2022 MLB Season Strikeout Leaders: Odds, Stats & Projections

Eddie Griffin

From a pitching standpoint, the 2021 MLB season produced far different results than the previous full season, or any recent full seasons.

Last season, only five pitchers won 15 or more games, only four hit the 200-inning mark, and just 17 pitchers reached 200 strikeouts. By contrast, in 2019, 17 pitchers won at least 15 games, 15 pitched at least 200 innings, and 24 had at least 200 strikeouts.

New Mariner Ray Takes Aim at Second Straight Strikeout Crown

Still, there were plenty of standout pitching performances, and for all of the contact that hitters made, there were plenty of whiffs as well.

That said, Robbie Ray’s MLB-leading strikeout total of 248 was the lowest for a league leader since 2012, when Justin Verlander sat atop the heap with “just” 239 strikeouts.

Ray beat out Zack Wheeler (247) and Gerrit Cole (243) for the strikeout title, and he also beat out Cole for the AL Cy Young. His success paid off in the offseason, as he signed a five-year, $115 million contract to swap Toronto for the Seattle Mariners.

The change in teams doesn’t mean a change in expectations, however. Ray enters the 2022 MLB season expected to make a run at a second straight strikeout crown and AL Cy Young.

No one has led the majors in strikeouts in consecutive seasons since former Mariner, Hall of Famer, and noted bird murderer Randy Johnson two decades ago. “The Big Unit” led the league in Ks in back-to-back-to-back seasons from 1999 to 2002, while with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Five pitchers–Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, and Jacob deGrom in the NL, and Johan Santana and Justin Verlander in the AL–have since led their respective leagues, but no one has topped the overall charts. Will Ray break the streak?

Who Will Lead MLB in Strikeouts in the 2022 Regular Season?

Odds are via Caesars Sportsbook as of Thursday, April 7, 2022.

  • Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees +400
  • Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners +600 (2021 MLB strikeout leader)
  • Max Scherzer, New York Mets +600
  • Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers +1000
  • Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians +1100 (2020 MLB strikeout leader – made only one 2021 start)
  • Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies +1200 (2nd in MLB in strikeouts in 2021)
  • Jacob DeGrom, New York Mets +1500*
  • Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies +2000
  • Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox +2000
  • Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox +2000
  • Justin Verlander, Houston Astros +2500
  • Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers +2500
  • Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers +3000
  • Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers +3000
  • Jose Berrios, Toronto Blue Jays +3000
  • Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins +4000
  • Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays +4000
  • Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves +4000
  • Carlos Rodon, San Francisco Giants +5000
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers +5000
  • Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals +5000
  • Frankie Montas, Oakland A’s +5000
  • Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds +5000
  • Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays +5000
  • Blake Snell, San Diego Padres +5000
  • German Marquez, Colorado Rockies +5000
  • Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres +5000
  • Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels +5000
  • Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox +5000
  • Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres +5000
  • Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers +5000
  • Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox +5000**

*It was announced on April 1 (of all days, yes) that deGrom would start the MLB season on the injured list after suffering a stress reaction in his right shoulder, and he will be evaluated again in a month.

**Lynn is listed at +5000, but he is set to miss several weeks, at minimum, after undergoing knee surgery this week for a slight tendon tear in his right knee.

2022 Strikeout Projections for MLB Betting Favorites (as of April 7, 2022)

ESPN (2022 MLB Fantasy Baseball Projections)

  • 1. Ray: 267
  • 2. Cole: 261
  • 3. Burnes: 253
  • 4. Bieber: 235
  • 5. Scherzer: 234
  • t-6. Nola: 233
  • t-6. Woodruff: 233
  • 8. Giolito: 228
  • 9. Cease: 226
  • 10. Peralta: 222

FanGraphs (ZiPS)

The official site of MLB has an explanation of what ZiPs is here.

  • 1. Cole: 248
  • 2. Scherzer: 231
  • 3. Ray: 218
  • t-4. Giolito: 217
  • t-4. Nola: 217
  • 6. Buehler: 205
  • t-7. Burnes: 204
  • t-7. Cease: 204
  • 9. Wheeler: 201
  • 10. Peralta: 198

FantasyPros (2022 MLB Fantasy Baseball Projections)

  • 1. Cole: 254
  • 2. Ray: 231
  • 3. Scherzer: 227
  • t-4. Burnes: 226
  • t-4. Bieber: 226
  • 6. Giolito: 217
  • 7. Nola: 214
  • 8. Woodruff: 211
  • 9. Peralta: 202
  • t-10. Buehler: 199
  • t-10. Gausman: 199

2022 MLB Strikeout Leader Picks and Best Bets

Best Bet: Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners (+600)

After struggling in 2020, Ray bounced back in a big way last season and was rewarded for it with a Cy Young and a lucrative long-term deal with the Mariners in free agency.

A big contract brings big expectations, but Ray has averaged at least 11.3 strikeouts per innings in each of the previous six seasons. Even when things were their worst for him in his last season with the Diamondbacks in 2020, he still averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings across his seven starts with the team before his move to Toronto.

Last season, he led the league in strikeouts while averaging 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. That was actually down from the previous four seasons (2017: 12.1, 2018: 12.0, 2019: 12.1, 2020: 11.8).

Ray did have two more starts (32 to 30) and pitched 12 more innings (193.1 IP to 181.1 IP) than Cole, who had just five fewer strikeouts last season, but you have to like his chances of beating out the Yankees hurler.

While he has done very well with missing bats throughout his MLB career, he got better at not missing the strike zone last season, with his K/BB a career-best 4.77 (his previous high was 3.07). If he continues to locate well, he will maximize the benefits of playing in the pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park.

Best Value Pick: Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (+1200)

Wheeler is sixth on the list of favorites, so he’s no long shot.

If you are looking for longer odds to take a chance on, San Diego’s duo of Blake Snell and Yu Darvish are both worth a look at +5000. Both had their issues in their debut campaign with the Padres, but the Padres were overall an underachieving, injury-hit mess last season. Each has the arm and pedigree to make a run at the strikeout crown if things come together again.

Wheeler is a great value pick in this spot because of the number of innings he racked up last year. He was only 12th in strikeouts per nine innings (10.4), but he led the majors in innings pitched (213.1) because of how unreliable the Phillies’ bullpen was.

The franchise retooled the bullpen with the additions of Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia, and Corey Knebel, but with there being no guarantees that the pen will be more trustworthy, Wheeler has a lot of value here because of how much of a load he may have to take on.

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