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Thread: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

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    JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    The rising strikeout rate in baseball isn't a new story. Yet, last year and so far this year, I've been more tuned to the trend than before. Maybe thanks to Jay Bruce. BaseballTonight today had a piece on it with Tim Kurkjian. He'd written about it as long ago as 2009 here:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/column...tim&id=4290105

    Tonight's piece included a bunch of the same, eyebrow-raising stats about the % increase in Ks, year-over-year to 48% in the most recent year, Dimaggio, the good old days and, the one that got my attention, the fact that Jay Bruce wasn't alone in April. He was one of three 40K men.

    Here's a more recent piece from fangraphs on the trend heavier on data

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-c...trikeout-rate/

    I like sabermetrics as a subcategory of using new analytical methods to better understand the world inclusive of sport. But I also find myself growing weary of some debates where metrics are used to support absolute or unyielding opinions. Very much true in politics and the world at large; don't mean to point that finger at RedsZone. Nomar Garciaparra got my thumbs up tonight for declaring he didn't think the big K numbers are ok. In Nomar's words, "Nothing good comes from a K. Nothing that helps your team. Get deep in the count? That's really what you're trying to achieve?!?!"

    JB is striking out too much. And, even if he was leading the league in homers, I'd still think that. Does that pov miss the point of modern hitting and new sabermetric thinking?
    Last edited by 1940757690; 05-04-2013 at 11:28 PM.
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    Member Wonderful Monds's Avatar
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    I don't know if they are a big problem. And Nomar is off the mark on that "working the count" statement.

    But a poster here made a good point on K's for hitters - high strikeout pitchers are more favored over low strikeout pitchers because less balls in play generally leads to less base runners: therefore it would seem to make sense that hitters that put the ball in play more often would be more favorable.
    They don't think it be like it is, but it do.
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    Re: JB's April 40: Are Ks OK?

    I like the Nomar count statement from a common sense perspective. Given run differential is how you win games, the debate around strikeout pitchers versus workhourse/groundball/out pitchers seems academic to me. If anything, I'd think one should favor the latter (non K pitchers) if you believe that strikeout kings are more prone to injury. Nomar's point was that, as a hitter, you should always be thinking about getting on and driving in runs. Not about tiring out the pitcher especially when pitching is so specialized and you're likely going to see a new pitcher each inning late in a game. The historical examples like Dimaggio are instructive here imo.
    Last edited by 1940757690; 05-04-2013 at 11:29 PM.
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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    The reason for getting deep in the count is to increase your OBP by getting more walks, tiring the pitcher sooner is merely a fringe benefit not the major goal.

    High-strikeout pitchers are favored because that is the best way to identify which pitchers are good or bad. Pitchers with high K/9 and K:BB ratios are almost unanimously good pitchers, whereas pitchers with low strikeout rates are almost unanimously poor pitchers. Once the ball is hit into the field of play there is very little if any difference between good or bad pitchers once you account for the quality of the defense behind the pitcher and the pitcher's ballpark. Strikeout rate and walk rate are what separate good pitchers from bad pitchers and that is why K rate is so important for pitchers.

    On the other hand, strikeout rate is most definitely NOT a good way to identify which hitters are good or bad. There are many excellent hitters who strike out a lot, and there are many poor hitters who rarely strike out. Hitters can compensate for a high strikeout rate by hitting for power and/or by frequently walking. Many of the best hitters in baseball strike out a lot, including Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Chase Headley and Josh Hamilton among many others. Batters who strike out a lot tend to also walk a lot and have higher OBPs than hitters who make more contact. When trying to identify which hitters are the best you can ignore their strikeout rate and focus instead on how many outs they make (OBP) and what they do when they don't make an out (SLG) -- OnBase Percentage and Slugging Percentage are light years more important than how a hitter makes his outs.

    "What matters is how many outs you make, not how you make them."

    Folks like Nomar Garciaparra who say "Nothing good can happen when you strike out" and preach the benefits of productive outs are only looking at half the story. Productive outs are not all that common, nor are they all that helpful most of the time. If there are two outs or if there is nobody on base there is no reason to prefer a contact out to a strikeout. If there is a man on first base it is far better to strikeout than to hit a grounder. The downsides of making a contact out are far more harmful than productive outs are beneficial. A hitter can harm his team badly if he makes a contact out that causes the lead runner to get doubled-off on a line drive, thrown out trying to advance on an infield grounder (man on third when ball is hit to pitcher and runner gets hung out to dry for example), thrown out trying to tag up and advance on a fly ball, or by grounding into a double play. In those situations it would have been MUCH better if the batter had just struck out. You have to make 5-10 "productive outs" to compensate for the negative value of one double play. People fail to take these possibilities into consideration when they preach the "contact is key" dogma. When all possibilities are factored into the equation it turns out that strikeouts are worth -0.31 runs while contact outs are worth -0.30 runs, which is an extremely insignificant difference. Strikeouts are no worse than other outs.
    Last edited by AtomicDumpling; 05-05-2013 at 04:04 AM.

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    The impact of a strikeout is the same as any other out.

    The impact of failing to make contact, though, is that it severely limits the ability for a productive at bat.

    It's not just productive outs. Simply said, if you don't hit the ball, you can't get a base hit of any kind.

    If you do hit the ball, you have a chance of getting a hit of some kind.

    The vice, therefore, is not the strikeout itself, it's the failure to make contact.

    Lower contact hitters can succeed if they compensate in some way. Some hitters compensate with power. They hit the ball less often, but when they do they get lots of extra base hits.

    But generally, contact is better than no contact.

    If pitchers become so good that contact rates decline dramatically, I would expect adjustments to be made, like lowering the mound, to even things out.

