Why Strikeouts Stink

It’s long been a sabermetric truism that for hitters, strikeouts aren’t any worse than any other out — or at least, that strikeouts are much less harmful than is typically assumed. Strikeouts are slightly worse than outs on balls in play, since sometimes in play outs can advance or score a runner. But the difference between the two is minuscule, while fans tend to lampoon high strikeout hitters and overestimate the negative effects of strikeouts.

So the sabermetric truism has stuck: strikeouts aren’t that bad. Hitters can have high strikeout rates and still contribute loads of offensive value through their plate discipline. After all, the end goal is not making an out, right? It shouldn’t matter how a player does it, simply as long as they reach base at a high rate and avoid making outs.

But there’s a problem with this logic. While a player can be valuable even he strikes out frequently, strikeouts still decrease how often a player reaches base and can have an adverse effect on a player’s on-base percentage. They’re not as harmless as casual saberists typically assume.

Let’s walk through a quick thought experiment. Say we have a player, Zadock Bartlett, who has good plate discipline (10% walk rate) but strikes out a high percentage of the time (say, 25%). Zadock is going to reach base 10% of the time due to his walks, but when he doesn’t walk, ideally he would like to reach base as often as possible through a hit. And there are two main ways Zadock could boost his batting average: have a high percentage of his balls in play fall for hits (in short, have a high BABIP), hit home runs, or put the ball in play as often as possible.

That’s pretty straightforward, right? If a ball goes over the fence for a home run, nobody can catch it so it obviously goes for a hit. If Zadock has a high percentage of his balls in play fall in for hits — and some players can post BABIPs higher than league average on a consistent basis — then his batting average will obviously be higher. And if Zadock puts the ball in play more often, he’s giving himself more chance and opportunities for his balls to fall in for hits.

To put it another way, when a player strikes out, they don’t give themselves a chance to get a hit. The more often Zadock strikes out, the lower his batting average and on-base percentage will be…unless he compensates through posting a higher BABIP or hitting lots of home runs.

If we assume a league-average BABIP rate, here’s what batting averages we can expect from players based on their strikeout rate and home run total (per 500 PA):

Red = below average ; Blue = average ; Green = above average
League average strikeout rate = 18.4% 

As you can see, hitters only start getting into trouble if they’re striking out in over 20% of their plate appearances — specifically, above 25% is the danger zone. Once you cross that threshold, even if you’re mashing a large number of home runs and walking at an above-average clip, it gets difficult to post a high on-base percentage.

Here’s the same chart as above, only this time it’s displaying on-base percentage instead of batting average. It’s assuming a league-average BABIP rate and a 10% walk rate (above league-average):

Once you start striking out in 25% (or more) of your plate appearances, it’s difficult to post an on-base percentage higher than .340; you either need to be a very powerful or very patient one, or be able to post a high BABIP.

Of course, many of the hitters that strike out this often fall into one of these categories; most of them are powerful hitters that smash a large number of home runs and walk at a high clip as well. Problems arise when you’re a player like B.J. Upton: a player that hits for moderate power, but strikes out 25% of the time. With a slightly depressed BABIP (.275) and a strike out rate near 25%, his on-base percentage this season is a mere .310. And that’s despite having a 10% walk rate.

I don’t mean to suggest that saberists should reverse course and start telling everyone that strikeouts are the devil; I’m simply trying to provide some perspective, and to remind everyone that strikeouts do have a negative consequence. If I see a rookie posting a strikeout rate above 25%, I’m going to start getting worried about them unless they’ve also shown good plate discipline and power.* When you’re striking out that much, your margin for success shrinks.

*Well, or they’re an excellent fielder. Then they get some leeway as well.

Batting average is a statistic that gets too much love from mainstream fans, but it tends to get undervalued among saberists. Getting a hit is just as important as drawing a walk — you can’t have a high on-base percentage unless you do both. And as often as we point to BABIP as the cause of a high or low batting average, a player’s strikeout rate can have an influence as well.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


101 Responses to “Why Strikeouts Stink”

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  1. Matt says:

    “I’m simply trying to provide some perspective, and to remind everyone that strikeouts do have a negative consequence. ”

    I’m excited for the next stage in FanGraphs evolution, in which people realize that simple common sense things are still correct. Even if there’s some mathematical data that shows they’re not quite as correct as they were once thought to be, they are not as incorrect as the reaction to that data made them seem at the time. Case in point: Strike-outs are bad for hitters. See also: Luck is component, but location of pitches has a lot to do with BABIP.

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    • Oscar says:

      In an argument over new vs. old ideas, both positions tend to become a little too extreme, but both of the examples you gave (BABIP and hitter strikeouts) strongly favor the sabermetric position. Strongly.

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    • Bill says:

      Traditional Stats guy: Strikeouts are bad. They just are.

      Sabre stats guy: Strikeouts are bad because….

      The first guy is correct, but he’s not going to convince anyone. People claim all sorts of things are common sense, but if it truly is common sense, they will be able to back up their position with numbers.

