Let’s Talk About Strikeout Totals

I generally try to avoid repeating conversations that have already taken place countless times just to address people that clearly don’t like to do their homework, and like admitting they were wrong even less when they do said homework. That said, there are just so many fans – and Yankees fans in particular – that continue to harp on the strikeout totals of the current iteration of the Yankees lineup.

Of course, when facts are not on one’s side, people often resort to creating straw man arguments to make their point. (Prediction, and a digression: “Straw Man Argument” will eventually be replaced by “A-Rod argument” as he’s a black belt in the art of creating straw men.) So let’s start there.

No one – and I mean no one – is OK with their team’s batters striking out a lot. A strikeout is a bad result for a batter and no one is saying otherwise. The point is that with regards to the big picture, strikeouts don’t move the needle that much in either direction with regards to runs scored. A strikeout is a bad result, but it’s not so bad that you need to get your pinstriped panties in a bunch over them.

Historically, there have been teams that have posted very low strikeout rates that scored a ton of runs. There have also been teams that have fanned at very high rates that scored a ton of runs. (The 1927 Yankees led the AL in K% by a very large margin, and also led the AL in runs by a very wide margin as well for one example among many.) Conversely, there have been teams who rarely struck out that couldn’t buy runs and teams with high K rates that didn’t score much either.

This is also true on an individual level. Some of the best hitters of all-time posted very high K rates compared to their league’s averages – Ruth and Mantle come to mind as two obvious examples. Yet Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial are also among the best hitters in history – with power at that – and very rarely struck out, comparatively speaking.

Meanwhile, players like Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Richardson were very difficult to get out on strikes, but neither could hit the water with a bat if they fell out of a boat. Currently, the Angels’ David Fletcher is notoriously hard to strike out, and I dare you to watch him for a few games and tell me he isn’t anything other than an embarrassment in the batter’s box.

This is true throughout baseball history, in both recent years and in Ruth’s era.  (By all means, if you want to do homework and prove me wrong, knock yourself out, but as someone who’s looked into it I can assure you that you’ll be wasting your time.) The bottom line is that as frustrating as watching your team’s hitters strike out can be, it’s just not a huge deal. It’s certainly not good, but it isn’t an enormous problem either.

S by the power of Reggie Jackson’s 2,597 career punchouts (and his career 139 OPS+) I command you: Act accordingly.

Moving on to tonight’s game…

Gerrit Cole takes the mound tonight for the 5-5 Yankees. He’ll be facing a Tigers lineup that’s struggled to score runs as much as the Yankees have, plating only 28 in their first nine games. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ ice-cold bats (only Arizona and Baltimore have scored fewer runs per game in 2022) will try to get things going against 27-year-old lefty Tyler Alexander. Alexander has only made 26 career starts over four seasons for Detroit but he’s pitched pretty well for them posting a 108 ERA+ over 201.2 career innings. He’s a sinkerballer who won’t light up radar guns but he’s also not going to issue many free passes either, so the Yankees batters need to be ready to swing.

The first pitch is at 6:40 pm from Comerica Park. You can catch the game on the YES Network, and listen to it on WFAN. If you’re interested in my in-game snark, follow the My Baseball Page account on Twitter and the My Baseball Page on Facebook.

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