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Strikeouts: Once Bad, Now Accepted

Let me make one thing very clear, I have always disliked strikeouts. A wasted opportunity to help your team. Last thing I wanted to do when I played ball was strikeout.

I once played a fast-pitch softball game where I struck out three times. It was mortifying to me that this guy had my number. I did everything to just make contact and give myself a chance. But he had a rising fastball that would go up at just the right time.

Year, 1910, hypothetical conversation between an owner and his player. Well son, we are sending you down. Why??? You struck out 15 times last year and that just is not acceptable.

An exaggeration to be sure. But back in the day, striking out was just something players did not want to do. Now, some of the big sluggers with big swings struck out a lot. Ruth struck out 1330 times in his career. But he also was hitting .340 plus every year with 46 bombs and 143 RBI’s.

I am sure if some player today reached those lofty heights, no one would say much about it at all. Yet for all of those strikeouts, over a 22 year career, Ruth never struck out more than 93 times in any season, and only reached 90 twice.

Taylor had that many by July. You go down the career leaders in striking out, you have to go all the way to number 150, before you find a player from Ruth’s era on the list. Ruth himself is at 142.

Number one is Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. Reggie is just a few away from having TWICE as many as Ruth. 2597. That is in 11,418 plate appearances. Chris Taylor, who is definitely not what one would consider a power hitter, is already at 902 for his career.

34  Hall of Famers, all of them from the modern era, have more strikeouts than Ruth. Including Griffey Jr. Mays, Mantle, Aaron, Stargell and Schmidt. So why are strikeouts more acceptable in this day and age?

Tough question. Bigger stronger, more athletic and better trained pitchers is one reason. Hitters rarely face a pitcher more than twice in any game. Changes in the hitting philosophy. I was coached to hit the ball hard and on a line. Never try to hit a homer. Swing level and make hard contact.

Over the last several years we have seen players who have adopted the new ideas. Hitting coaches no longer teach just making hard contact. There is the lift theory, hit more balls in the air, use a timing mechanism. That could be a toe tap, or if your name is Justin Turner, a leg kick.

Managers and coaches do not seem as disturbed by strikeouts as they used to be especially if your OBP is above the league average. Max Muncy hit .196 last year, but his OBP was .329. He slugged 21 homers. It was the second time in his career that his OBP outweighed his low average.

Muncy struck out 144 times last year. He has never struck out less than 120 times in his four full seasons. His OBP is what it is because he has a very good eye at the plate and will take his walks.

By contrast, Bellinger had a batting average .014 pts higher than Muncy, but his OBP was a dismal .265. He drew 26 fewer walks and struck out 6 times more than Muncy.

One thing that seems very clear, and it was pointed out to me by Badger in another post, OBP is more important to the powers that be than batting average. A lot of the trend away from strikeouts being a bad thing started with Moneyball.

Billy Beane, the A’s GM, lost 3 of his best players to free agency. He knew he did not have the financial wherewithal to replace the three with players of the same stature. So he improvised and instead replaced their combined OBP’s.

Bill James was just coming into prominence then too and the new younger GM’s embraced the new philosophy and  sabermetrics and things began to change.

Strikeouts meant less if a player had a high OBP. Theo Epstein was the Boston GM early in the 2000’s and he was a huge Bill James proponent. And he used those forms of metrics to build his Boston team and it got him two World Series wins.

Now a guy like, say, Rob Deer, an outfielder who came up with the Giants and then moved to Milwaukee, struck out 1409 times in 4513 at bats His career BA was .220. But his OBP, .324. Deer had a lot of power and hit 230 HR’s in his career. He never led the league in anything but strikeouts, and he did that four times.

Joe DiMaggio struck out 379 times in his entire 13 year career. The most he struck out in any season was 36 times, and he did that twice. No, I doubt we will ever see a hitter come close to that number ever again. It is just not the way they are coached to play the game, and I think in some ways, baseball is hurt by that.

Watching a game where both sides flail away in frustration, is not entertainment I enjoy.



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Singing the Blue

Most of the new rules for this year seem predicated on making things more like they used to be.

Faster games, more stolen bases, more hits (no shifts).

Maybe that will ultimately create a new strategy that says a strike out is the worst thing you can do with an at bat, because if you hit the ball you might get on base and if you’re on base, you might steal a bag or two and if you are at second or third instead of first you’re more likely to score and, so……………..don’t strike out.