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      • Rob says:

        The idea that putting a ball in play gives you a chance to get on base while a strikeout doesn’t is common sense supported by simple logic. You can back it up with numbers, but it’s not really necessary.

        I’m pretty sure an average fan can understand that without a ‘saberist’s’ help.

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  2. ToddM says:

    So… if you strike out a lot but don’t hit for power or walk a lot, you suck?

    I think I knew that already, no offense.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Yeah. I don’t know if this article is actually responding to a notion that anyone ever actually held.

      I think what sabermetrician’s have pointed out, contrary to traditional wisdom, is that a player can sometimes be valuable despite a high K rate. It generally takes high power, high walk rate, and high BABIP. You probably need all three of those things to overcome a big K rate.

      No one ever said that K’s didn’t matter.

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      • I disagree. I feel it’s pretty commonly accepted among saber-circles that “a strikeout is no worse than any other out”. Like I spelled out in the first part.

        And while it may be common sense that yeah, striking out too much will lead to a low BA, I feel that points gets glossed over when we point out that strikeouts are okay for a batter. It’s a fine distinction, but one I felt was worth making.

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      • Captain Obvious says:

        I agree with Steve here, I more often than not get into conversations with people who truly belive there are zero consequences to a player striking out a ton.

        It is a still a belief a lot of people, perhaps just not the first one posting here.

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:

        Steve,

        That is absolutely not true. Maybe people who glossed over a few article think that, but books examining the value and weight of different outs in different contexts have routinely concluded that no two types of outs are created equal. See Between the Numbers, The Book, Bill James’ 80s work, plus anything ever written on linear weights

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:

        Plus everyone knows that Strike outs are fascist
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppBt1Igsg-U

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      • @Jeffrey: I think I addressed this well in the first paragraph:

        “It’s long been a sabermetric truism that for hitters, strikeouts aren’t any worse than any other out — or at least, that strikeouts are much less harmful than is typically assumed. Strikeouts *are* slightly worse than outs on balls in play, since sometimes in play outs can advance or score a runner. But the difference between the two is minuscule, while fans tend to lampoon high strikeout hitters and overestimate the negative effects of strikeouts.

        So the sabermetric truism has stuck: strikeouts aren’t that bad. ”

        I know all the linear weights and stuff….I put them all in the Library. They’re not equal, but they’re also not nearly as bad as people assume….hence the overcorrection in saber-talk.

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:

        But by definition, its not a flaw of the saber community. it’s a flaw of the casual observer. It’s like saying the casual economics person taking Adam Smith to the extreme is a flaw in economic theory, when economic theory is no where near as extreme as proclaimed

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        Your point is mechanical. It’s like saying a low BABIP matters, unless you can make up for it with homers or freeps you will not be very effective. In the end you have to get on base somehow to be valuable and if you hit extra base hits, you can get on base less often and be as valuable.

        I’m sticking with an out is an out.

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:

        And steve, im not criticizing you directly here. I enjoy reading your writing. I’m just pointing out that certain claims like this are often levied as stemming from saber-oversight, when its often just misinterpretation and selective reading by casual fans.

        For example, the idea that walks are more important than batting average. The research out there proclaims that what is important is OBP (AVG and BB are components of that), and that of those 2 components, BB% is more stable.

        Saber people never took the leap to BB% is more important than batting average skill (which is really a BABIP skill IMO)

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      • I’d say it’s a flaw of the larger saber community…maybe not the actual saberists out there, but by many people that read saber stuff and dip into it. And I do see it written out that way on occasion myself.

        Let me put it this way: If I was writing for the Book Blog, I wouldn’t need to write those first few paragraphs. But for the wider community here? I’m going to explain. And I’m going to assume not everyone knows the exact linear weights for each type of out and such.

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:

        Barkey,

        See, that is the oversimplification that necessitates posts like this one. An out is not an out. A double play may be equivalent to a strikeout or a fly out with no one on base, but a strikeout is not the same as a flyout, groundout, popout, etc. with runners in various scoring positions, depending on # of outs, etc.

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:

        Steve,

        Thats fair, im just saying that its important to attribute the misconception to its perpetual source. Otherwise, you undermine the claim. The claim that saberists think blah blah blah is wrong. The claim that casual observes think… is correct. thats all im saying. It’s not semantics either in my mind

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      • Fair enough, that’s a good point. I’ll see what I can come up with.

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      • Dan says:

        Right. I think the classic argument is that, ceteris paribus, strikeouts don’t matter. That is, someone who hits .300/.400/.500 with 70 Ks is equally valuable as someone who has the same slash line with 140 Ks. Traditional wisdom would peg the first player as the better hitter when that is not necessarily the case.

        As Steve mentions, balls that are put into plays for outs have the possibility of advancing the runners. From what I recall, the positive effect of putting the ball in play is offset (or mostly offset) by the increased likelihood of a double play. Conversely, strikeouts can’t advance runners, but they also can’t result in double plays.

