Skip to content

It’s the Strikeouts, Stupid!

September 19, 2021

Hugh Atkins

I have had it with all the strikeouts. There are several reasons why I don’t seem to enjoy watching baseball as much as I used to–the designated hitter; interleague play; the wildcard game; the endless parade of relief pitchers; position players as mop-up relievers when rosters already have 13 pitchers; the five-minute body armor shucking after a batter reaches base; the flawed replay review system; batters who stand at the plate admiring their homers; pitchers who intentionally throw at batters who stand at the plate and admire their homers; the choreographed celebrations for the least little “accomplishment”; players pointing to the sky after the least little “accomplishment”; pitching coaches in their pullovers; baseball players wearing softball uniforms; former players in the studio in suits and ties trying to demonstrate how to bat and field; sideline reporters–but the strikeouts bother me more than anything else.

Call me a Sports Curmudgeon if you like, and I will wear that title proudly because I first heard the term from the late Frank Deford as a regular feature of his “Sweetness and Light” segment on NPR. I may be an old fogey, but I’m not one of those get-off-my-lawn old fogeys who thinks the players from my younger days were much better than the modern athletes. I like it that baseball is more data driven. I understand that statistics show that teams get very little return investing in sacrifice bunts and stolen bases. It makes sense to me that on-base percentage is a better metric than batting average and that managers should stack the top of their lineup with their best hitters. But I cannot abide all the strikeouts.

© THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC

I discovered baseball in 1966 when the Braves moved to Atlanta. That season the Braves did not have a single player who struck out 100 times. In fact, only 24 players, 12 in each league, struck out 100 or more times that year. Going into today’s action the Braves have six players with more than 100 strikeouts and another who will get there before the season ends. There are 120 players with 100 or more strikeouts and another 33 with 90 or more who most likely will reach the century mark before the season ends.

For a little bit more perspective, it took the Atlanta Braves 15 seasons to have seven 100-plus strikeout seasons from their hitters. Mack Jones struck out 108 times in 1967, and the Braves traded him that offseason. It would be six seasons before another Braves hitter topped 100 strikeouts; Darrell Evans had 104 in 1973, and he was back with 105 in 1975. Jim Wynn struck out 127 times in 1976, and Dale Murphy had 145 in 1978 and 133 in 1980. In 1982 the Braves finally had two players who struck out over 100 times in the same season–Murphy with 134 and Claudell Washington with 107.

I understand that swinging for the fences provides the best chance for scoring runs, especially runs in bunches. But I’m tired of watching these players swinging the bat like a blindfolded seven-year-old hopped up on birthday cake trying to rupture a piñata when a groundball through the side of the infield left unprotected by the shift would score the go-ahead run.

In A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan says, “There is no crying in baseball.” Well, with all these strikeouts, maybe there should be.

(All statistics are from Baseball Reference.)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2021 4:28 pm

    Maybe they shouldn’t have traded Mack Jones…he had a .355 OBP and a .789 OPS. Despite the strikeouts you mentioned, he scored 72 runs in 1967. Compare that to Tony Gwynn who in 1988 won a batting title, struck out only 40 times, and scored a measly 64 runs. Is that a head-scratcher or what!?. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2021 4:31 pm

      You are correct. With today’s metrics, Jones looks pretty good. It was one of a series of bad trades the Braves made in those days. They got Deron Johnson for Jones, and Johnson lasted one season in Atlanta.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy T permalink
    September 27, 2021 6:44 pm

    I wouldn’t mind the K’s if it weren’t for all the OTHER STUFF you mentioned, which I hate as well. Don’t admire your HR if you strikeout 125 times each year!

    As for Mack Jones… he was pretty much finished, having a so-so season in Cincy followed by 2 okay years in Montreal. Then was completely d.o.n.e.

    The Braves had Mike Lum, Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker set to make the jump to the big club, and actually improved over the next 2 seasons. And… they had guys named Rico Carty, Felipe Alou and Henry Aaron. They were loaded with outfield hitters better than Jones. Mack was turning 29, and was mediocre in CF ( career dWar of -3.7 ).

    They improved in 1968, despite not having Carty (tuberculosis), then won the division in 1969. Deron was fair swap, at that time, despite his poor season for the Braves. He rebounded with 3 decent seasons for the woeful Phillies. The Braves needed a first baseman desperately, and Boyer was a poor hitter at 3B. Johnson could play both positions.

    But yes, after their surprise 1969 run, it would be another 12 years before they fielded a competitive team… It sucked to compete with the Reds and Dodgers in the same division in the 70’s.

    Like

    • September 28, 2021 9:05 am

      Thanks for checking out my site, Andy. While Jones had only two or three more seasons, the trade for Deron Johnson was a disaster for the Braves, as were most of the other deals they made when they first got to Atlanta. Jones hit .253 with 10 HRs and 39 RBIs in ’68; he had a .355 OBP and .427 slugging, compared to the measly .208/8/33 the Braves got from Johnson to go along with an OBP of .285 and slugging of .316. While Lum, Garr, and Baker definitely were better than Jones, they did not begin to play regularly until 1971 (Baker actually later). The Braves would have been a much stronger team in 1969 with Jones, Joe Torre, and Denis Menke in their lineup and Clay Carroll in the pen (https://cheaphill44.com/2019/04/14/where-have-you-gone-joe-torre/).

      You definitely are correct; the Braves and the Reds in the NL West with the Cardinals and Cubs in the East made no sense and penalized the Braves for years.

      Like

      • Andy T permalink
        September 29, 2021 8:50 am

        What happened with Johnson that year? Was he injured? His next 3 years for the Phillies were productive… 78/268/.259 with a .797 OPS.

        Liked by 1 person

      • September 29, 2021 2:49 pm

        I’m not sure what was going on with Deron in ’67 and ’68. He was coming off three solid-to-really-good seasons from 1964-1966; he led the NL in RBIs in ’65 (130), and that was when Aaron, Mays, Cepeda, and McCovey were still putting up big numbers. Johnson’s BioProject page on SABR doesn’t mention an injury. As you say, he turned it around for a few more seasons after leaving Atlanta.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: