Twenty-one players in baseball entered Sunday with 27 or more strikeouts on the season, meaning they were all on a pace for 150 or more, which is a lot. Some of the names you recognize, like star whiffer Adam Dunn and consistent K guy Mike Cameron. Last year's American League strikeout leader was Curtis Granderson, and he's threatening to top the list again. We've discussed the problems of Ryan Howard, Adam LaRoche and Alex Gordon this season.
What do all these players have in common, other than swinging and missing at more pitches than we see in T-ball games? They aren't hitting for average. Not every player has a low average, but most strikeout kings do.
Of these 21 players, we've got four hitting below the .200 mark (Howard, LaRoche, Gordon and Brandon Inge) and others in the .200-.220 range (Cameron, Casey Blake, Dan Uggla, Jermaine Dye). All in all, these 21 players entered Sunday hitting a cumulative .234 (503 hits in 2,541 at-bats).
And then there's B.J. Upton.
Not every strikeout guy hits .240 every year like Dunn or Cameron. Ryan Howard hit .313 last season, Chase Utley batted .309, and Dye hit .315. Those were the only three players in the top 40 among qualifiers to hit at least .300.
Upton is hitting an AL-leading .371. He's got six home runs and five stolen bases, which elicited the off-hand remark last week that he's a future Alfonso Soriano. Upton can play second base and third for your fantasy team, and as long as fielding isn't a stat, you're safe. But there's no way he's going to win a batting title, or come close.
The stats back this up, far too well. The top 27 whiffers are hitting .234, but remove Upton's Rod Carew-like mark and the figure drops to .227. Noted contact hitter Jeff Francoeur is the only other hitter with an average of better than .272. He's at .301. Upton's alone here. Some of these strikeout guys are also walking, notably Howard and Grady Sizemore. Not Upton. Only Craig Monroe and Miguel Olivo have fewer walks than Upton among this dynamic 21.
But here's the best stat for you: Our pals at Elias Sports Bureau say that Saturday was only the third day in the last 42 years that a player held at least a share of the league lead in both batting average and strikeouts. That's unbelievable. The other two days were in July 1988 when Andres Galarraga did it, and April 1979 when George Foster got off to a fine start. How did these guys finish? Galarraga hit .302, and led the NL in K's. He was on the Expos then, well before the Colorado days. Foster also hit .302, but did not lead the league in K's. By the way, the last time a player held the league lead in average and strikeouts for more than one day was Dick Allen in July 1965. Thanks again to our daily Elias update, which I never miss. You can find the link off the ESPN.com MLB page.
So you must be getting the hint that I don't think Upton is going to win the batting title. He won't. But what this guy is doing is somewhat historic. Upton has struck out in 37 of his 97 official at-bats, and reached base via hit in 36 others. That means he's made other kinds of outs only 24 times. That is really hard to do.
Right now I'd project about 19 home runs for Upton, 36 stolen bases and for the season a .267 batting average. Let me make this clear: It does not mean he'll bat .175 next month to make up for his terrific April. It means Upton will plateau as a hitter and be average most months, though the power (to a degree) and the speed (much more likely) will remain. Do you sell him high in fantasy leagues?
Well, if he ends up at .267 then that means I think he'll hit .245 the rest of the way. Is that what you're thinking about trading your top players for, just to get that edge at second base?