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:

        That assumes the ball in play is in a form that can be doubled up. In terms of grounders, perhaps even liners, that is true, but substantially less so with outfield flies. You need to look not only at the percentage chance of a double play, but the percentage chance of non-out from a ball in play by type, percentage chance of runner advancement, etc.

        Thus why not all outs were created equal. It depends on the situation. Outs are very contextual.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        Jeffrey,

        I wrote that an out is an out (basically, I agree with Dan’s ceteris paribus point, but he put it better) and you replied that this is why articles like this one are needed. But this article reads, “Strikeouts are slightly worse than outs on balls in play, since sometimes in play outs can advance or score a runner. But the difference between the two is minuscule.” Which says, ceteris paribus, there is a slight negative effect. Not such a huge gap.

        If a batter knew how to fly out every time while maintaining their HR/FB, then I might agree with you, but power hitters ground into double plays when they are using their home run swing.

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      • RC says:

        A lot of you are making the “No True Scottsman” argument/fallacy. Basically, if they believe that strikouts don’t matter, they’re not “true” saberists.

        Thats just not how it works.

        Steve’s right here. K’s matter, just as BA matters. A lot of saberists go so far to devalue a stat that they think its worthless, when its not.

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  3. Chair says:

    Great piece. I’ve been waiting for something like this.

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  4. RMR says:

    The Reds have two guys who this article is quite relevant to: Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce, particularly the former. There is much debate about their long-term production and most of it centers around making contact.

    I can’t count how many conversations I’ve had that started off with somebody saying “If only he’d cut down on his strikeouts…”. Their point is clear and well illustrated here. But the challenge for fans and analysts alike is that once we understand the points you make above, we’re still left wondering what to make of it. Is it reasonable to expect players to lower their K%? How should they go about it? What affect will it have on their BB% and ISO?

    Should BJ Upton and Drew Stubbs bunt more? Should they be more aggressive early in the count to avoid 2 strike counts? Should they counter their swing-and-miss tendencies by swinging less, but harder?

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    • So true! I didn’t get into it much in the article (there’s only so much room), but this is the next logical step. Okay, so a batter has a high K rate….now what?

      It’s not necessarily easy to say they should just start swinging at more close pitches, because then the assumption would be they start making weak contact more often and their BABIP goes down. So it’s a tricky thing, and I don’t have a great answer to that at the moment. It’s probably a question better answered by a hitting coach or scout.

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    • Justin says:

      I was going to say something very similar. Great add RMR. Drew Stubbs, BJ Upton and Austin Jackson (though he has no power at all) I believe are the 3 biggest examples of this. Though Stubbs and Jackson in particular strike out a lot. They usually hit in the 1hole. Therefore less people are on base and it is less harm to strike out. On the other hand, with the speed that both possess should they utilize that by hitting the ball in play more? This is where I almost believe it is an organizational/managerial belief that could reflect their approaches at the plate. Great article, poses lots of good questions.

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      • RMR says:

        Ironically, Reds announcers (and many fans) seem to think that a swing and miss tendency makes him a poor fit for leadoff. I agree with you, that given an acceptable OBP, swinging and missing does the least damage up there. Of course, in Stubbs’ case, the swinging and missing is keeping him from posting a good OBP and the power plays better down the lineup.

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    • stratobill says:

      I’ll suggest that the key take-away from this article is not that high-strikeout players should be encouraged to reduce their strikeouts but that teams evaluating players should downgrade the ones that strikeout a lot.

      In other words, instead of signing and promoting high-strikeout players and then trying to change them, teams should sign and promote players who have less of tendency to strikeout in the first place. I believe that it is pretty hard to get a Mark Reynolds or Reggie Jackson or Dave Kingman type player to reduce their K’s because the K’s are part of what makes them the dangerous sluggers they are.

      It’s kind of like getting a dog and trying to train it not to bark. If you don’t want a pet that barks, get a cat. If you don’t want a hitter who strikes out a lot, get one who doesn’t swing from the heels!

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      • Small Sample Goodness says:

        Training a dog not to bark isn’t terribly difficult, it’s ignorant owners that tend to be the problem.

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      • RMR says:

        I don’t think using strikeouts to make the decision is smart at all; high strikeout sluggers can be very valuable.

        However, as the article points out, if the player strikes out a lot, he must do other things to offset the impact of that. Enough power can keep his AVG & OBP up through HR. Speed could help him maintain a higher BABIP. Patience can add walks. But if you have a player who doesn’t make much contact, is slow, has no discipline and has no power, he’s not a prospect… Though I don’t think that’s much of a revelation.

        For me, it’s that contact is a skill that should be considered part of a guy’s general make-up. You don’t ask slow guys to bunt for hits. You don’t ask slap-hitters to swing for the fences. Stop asking guys with mediocre hand-eye coordination to change their approach in the name of more contact. Rather, find ways to take advantage of their strengths.

