Originally Posted by M2
Mathematically speaking, a strikeout for a pitcher and that same strikeout for a hitter are discrete events. What makes a K good for a pitcher is that it's signpost statistic. Pitchers who rack up the Ks generally keep hitters off the basepaths and generally enjoy longer, more successful careers. An individual strikeout doesn't mean that much. A pitcher would be just as happy with a popout, a weak liner or an at-em grounder in the same situation.
Yet there's no connection between lots of Ks for a hitter and the inability to get on base or to have a long, successful career. In fact there's tons of examples of hitters who whiffed a ton yet had excellent OB skills and some of the longest, most successful careers ever. I spent my youth watching Mike Schmidt (and watching Philly fans, the worst fans in baseball, freak out everytime he K'd). For the hitter, an out's an out. It's what he does when he's not making outs that defines his quality.
I agree with Wheels that this is probably the best explanation of this point of view I've heard.
But I must admit that I share BCubb's difficulty in reconciling this disparity.
We judge a pitcher by his K rate, and agree that generally a pitcher is more effective when he doesn't allow a hitter to put the ball in play.
Can this be for any other reason than the idea that putting a ball in play can lead to errors, or the obvious increased chance that balls in play may fall in for hits?
And if this is so, how can the other side of the coin, the hitter, not be a better hitter if he struck out less?
I know the response is usually that he'll hit into more double plays and be swinging at bad pitches and all the other reasons we've gone over ad infinitum.
It just seems counterintuitive, even in the face of all the statistical evidence I've seen.
Two baseball axioms, seemingly at odds with one another. And, like BCubb, I still haven't been able to come to terms with these two generally accepted principles seeming to contradict one another.