Let the power hitters continue to bash homers but don’t tell guys like CT3 to uppercut everything. Don’t use the same hitting strategy for all hitters. Let the guys with less power and more speed do whatever they can to get on base (and not strike out) and let the Judges and Stantons of the world concentrate on being the home run hitters.

Maybe guys like Mookie and Freddie can strike a middle ground since they seem to have the talent for both power and getting on base. And once they’re on base, they are excellent base runners.


Teams used to bat above .240


16 did last year


As many as six players went to driveline this winter, including Muncy and Betts. Freddie Freeman is looking for a place to live closer to Dodger Stadium than his present Orange County home which makes the commute 90 minutes. He says it will make him feel more comfortable, Anything to help Freddie. All those pooh-poohing the signing of Heyward should know that Freeman thinks his swing is fixed and so far he has been the talk of camp. He hit a long BP homer off of Catman the other day,


Should have bought Vin Scullys home.

Farhan Friedman

Excellent article Bear. The K’s have always been fun though when being thrown by dominate pitchers like Koufax and Ryan and the like.


Thanks Bear.

In a few rare instances it’s better to strike out than GIDP. That stat is one that is often overlooked.

What GMs, and managers, look for now is the combination of OBP and total bases. It’s easy to understand why.

“An out is an out.” Well, yes and no. If you make contact, even weak contact, you’ve got a 10% chance it will flare or dribble some place that allows you you to get on base. With runners on, weak contact can mean end of inning with a GIDP.

I have now seen the fact is strikeouts with guys who OPS above league average is just overlooked. A guy who strikes out frequently and OPS’s below league average is gone. A guy who strikes out frequently but puts up 2+ WAR or an OPS+ over 100 will have a job as long he can do that.

Like Bear I’m old school with my feelings about strikeouts. I sure didn’t do it much but I was fast enough to hardly ever GIDP. When I coached those guys who were extreme double play candidates, I would often have them bunt the guy over. Everybody on my teams could bunt, AND hit behind runners. Well, that schitt is as out with yesterday’s paper as is the phrase out with yesterday’s paper.

I’ve come to terms with what it is baseball is looking for these days. And until it’s no longer vogue, the focus is on OPS and specifically OPS+. You have a team full of guys with an OPS+ of 100 or better you can lead the league in strikeouts and still score a ton of runs.

Last edited 1 year ago by Badger

Your welcome Badger. Signings still going on. Calhoun signed a minor league deal with the Mariners. Ben Gamel did the same thing with the Rays. Solano signed one with the Twins. A little surprised that Profar is still out there.


I still like runs and RBIs.

Muncy struck out 144 times last year. He has never struck out less than 120 times in his four full seasons. His OBP is what it is because he has a very good eye at the plate and will take his walks.

Muncy like many others whiff on pitches they should put in play which gives them another chance to walk. They take pitches that they could hit and drive in run(s) and if they don’t K looking, they get more pitches to work a walk.

If a player is hitting 4th or 5th, I want them thinking RBI and not OBP. An OPS of .800 with 500 at bats should be pushing 100 RBI and if not they shouldn’t be hitting in the middle of the lineup. That’s why I would like to swap Muncy for a player that generates more RBIs/AB.


Again, if everyone targets .800, the results will be runs. My mantra? Don’t make an out.

The middle of the order will typically have decent slugging percentages. As bad as Muncy was he still knocked in 69 and put up 2.7 WAR. If he’s struggling early, those numbers in the 6/7 hole would work just fine.


I appreciate OPS but I like runs and RBIs more. Granted a good hitter on a bad team will have fewer chances to score or get an RBI, so I also like avg w/risp.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bumsrap

I like all that too.


happy for you

Fred Vogel

Looking back, I probably struck out more against good fast-pitch softball pitchers than I ever did against any high school pitchers.
Put me in the “I don’t like strikeouts” column. Especially now with the universal DH.


My first at bat against a fast pitch league was humbling. I was a little cocky as I remember. I got a pitch waist high down the middle, smiled, swung hard, and watched the ball sail to the fence. Unfortunately the fence in this case was the backstop. The catcher couldn’t even catch it. I never swung at a pitch waist high again. A fast pitch softball pitcher can do way too much with that pitch.


I played a couple years of A League fast pitch tournament ball and everybody struck out at that level. Those pitches were on you in a microsecond and dancing like a whiffle ball. B League was actually more fun.

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