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  5. I think this argument may be, above all, important when looking at minor league players. Usually when looking at older players you know what you have in high-strikeout players, and unless they have power and on base skills, they’ll probably be out of the league quickly. But when looking at minor league players, “slash line” statistics can be very deceiving, as they are often a product of inflated BABIPs.

    Look at Cubs prospect Brett Jackson for instance. His .297/.393/.615 line at AAA would make him seem to be an incredible prospect. However, looking at his K rate, you see an astounding 29.6% strike out rate. By the graphs above, he would have to hit 30+ homers to be league average at getting on base, and that’s assuming his good eye will translate into the majors. This same methodology can be applied to many minor leaguers to weed out guys who may struggle in the majors.

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    • Excellent point….that’s why I threw in the bit at the end about rookies. I think this concept is really important when looking at young players and seeing if their skillset will stick in the majors.

      With older players, yeah, they’ve already stuck so you know they’re doing something right.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Definitely agree. While I have a special appreciation for “Three True Outcomes” MLBers like Dunn and Thome, I don’t think you can ever assume that a hitting prospect will be able to succeed with that profile. As a prospect-follower, K and BB rates are the stats that I pay the most attention to.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        I was thinking this post could have gone another way: if you are going to be a three true outcomes player, you need to have home runs be a big fraction of your outcomes (I’m looking at you Delmon Young) otherwise, you are just not a very good batter.

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  6. Mitch says:

    So what you’re saying is that holding BABIP and the # of home runs constant, a lower strike out rate means more value? Well, yes… But why should we assume that BABIP and the # of home runs will be a constant? For example, look at Mark Reynolds in 2011. There were numerous media stories early in the season about how he had worked to cut down on the strike outs. These quickly morphed into questions about where his power had gone. Since June, he’s striking out more and hitting for more power. There are trade-offs, and the sabermetric truism is that trading strikeouts for patience and/or power can be a good thing. This article still says exactly that.

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    • Jake R. says:

      I wanted to highlight this.

      In a vacuum, strikeouts are clearly undesirable. However, swinging harder, for almost every hitter, leads to more strikeouts. Of course, is swinging harder also leads to harder contact, you will see increases in both HR rate and BABIP as a result of those harder swings. For power hitters, this is frequently a worthwhile trade-off.

      There is also a moderate link between strikeout rates and walk rates. Walking more is caused by taking more pitches and working deeper into counts, which is going to lead to increases in striking out as well.

      So, while I do not want to say that strikeouts are a good thing. Strikeouts, for certain types of hitters, are an inevitable result of optimizing their skill set. And, simply claiming that they are problematic in a world where all the skills that they are linked to are held constant is an overly simplistic and non-constructive piece of analysis.

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  7. Doogolas33 says:

    “Look at Cubs prospect Brett Jackson for instance. His .297/.393/.615 line at AAA would make him seem to be an incredible prospect. However, looking at his K rate, you see an astounding 29.6% strike out rate. By the graphs above, he would have to hit 30+ homers to be league average at getting on base, and that’s assuming his good eye will translate into the majors. This same methodology can be applied to many minor leaguers to weed out guys who may struggle in the majors.”

    Jackson’s K-rate won’t stay near that high. He had a 7 game stretch where he struck out in 50% of his AB’s. The same way his ridiculous 6HR in his last 10 games won’t last, it’ll even out. He’s probably a guy that’ll strike out around 25% of the time.

    You also can’t assume a K-rate will translate but a good eye will not. Usually both translate pretty well. That 29.5% is a very small sample size.

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    • True, it’s a small sample. But it’s not as if he’s not always been a high-K guy. At only one level has he experienced a K% under 20%, and that was in a 24 game sample. My assumption was that, when ascending levels, eye will not worsen, but not be as tuned to better pitching. Therefore, it is fair to assume that it will increase and his BB% will decrease. Will that hold him back from being a good major leaguer? Possibly. But that’s not saying he can’t reach his potential. I’m just pointing out that he is a good example of a guy that strikeouts could become a problem for.

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  8. eric says:

    A guy was arguing that strikeouts are better than outs on balls in play because of GIDPs. can someone tell me the % of GIDP in outs on balls in play?

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    • I don’t have the numbers but, to an extent, the guy who was arguing with you was right. In certain isolated situations, you’d rather have a guy strike out than get an out on a ball in play. The Book looked into this, which is why they came to the conclusion that, for #2 hitters, it is favorable to have strike out guys to contact guys (if OBPs are equal), due to the GIDP Issue.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      There’s two issues about K’s.

      One thing is what you’re discussing. Looking at the value of individual outcomes (K vs out on a ball-in-play). It’s pretty much a wash for the reason cited by your friend (GIDP’s). But I think, on average, a K is ever-so-slightly worse. Tango’s got numbers on that somewhere. But, really, it depends on the situation. Is there a runner on 3rd? Is there a runner on 1st?

