Strike Outs In Baseball

Yesterday’s rant on the modern orthodoxy of taking pitches to wear down starting pitchers had not been “on the streets” for more than 2 hours when I got an e-mail from someone who has been reading these things before they ever went on the Internet. He told me that I needed to “put the pieces together”; here are the salient comments from his note:

“Hitters take strike one way more than they should. That often puts them behind in the count making them defensive hitters … when they go after pitches, they often try to hit the ball into the next county and that accounts for all the strikeouts in the past couple of years.

“It takes more time to strike a hitter out than it does to have him fly to center.

“All of these things are interconnected.”

OK, I stand chastised for failure to connect those dots. The points made here are correct and the data on the number of strikeouts in recent years shows that they are more frequent now than in the past. I decided to go and look at some stats for this year…

    In the American League this year at the 65% mark of the season, there are 29 pitchers who have recorded 100 or more strikeouts.

    In the National league, 38 pitchers have hit that mark.

    In both leagues combined, 33 hitters have fanned 100 or more times.

When you look at the players who have struck out a lot this year, you will find a few names there who are – despite the strikeouts – very good players. Consider these folks:

    Giancarlo Stanton has struck out 128 times.
    Mike Trout has struck out 119 times.
    Paul Goldschmidt has struck out 110 times.
    Matt Kemp has struck out 101 times.

The fact that very good players are on the list of ones who strike out a lot is not that unusual. In fact, several Hall of Fame players – and a couple who may someday be in the Hall of Fame – are on the list of the Top Ten strikeout victims of all time:

    Reggie Jackson struck out 2597 times in 21 seasons. (Hall of Fame)
    Jim Thome struck out 2548 times in 22 seasons. (Likely Hall of Fame)
    Sammy Sosa struck out 2306 times in 18 seasons.
    Adam Dunn struck out 2257 times in 14 seasons (Still striking out)
    A-Rod struck out 2075 in 20 seasons. (Still active – sort of)
    Andres Galaraga struck out 2003 times in 19 seasons. (Really good player)
    José Canseco struck out 1942 times in 16 seasons.
    Willie Stargell struck out 1936 times in 21 seasons. (Hall of Fame)
    Mike Cameron struck out 1901 times in 19 seasons.
    Mike Schmidt struck out 1883 times in 18 seasons. (Hall of Fame)

That list shows me the fact that a player who strikes out often is not necessarily correlated with that player being of little value to a team. Nevertheless, there have also been some great players for whom a strikeout was unusual.

    Pete Rose had 4256 hits and struck out 1143 times.
    Henry Aaron drove in 2297 runs and struck out 1383 times.
    Stan Musial had 3630 hits and struck out only 696 times.

      [Musial played 22 seasons. Only three times did he strike out 40 or more times in a whole season.]

    Tony Gwynn had 3141 hits and struck out only 434 times.

      [Gwynn played 20 seasons. Only once did he strike out as many as 40 times in a single year.]

The strikeout stats that I found most interesting were for Joe DiMaggio. While he did not hit a ton of home runs, DiMaggio did hit plenty of doubles and triples; he was not a “singles hitter”; his career slugging average is a highly respectable .579. For his career, DiMaggio came to bat 7673 times and he struck out only 369 times. That represents less than 5% of the total number of times opposing pitchers had the opportunity to strike him out. Moreover, in his rookie season, he struck out 39 times. In all of his subsequent seasons, he struck out fewer times than that.

    In 1941 – the year of DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak – he came to bat 622 times and struck out only 13 times.

    Some players today would be happy to strike out only 13 times in a three-week span…

Switching to college football, Brad Rock of the Deseret News had this comment in his weekly Rock On column:

“The new football national championship trophy was unveiled this week.

“Director Bill Hancock called the 24-karat gold, bronze and stainless steel centerpiece ‘priceless.’

“Which is an exaggeration.

“Priceless is the look on Nick Saban’s face after the Auburn game, last year.”

Can’t say I disagree with that…

Finally, here is a point made by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot – and I can’t say I disagree with this one either:

“Overcooked: As a society, we must have a very low opinion of our professional athletes judging from the media’s relentless – often cloying – campaign paying tribute to Derek Jeter for doing the right things and carrying himself with dignity. Isn’t that what everyone simply is supposed to do?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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  • Doug  On August 6, 2014 at 6:25 am

    I have not checked the stats, but the Braves have to be near the top in strikeouts. Their leadoff hitter strikes out 2-3 times a game. How do they win so much? Oh, wait. They are no longer winning.

    • Rickey  On August 6, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Just did a quick check and Atlanta is 5th in the league in strikeouts. Miami is number 1 then Houston and the two Chicago teams.
      Interesting enough your team is also 5th in striking out players.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 7, 2014 at 11:42 am


    The big problem is that one’s leadoff hitter is supposed to get on base to create scoring opportunities. Only in the rarest of circumstances will that happen if he strikes out.

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