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Thread: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

  1. #1
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    A new Fangraphs article is appropo to some recent conversations around here. It's a thorough articulation of the differential skills issue.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/why-s...r-for-batters/

    (Mods, please feel free to merge with other threads if appropriate)
    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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    No half measures, Walter RedEye's Avatar
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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    What a cogent, entertaining read. Thanks for posting! My favorite line:

    Edwin Encarnacion, meanwhile, is looking like a talented, beautiful actress who just hasn’t been getting great roles lately (as shown by his BABIP).
    And his conclusion:

    All else equal, strikeouts are bad. I guess the real question is, if you told a guy like Chris Carter to try to strike out less, how might that affect his overall performance? Is changing his approach more likely to be helpful or detrimental? Let me hear your thoughts.
    I love FanGraphs.

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    5.3 Posts Abv Replacement BluegrassRedleg's Avatar
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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Byline should have read Capt. Obvious.

    But the answer to his original question all depends on the context, which I guess he suggests at the end... finally. Any kind of out is bad. Some are worse than others.

    I could have saved him a thousand words, charts and graphs.
    Rounding third and heading for home...

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    Member 757690's Avatar
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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Great article. Thanks

    For me this raises an important question.

    Do power hitters with high K numbers have above average power numbers with two strikes as well?

    With two strikes, nearly all hitter have low production numbers, and it's mostly due to reduced power numbers. Some of that is because players make adjustments to improve contact, which usually reduce the player's power. However, I have always thought that the main reason why hitters produce so poorly with two strikes, is that in that situation, they rarely get a good pitch to hit.

    With two strikes on the batter, the pitcher is in control. He can throw any of his pitches, and he can afford to throw pitches out of the strike zone, or right on the edge of it. There is no need for him to throw anything near the center of the plate. Which is a main reason why hitters change their approach. They know they aren't going to get a good pitch to hit, so they shorten their swing and try to do the best with the pitcher's pitches they are going to see.

    So I was wondering if power hitters were able to still have better than average power when they have two strikes, and are much less likely to get a pitch to drive? Basically, my question is:

    Are power hitters good power hitters because they hit hittable pitches with more power, or because they can hit pitcher's pitches with more power? Or both?

    I have no idea, I just would love to see any research on that.
    "Man, the pitch looks fast, even in slow motion." Thom Brennaman on Chapman's fastball.

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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by BluegrassRedleg View Post
    Byline should have read Capt. Obvious.

    But the answer to his original question all depends on the context, which I guess he suggests at the end... finally. Any kind of out is bad. Some are worse than others.

    I could have saved him a thousand words, charts and graphs.
    Yeah there doesn't really seem to be anything in the article that wasn't obvious to everyone before they read it.

    Summary to spare people the time and trouble of reading the excessively long article:

    Strikeouts (like all other outs) are bad because they are outs. Duh. People who have poor eyesight, poor strength, poor hand/eye coordination or poor athleticism would strike out a lot if they played major league baseball. Duh. But because those whiffers are weeded out before reaching the major leagues it makes it look like strikeouts don't really matter. MLB hitters are selectively chosen for their rates of production. Duh. There are many major league hitters who produce very well at the plate even though they strike out frequently. Duh. If they could find a way to strike out less without harming their ability to hit for power and draw walks then they would be better hitters, but there is no evidence that players can actually do that. Duh.

    He never really does show "Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters", at least not professional batters. In fact, contrary to the title of the article, his charts and graphs show that major league batters with high strikeout rates outproduce batters with low strikeout rates, but we already knew that.

    I guess one way to paraphrase his conclusion is to say that "strikeouts are a good way of identifying players who don't have the talent to play professional baseball, but once a player becomes a pro strikeouts rates have no meaning. Players should be judged on their production rather than their strikeout rates."

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    Start the Reactor! *BaseClogger*'s Avatar
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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by 757690 View Post
    Great article. Thanks

    For me this raises an important question.

    Do power hitters with high K numbers have above average power numbers with two strikes as well?

    With two strikes, nearly all hitter have low production numbers, and it's mostly due to reduced power numbers. Some of that is because players make adjustments to improve contact, which usually reduce the player's power. However, I have always thought that the main reason why hitters produce so poorly with two strikes, is that in that situation, they rarely get a good pitch to hit.

    With two strikes on the batter, the pitcher is in control. He can throw any of his pitches, and he can afford to throw pitches out of the strike zone, or right on the edge of it. There is no need for him to throw anything near the center of the plate. Which is a main reason why hitters change their approach. They know they aren't going to get a good pitch to hit, so they shorten their swing and try to do the best with the pitcher's pitches they are going to see.