      The other issue is looking at the batting profiles of high-K hitters. That’s what Steve’s largely discussing. Basically, a guy needs to do (just about) everything else well in order to overcome a high K rate, and it’s pretty rare.

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  9. Jeff says:

    I have a question concerning the correlation between K% and power (HR rate, ISO, SLG, whatever). There appears to be a reasonably strong correlation between strikeouts and power. This leads us to assume that a hitter is trading off something (contact) for something else (power). However, as the old adage goes, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. Perhaps K% and power are independent skills that are correlated but not causal. For example, might this correlation simply be the product of a selection effect – a player who Ks a lot will only make it to the bigs if he is a big power guy?

    Let me ask it this way: Rather than just saying “guys with low K% tend to have low power and vice versa”, might it be better to study players whose K% (Power) rates have changed throughout their careers and see if there is a corresponding change in Power (K%)? Are we sure that if we tried to teach Mark Reynolds to make more contact that he would necessarily lose power? Jose Bautista and Asdrubal Cabrera jump off the page as two guys whose ISO has changed dramatically (Bautista jumped from .173 in 09 to .357 in 10; Cabrera .073 in 10 to .197 in 11) without seeing a large change in K% (Bautista went from 21% DOWN to 17%; Cabrera has gone up from a career 16.1% to 16.9% this season).

    Anyhow, just a question I have never seen a particularly good answer to. I just really wonder what we might learn if we looked at guys who actually changed over time (more of a natural experiment) rather than looking at all hitters over time.

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    • mcbrown says:

      I think the occasional existence of hitters like Albert Pujols and Ted Williams (low strikeout, plus-power guys) demonstrates that there is not a physiological connection between home runs and strikeouts – i.e. there is nothing about the human body that DEMANDS that the ability to consistently drive a baseball 400 feet be accompanied by a reduced ability to put bat on said ball. Therefore when looking at the sample of major league players I think the most logical conclusion is not that power causes strikeouts, but that (as the author observes in the various tables, and as you yourself muse) the more a given player strikes out, the more he MUST hit home runs in order to last in MLB. And since there aren’t many Ted Williams or Albert Pujols in this world who combine power and contact skills (see below), we associate power with strikeouts.

      Having said all of that, I believe even Ted Williams himself observed a personal tradeoff between power and contact. My general belief (probably not very controversial) is that there are “baseline power” and “baseline contact” skills which are independent of each other, and individual players have the ability to make the power/contact tradeoff from their baseline levels. However I don’t believe the tradeoff can be made to extremes (e.g. I never believed the “Ichiro could hit 40 homers” meme, even before he turned 80 this year).

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      • Chris says:

        I think Ty Cobb said something similar, that if really wanted to, he could hit as many HR’s as Babe, just that he thought that making contact at the high rate that he did was more beneficial. He apparently told a reporter he was going to swing for the fences for 2 games, and hit like 5 HR’s in those 2 games. Ruth responded by saying he could hit 0.600 if he really wanted to just hit singles every at bat. So yeah, I think great hitter probably could make a tradeoff between contact and power, but this sort of skill is probably not as easy for typical MLB hitters to replicate.

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    • Pete says:

      There is definitely a selection bias, but it’s a justified one. As per this article, there is a high K guy can still have value as an offensive player, but needs to make up for it in other areas, notably with walks and especially power. This has long been implicit in MLB decision making.

      There’s a word for a guy who doesn’t hit for power, strikes out constantly, and doesn’t walk. He sucks, and that’s all you’ve got if you’re populating your team with high-K, no walk, no power guys.

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  10. Mark says:

    One of the things I always found strange about the de-valuation of the batter’s strikeout is the assumption that a batter is equally as responsible for outs in play as for a strikeout. This has never really been assumed to be true for pitchers, so why for batters? Granted, batters may have more to do with outs in play than pitchers, this always seemed to me to be the area where the case was overstated. Any ball in play, short of an infield fly, has a significantly-higher-than-zero chance of resulting in a non-out, and therefore a significantly higher chance than a strikeout. Even ignoring the advancement of baserunners this seems incredibly meaningful. For pitchers, this makes the strikeout the holy grain of outs. For batters, it may not make the opposite true, but its at least something between a worse case scenario and the worst case scenario.

    In fairness though, this does seem to be something recognized more over the last few years than it was even half a decade ago. The popular notion to counter the argument made here used to be that high strikeout rates had a level of correlation with homers, the intuitive explanation being that batters who swung harder swung-and-missed more but hit balls farther when they made contact. With offense depressed across the board these last few years, the lack of inherent truth in this type of claim has become a bit more exposed. There may be some truth to this idea still, but its certainly not so cut and dry. Its likely why the 20% strikeout threshhold exists, as there is something of a law of diminishing returns once a player passes that threshhold, where power is not longer increased and perhaps even decreased beyond that level of strikeouts for most hitters.

