Baseball K is the Word

Baseball K is the Word

Baseball K is the Word

  In the baseball movie "Bull Durham" catcher Crash Davis says to his pitcher Nuke LaLoosh, "Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are "boring!" Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground-balls - it's more democratic." As home runs started increasing in the '90's during the so-called "steroid" Era, so did strikeouts. In 1992, teams averaged 4.12 runs per game, about the same as last season (2011). They struck out 5.6 times per game in 1992; now they strike out 7.0 times per game. More home runs are hit than in 1992, but run scoring isn't up from 1992 levels and neither are walk rates, in fact they're slightly less. So this gets to the crux of the issue. "Strikeouts" are boring.. There's now three more strikeouts per game than 20 years ago. It means fewer balls in play, more pitches, less catches in the outfield, or middle infielders ranging deep in the hole to make plays. The extra strikeouts don't add to a games excitement. Too much of anything makes for a less interesting sport.

Pitching quality today's better than ever. More starters are throwing in the mid-90's than ever before. Every team seems to have two or three relievers who can throw in the mid-90's. Hitters today are hacking the same on a 0-2 as they are on 3-0 because the game has become so tolerant of strikeouts. Only three hitters in baseball history have hit .300 in a season of 160 strikeouts. The Phillies Ryan Howard (.313) in 2006, Bobby Bonds (.302) in 1970 and Sammy Sosa (.308) in 1998.

Strikeouts in and of themselves, aren't necessarily a bad thing for a hitter. The great Babe Ruth led the AL five times in strikeouts. So did Mickey Mantle. Jimmy Foxx led the AL seven times. In the late''60's and '70's a group of power hitters took strikeouts to a new level. Reggie Jackson struck out 171 times in 1968. Bobby Bonds set records of 187 in 1969 and 189 the following season. The Phillies Mike Schmidt challenged that mark with 180 in 1975. The catch is this: All those guys were great hitters. Bonds even led the league in runs scored in 1969 nd scored 134 runs the next season. The strikeouts were a tradeoff to their production.

Most of today's great ML pitchers go to just one pitch in their bag of tricks to punch out the games best hitters. Here's a sampling.

The New York Mets Johan Santana who pitched the first no hitter in the Mets 51 year history last week, goes to his "change up" with two strikes on the hitter and strikes him out 26% of the time. C.C.Sabathia of the Yankees gets hitters out with his slider 41% of the time. Toronto's

Sergio Santos also goes to his slider 55% of the time as his strikeout pitch, hitters swing and miss about a third of the time.

The Cubs Jeff Samardzija depends on his splitter and hitters miss it over 41% of the time.

Last year Boston pitcher Daniel Bard's "slider" was his strikeout pitch. This season it's been missing and yesterday the Red Sox demoted Bard to Triple A Pawtucket. Red Sox Broadcaster Jerry Remy said "Bard lost his way." Lost his slider.

The Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman has a 98 mph fastball but its his "slider" that cause hitters to swing and miss 58% of the time. But as "Crash" Davis (Kevin Costner) tells his pitcher, "Don't try to strike everybody out!" Strikeouts are boring!" Crash may be right about the boring part, but without the good "arms" and the "k's," teams don't win pennants."PITCHING IS THE NAME OF THE GAME!". Always has been

By Larry Upton
Wednesday, 6 Jun 2012

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