    In the case of a player like Bruce, he normally compensates for his strikeouts with power. So far this year he hasn't, but it's early.
    Last edited by Kc61; 05-05-2013 at 07:43 AM.

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    Here's an article discussing the difference between strikeouts when pitching and strikeouts when hitting.

    I found this quote rather interesting:

    This is an important aspect of the modern game that deserves to be explained clearly. I personally know of some very informed, very passionate fans of the game that still have trouble reconciling that batters and pitchers value strikeouts differently, if not oppositely. It may take some time to realize that the two parties are actually playing two different games when they face off against each other at the plate.
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    Strikeouts are bad. Full stop. They reduce your chances to get on base. But they aren't as bad as walks and power are good. If you can walk more and hit for more power at the cost of some strikeouts no problem. But if you're just striking out and aren't making up for it elsewhere, that's a problem.

    But what really bugs me is when people act like strikeouts are immoral or pretend like they are a choice a player makes instead of a function of his talent, first and foremost.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    Everyone who watches baseball needs to remind themselves that:

    The game you are watching is not the same game you watched ten years ago or twenty years ago... and it will change again and when that happens small pockets of data (like one month in a season or one season in a decade) will still be too small of a piture to tell you the whole story about where the game is going.

    So players k more.

    Its boring.

    The game rewards power absoloutley financially and with fame.

    Power begets K's and if it was the 19th century the game would change the ball/strike rules to adjust.

    But its not gonna happen, so something else better arise and chances are it will not happen in thirty days (just like Jay Bruce didn't become a 250 k player in one month)

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    How does BABIP fit into this? When you put the ball in play, you're a .300 hitter. If you don't, you're batting zero.

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    There is already so much failure associated with baseball as a good hitter is only successful 30% of the time. It's even tougher watching an undisciplined .250-.260 hitter continually strike out AB after AB without making the necessary adjustments...oh...and every once in a while hitting a meaningless HR. For example, as bad as Corky Miller has been in his stint with the Reds this season at least the dude puts the ball in play. And.... that has already paid off as he was able to leg out an infield hit.

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    Quote Originally Posted by holster10 View Post
    There is already so much failure associated with baseball as a good hitter is only successful 30% of the time. It's even tougher watching an undisciplined .250-.260 hitter continually strike out AB after AB without making the necessary adjustments...oh...and every once in a while hitting a meaningless HR. For example, as bad as Corky Miller has been in his stint with the Reds this season at least the dude puts the ball in play. And.... that has already paid off as he was able to leg out an infield hit.
    Corky Miller is not the poster child for what you want from any player at the plate, infield hit or not, painting his batting chances in any color but failure is disingenuous at best

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    I don't understand why more players don't employ a "two strike swing". They should alter swing with two strikes and a runner in scoring position where contact can mean a run. Jay Bruce is an example of a guy who still swings wildly in that situation

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    I think there is a general trend to place too much emphasis on approach and plate discipline when in the end, it's flat out ability that matters most. Guys with better ability, like Votto, Pujols, Bonds, Williams and Ruth can/could work the count and let decent pitches to hit go by because they could recover and and still hit later in the count. A guy like Drew Stubbs should be hacking at pitches that he can reasonably handle because he's just not a good enough hitter to hit when he falls behind in the count. That doesn't mean he should swing at every strike, but if he gets a pretty good pitch to hit, he shouldn't let it go by in hopes that he'll get a really good pitch to hit later in the PA. Pitchers know who is up there and unless they make a mistake, that even better one isn't going to come. Guys like Stubbs just can't foul off pitch after pitch until the pitcher makes a mistake and when the pitcher is ahead, he can work the corners in a attempt at getting less hittable strikes.

    The result, IMO, is we have a generation of hitters who are taking pitches they should be swinging at because they've been taught that seeing a lot of pitches is good. They get deep into the count and while they may get a few extra walks (only a few) they really ramp up the Ks. Plate discipline is all about getting a good pitch to hit. Its not about seeing a lot of pitches, wearing out the opposing pitcher or getting a lot of walks. Those are all by-products, but the batter's job is to get a pitch he can handle and then hit it hard somwhere. I think some guys take too much, because they just aren't good enough to recover when they fall behind in the count unless the pitcher bails them out.

    IMO, good hitters have plate disciplne because they are good enough hitiers to get away with it. The current theory of causation that taking a lot of pitches makes a guy a better hitter can be true if the guy has the talent to do it, otherwise it's backwards IMO.
    Last edited by mth123; 05-05-2013 at 01:03 PM.
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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    Quote Originally Posted by BCubb2003 View Post
    How does BABIP fit into this? When you put the ball in play, you're a .300 hitter. If you don't, you're batting zero.
    That isn't exactly true. Not all balls in play are created equally. Making contact on non-strikes has a much lower BABIP than contact on strikes. Contact on strikes in the middle and inner part of the zone have higher BABIP than contact on strikes on the outer third of the plate.

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    Re: JB's April 40: More Ks Ain't OK...Or are they?

    Quote Originally Posted by holster10 View Post
    There is already so much failure associated with baseball as a good hitter is only successful 30% of the time. It's even tougher watching an undisciplined .250-.260 hitter continually strike out AB after AB without making the necessary adjustments...oh...and every once in a while hitting a meaningless HR. For example, as bad as Corky Miller has been in his stint with the Reds this season at least the dude puts the ball in play. And.... that has already paid off as he was able to leg out an infield hit.
    A good hitter is successful 35% of the time and great ones 40%, because getting on base makes a good hitter, not a batting average.

    As for the adjustments at the plate, I am assuming you are talking about Jay Bruce. So let's get into that. Jay Bruce DID make an adjustment this season. He did what a lot of people wanted him to do. Start going the other way on that outside pitch. He has. Often. So what is the next step? What is the next adjustment he should make?


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