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    • Pete says:

      Yeah, some bloggers and journalists who claim to embrace sabermetrics (in practice, that just means they cannot write an article without mentioning BABIP) have no trouble maintaining the paradox that Ks are good for pitchers but neutral for hitters (I’ve actually seen this statement made in print). As it is a zero sum game between hitters and pitchers, these statements cannot both be true. That is a logical fact.

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  11. David S says:

    After reading this article and being from Philadelphia, I immediately related this article to Ryan Howard.

    In the city of Philadelphia, Ryan Howard is one of the most beloved yet one of most criticized athletes. Why? Because of the issues presented in this article. On one hand, there are people who look at Ryan Howard’s power and RBI productivity and say who cares if he strikes out 200 times? On the other hand, there are people who wish that he would cut down on this swing and strike out less.

    The way I’ve always looked at it isn’t from the standpoint of overall number of strikeouts. If there are no runners on or there are two outs in a given at-bat, an out is an out regardless of how you make it. So the question of strikeout vs. ball in play out only matters in certain situations (runners on, with less than 2 outs). In short, it basically comes down to situational hitting.

    Ryan Howard is below MLB average in all situational hitting categories (runners on 3rd less than 2 out success rate, runner on 2nd with 0 out success rate, productive outs as determined by Elias and ESPN). This can largely be attributed to the fact that in these situations, he strikes out and does not put the ball in play. If this stat was broken down vs. situational lefties in late innings, I would presume that this situational stats would be even worse for Howard.

    As inferred by the information presented above, I’m in the minority in Philadelphia who believe Ryan Howard is overpaid and needs to refine his swing. Sure, his avg of 40 HRs, 130 RBIs is eye opening to the casual MLB viewer, but a lot of that production is based around the lineup he’s in. Hopefully, this article will help to make things clearer for Philly fans that Ryan Howard isn’t the player that most people make him out to be.

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    • SeanP says:

      You make some good points here, but I have a problem with this:

      “So the question of strikeout vs. ball in play out only matters in certain situations (runners on, with less than 2 outs). In short, it basically comes down to situational hitting.”

      I think you’re right that strikeouts are more harmful with runners on, but I’m not sure that there is a skill to striking out less with runners on. I mean, I don’t believe any hitter has the ability to drastically change his plate approach when there are runners on base. I think it would be really interesting to see a study on this though.

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      • hunterfan says:

        I think you’re overlooking the obvious: there is a decent way to cut down on K’s and sacrifice power: choke up on the bat.

        For example, Mike Schmidt has claimed that he cut way down on his strikeout % by choking up on the bat. (A perusal of his stats do indicate that later in his career, he cut down on his K’s by a decent margin.)

        There’s no reason Ryan Howard couldn’t do the same if he wanted to.

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      • RC says:

        “I mean, I don’t believe any hitter has the ability to drastically change his plate approach when there are runners on base.”

        I completely disagree.

        There are guys who have different swings for different COUNTS. Ellsbury, for instance, has made major improvements this year by ditching the swing he used in close counts (more slappy, and using his batting practice swing all the time).

        Guys most certainly do change their swings in certain situations. Watch Adrian Gonzales hit, and you’ll see several different swings based on what the situation and count are.

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  12. Crash Davis says:

    Strikeouts are boring, besides that they’re fascist…get some ground balls, they’re more democratic.

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    • Ebby Calvin Laloosh says:

      What’s this guy know, eh? If he’s so great why’s he been in the minors for ten years? And if he’s so hot how come Annie wants me instead of him.

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  13. Klatz says:

    If I remember correctly from Tango’s run value analyses and other various sources the price of a strikeout can vary significantly based on context. The biggest flaw from your analysis is that it ignores the context for the batter and focuses on the batter’s value independently of baserunners.

    I don’t analysts were saying ignore strikeouts, they were saying it doesn’t matter as much if increased walks and/or power was the results (a la Jack Cust).

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    • RMR says:

      This seems to suggest that players have an ability to control when they strikeout. Yeah, a guy can choke up and cut down on his swing, but how much does that really help? I would think the bigger influence would be where he’s placed in the lineup and how often his teammates get on base.

      A given strikeout may hurt more than another, but in the big picture, are there really guys who can choose to not strikeout when it would hurt the most? I’d say it merits looking in to…

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    • philosofool says:

      This is pretty much wrong. The analysis of strike outs assumes that a batter finds himself in a league average number of apperances with men on, no one on, runners on second and third, and so on.

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  14. corey says:

    I really like this, I think the “inflated babip” line here at fangraphs gets overstated, but clearly there’s at least a component of luck involved in babip. It seems to me that any player with a high babip gets labeled around here as “lucky” but certainly some players have persistently high babips that indicate something about their game that allows them to get a higher hit percentage. They are flatly superior babip hitters. What I think this piece does that’s really interesting and worthy of further research is it frames the issue not in terms of babip equaling luck, but rather in terms of your babip dependence, where clearly it’s a better and more stable place to be as a batter to be less babip dependent even if you in the process carry a high babip.