    So I was wondering if power hitters were able to still have better than average power when they have two strikes, and are much less likely to get a pitch to drive? Basically, my question is:

    Are power hitters good power hitters because they hit hittable pitches with more power, or because they can hit pitcher's pitches with more power? Or both?

    I have no idea, I just would love to see any research on that.
    The number one reason hitters are less productive with two strikes is that they expand the zone in order to protect. They can no longer wait for "their pitch", they have to swing at anything that appears to be a strike...
    "On-base percentage is great if you can score runs and do something with that on-base percentage," Baker said. "Clogging up the bases isn't that great to me."

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    Member 757690's Avatar
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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by *BaseClogger* View Post
    The number one reason hitters are less productive with two strikes is that they expand the zone in order to protect. They can no longer wait for "their pitch", they have to swing at anything that appears to be a strike...
    Yeah, pretty much what I said. I would just add, that pitchers know this and usually don't throw a hittable pitch with two strikes, they just let the hitter get himself out. When pitchers do throw a hittable pitch with two strikes, coaches are furious.
    "Man, the pitch looks fast, even in slow motion." Thom Brennaman on Chapman's fastball.

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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Yep.

    The part I have difficulty with is this. Ideally, a guy doesn't strike out or change his approach to avoid the strikeout. And if a quantity of strikeouts are the byproduct of hitting for power, then fine.

    But every now and then, when we run across a guy like Mark Reynolds, who historically has been as easy to put away as a pitcher if the count gets to 0-2 or 1-2*. The usual argument is, if he adjusts his approach in that situation -- not all situations, just the counts where he finds himself walking back to the dugout two-thirds of the time -- he'll hit for less power and give the team less production. Okay. Then you look at his actual numbers in those situations and realize there really isn't any power production to lose. Which is sort of what 757690 was saying, I think. It seems like certain guys cannot possibly produce at a worse level by shortening up on 0-2 or 1-2, but some folks talk as if a plague of locusts will be loosed o'er his career if he tries it. That, I don't really get.

    * Maybe his numbers this year are better, I don't know. But last time I checked his multi-year split it was eye-aversion territory.

    And let's be honest about one other thing -- after listening to certain people harp on certain very productive ballplayers over the years because of strikeouts, it's become an emotional trigger for many, to the point where they just can't admit a guy strikes out too much for his own good no matter how obvious it seems.
    Not all who wander are lost

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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by *BaseClogger* View Post
    The number one reason hitters are less productive with two strikes is that they expand the zone in order to protect. They can no longer wait for "their pitch", they have to swing at anything that appears to be a strike...
    This is why I think there is a bit of a Chicken and Egg argument about "plate discipline." Does having plate discipline make a guy a good hitter or is the guy already a good hitter and as a result can get away with taking pitches and hitting with two strikes on him? If a hitter is good enough to do it in the first place, he should always wait for his pitch to hit. But a guy who is iffy as a hitter anyway (Drew Stubbs is the poster boy here) needs to be careful about taking hittable pitches and falling behind in the count. He's just not a good enough hitter to keep from being completely fooled when the pitcher has the count advantage and can get cute with the outside corner of the zone.

    The tendancy lately is to look at how many pitches per PA a guy has and place a lot of importance on it, but some guys just shouldn't take pitches that they can hit even if they aren't the perfect fat one. Once they fall behind, they are toast. I think more hitters actually fall into this category than fall into the "can take a lot of pitches" category. I think we've jumped to the conclusion that their is a causation between taking a lot of pitches and being a good hitter. There may be correlation, but the causation could be the completely opposite effect. Guys are good hitters so than can wait and see more pitches.
    "All I can tell them is pick a good one and sock it." --BABE RUTH

    Having better players makes "the right time" or "the big hit" happen a lot more often. PLUS PLUS

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  17. #10
    Member SteelSD's Avatar
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    Re: Why Strikeouts Secretly Matter for Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by *BaseClogger* View Post
    The number one reason hitters are less productive with two strikes is that they expand the zone in order to protect. They can no longer wait for "their pitch", they have to swing at anything that appears to be a strike...
    Actually, the number one reason hitters are less productive with two strikes is that you can't strike out with fewer than three. It adds an Out type that isn't present before that point.

    After that it's the whole 'expand the zone' thing.
    "The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer

    "The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”
    --Ted Williams

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