-worst.
This is the only avenue for historical relevancy left for this campaign, which started out so promising in its ineptitude. There was a time not too long ago -- fewer than two months back -- that Aaron Cook was the owner of the lowest strikeout rate in the American League, minimum 57 innings, since World War II ended. For those of you who aren't history buffs, that's since 1946, or, 33 years before Aaron Cook, who is now 33, was even born. Of his 17 starts, seven of them lacked a single strikeout. While 68 percent of his pitches have been strikes, just eight percent have been swinging. It's been all about his (admittedly fantastic) control and command, as well as constant grounders to try to make up for the lack of whiffs. Another one of those outings tonight -- all grounder, no swing-and-miss stuff -- would be fortuitously timed.
Cook even had an outside shot of making it into the top 10 worst strikeout seasons ever, if only he could strike out even fewer batters than he had. Instead, he nearly doubled his punch out rate, and even had it over two per nine for a short time, bringing us to the consolation prize that is the DH era. If Cook has a masterful start, in which he throws a complete-game against the Orioles, and does so without striking out a single batter, than he can still impress us with more than that. That would bring his strikeouts per nine down to 1.76 per nine, the fourth-lowest of the post-WWII era:
Don't disappoint, Aaron Cook. You've gone this far without striking hitters out. Take that to the next level in what might be your last chance in 2012.