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    • Pete says:

      The misinterpretation of BABIP is one of the biggest black eyes of the sabermetric era. Proponents champion the insight that there is some luck involved with balls hit in play. But of course, everyone has always known this; therefore, this is not a genuine insight. On the other hand, almost every blogger or journalist with a passing acquaintance with sabermetrics implicitly or explicitly supported the stronger thesis that BABIP is *entirely* luck, which is completely bogus empirically, by common sense, and by logic. They also poopoo the common sense truism (also supported empirically, by common sense, and by logic) that the higher percentage of balls you smoke all over the field, the higher your batting average is going to be, period.

      Ichiro Suzuki sprays the ball all over the field, either on the ground or on a line, and has had blazing speed for most of his career. .352 career BABIP. Robinson Cano smokes the ball all over the field with a regularity unlike any Yankee I can remember. .321 BABIP.

      Mark Teixeira’s line drive percentage has gone down and fly ball percentage has gone up each season since 2008. He pulls a huge percentage of his balls as a lefty, which means he has to hit into a severe overshift practically every time he comes up. Is it any surprise his BABIP has declined in each season since 2008? He now sports a .238 BABIP for the 2011. Am I really supposed to sing the blues for his bad luck?

      As a general point, sabermetrics proponents have really lost touch with the notion of “luck” and that there is more to “luck” than defense and BABIP. How about facing a string of terrible pitchers by chance? How about getting some favorable calls from the ump at home plate? How about a ball just inching over the wall rather than being caught at the track? How about a ball falling into the glove for a foul out rather than making the stands? How about staying healthy for a full season? These are all huge random factors which are all downplayed at the altar of BABIP.

      As a sidenote, I’ve long hated BABIP but am actually starting to warm up to xBABIP.

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  15. Matt says:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2495&position=3B

    Which is why I’m worried about Pedro Alvarez. With no power and a 31% K rate, he only has a .207 BA despite a .300 BABIP. He’s going to need to hit a LOT more homeruns and take a lot more walks if he wants to be productive with that K-rate.

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  16. JTripp says:

    I dunno I just feel this article is redundant. Strike outs are a big part of the formula used for BABIP and people know that a high K rate leads to a higher BABIP as the denominator gets smaller. Plus it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you put more balls in play chances are some will get past the defense.

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  17. Ender says:

    When you look at the final results strikeouts barely matter at all for how good a player is. If a player could keep all of his power and BB while just reducing his strikeouts he would be a better player. The discussion has always been about two different things and the inability for people to understand which thing is being discussed.

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    • Karl Dilkington says:

      I don’t understand. Strikeouts don’t matter, but if you reduce them you will become a better player?

      I think the high whiff high reward guys are in reality few and far between. Sure, lots of sluggers strike out a lot, and for the most part, that’s ok. But when you strike out SO much it truly can have a negative impact. It can also be an indicator of less-than-stellar skills that can eventually catch up to a player (Andruw Jones, Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds)

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  18. Karl Dilkington says:

    I love this. I find it comical that the lengthy analysis is necessary to prove something that I’ve always considered perfectly logical in the first place.

    One thing I’ve always asked when the “strikeouts don’t matter” topic gets broached is: why then do pitchers with high k rates typically rate higher in the minds of all analysts? It’s because nothing good can come of a strikeout. It can do no damage.

    While I understand that it is not as bad of a thing as often perceived, I am happy to see that there are others out there who agree with me that it stinks!

    Also, I’m a White Sox fan currently enduring the Adam Dunn experience, so don’t try and tell me strikeouts aren’t a sign of bad things.

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    • Eric M. Van says:

      “One thing I’ve always asked when the “strikeouts don’t matter” topic gets broached is: why then do pitchers with high k rates typically rate higher in the minds of all analysts?”

      The fundamental paradox of baseball is that K rate is completely unimportant for hitters and the most important thing for pitchers.

      And that is because strikeouts are the price the good hitter willingly pays for making harder contact. Swinging harder is a gamble, and if he is good, he will come out ahead. His extra strikeouts will be more than compensated for by extra hits and homers. (Ditto for the risk of strikeout incurred by being extra selective and going deeper into counts, which not only increases hardness of contact but raises walk rate.)

      It is therefore imperative that the pitcher make him *lose that gamble* as often as possible. Which makes his K rate paramount.

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  19. Chris says:

    Don’t we also need to consider double plays in this discussion? Sometimes a strike out is *better* than putting a ball in play. Sure you have less chance of a hit, but you also have less chance of a twin killing. Depending on BABIP, there are situations where you’d be better off having a guy at the plate with a higher K% but lower DP/BIP rate.

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  20. rluzinski says:

    The author is arguing against something that I’m not sure anyone believes. “Strikeouts don’t matter” only in terms of the value of certain known offensive production. Don’t tell me a particular batting line is less valuable because “he strikes out too much”. You have to compare a strikeout to an out, not to a ball-in-play with an unknown outcome.

    Strikeout rates are VERY important with regard to projections but that is a COMPLETELY different topic.

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  21. Doink The Clown says:

    I don’t really think this piece is very insightful. We all know that K’s stink. Every time a player on our favorite team strikes out, we wish they would have had a better result in their at-bat. And if there was a runner on base, we wish they could have at least put the ball in play with a different type of out to possibly move the runner along.

    So yeah we clearly want all the players we root for to strike out less frequently. But all of these pieces are interconnected. If a player purposefully tries to increase his batting average by intentionally reducing his K-rate, it could very well lead to much lower BB rates and Isolated Power. What good is increasing your total balls in play if most of your long balls now turn into groundballs? Your average will go up but your ISO will plummet. So I don’t think you can just say that K’s stink. What you are really saying is that a high K-rate stinks if the player has average babip and average BB rate and average ISO. And we all basically knew that already.

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    • Chris says:

      Steve, you are challenging the assertion that “all else being equal, a strikeout is virtually indistinguishable from any other out.”

      The problem is that, in the process, you’re actually changing what “all else” refers to, and by doing so no longer comparing strikeouts to other outs.

      By “all else,” most saber-minded people are referring to overall offensive production, or OBA and SLG as a rough approximation thereof. If a player can post a 360 OBA and 500 SLG, it doesn’t really matter overall whether he does so by hitting 260, drawing walks, and hitting plenty of HR, or by hitting 310 with fewer walks and HR.

      [In context, it certainly matters -- a strikeout is much worse with a runner on 3B and 1 out in the bottom of the 9th of a tie game -- and there is some marginal per-K difference, but it's so small as to be largely irrelevant in player evaluation according to most research.]

      But you’re repurposing “all else” to mean things like BABIP and BB% and HR%. By doing so, however, you are completely changing the assertion that you are trying to challenge, because you are no longer trading strikeouts for other kinds of outs. Instead, you are implicitly trading them for non-strikeouts, some of which are balls in play or walks or home runs.

      For most players, strikeouts are inherently a tradeoff with BABIP/HR% (swinging harder means both harder contact and more misses) and BB% (going deeper into the count means more walks and more Ks). The player development challenge is to figure out both how to minimize those tradeoffs – to retain the best BABIP and BB% and HR% possible while cutting down on Ks — and ultimately to find the sweet spot where the player’s overall value is maximized. And that’s a real challenge.

      But if you’re just looking from the outside at a player’s value, I don’t see anything in your article to suggest that strikeouts are in fact any worse than other outs.

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  22. Hurtlocker says:

    If you hit the ball fair, someone has to field it, someone has to make the putout, many factors are in play that may be positive. (some may, of course, be very negative) If a player strikes out a lot, he will certainly have less opportunity for
    a positive outcome that someone that puts the ball into play. I’m pretty sure that’s why we root so hard for the strikeout in a tense situation, you take any out but the strikeout is the best option for the pitcher. Good article, very thought provoking.

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    • dirtbag says:

      The issue here is how you frame it.

      If you frame it as strikeouts vs. other outs, then yeah, strikeouts aren’t that bad.

      If you frame it as strikeouts vs. not striking out, then you’re comparing a sure out to the approx 20% chance that even a grounder or a popup finds a whole.

      That’s what this whole article is.

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  23. Pat Andriola says:

    Steve,

    Good piece, and I agree with the overall premise. I think that when dealing with bench construction in the National League, it’s important to be able to have some guys who have walk/power ability and some guys who put the ball in play more often. If you’re starting the bottom of the ninth down a run, you may want to pinch hit David Ross, but if there’s a man on third, one out, and you’re down a run, sometimes you may want a guy who makes contact more often.

    Anyway, I think that it is also difficult to separate strikeouts from walks when dealing with the game theory behind how batters look to approach the count. Guys who walk a lot tend to have a high strikeouts because, I would think, they take more pitches early in the count, leaving them more susceptible to falling behind and not being able to come back by fouling pitches off.

    Think of it this way. If you’re Richie Sexson or Jack Cust, you know that you can a) destroy get-me-over fastballs when you have a good guess they’re coming but b) can also whiff on lots of breaking balls and defensive swings on fastballs in difficult counts. You’re not like Ichiro, or even a hitting god like Pujols, who can swing early, fall behind 0-2 and still be good to battle.

    Just look at Jack Cust vs. Juan Pierre. Even in a down year, Cust is clearly a better hitter overall than Pierre. But on 0-2, Cust has a wRC+ of -8 (.296 OPS), whereas Pierre is at 53 (.576 OPS). But on 1-0, that immensely important first pitch, Cust is at 146 wRC+ (.847), and Pierre at just 86 (.654).

    So while you want walks to stay the same and strikeouts to decrease, you’re dealing with skill sets that are ultimately intertwined, not independent, making it very difficult.

    Also, it has been mentioned that double plays are a negative contributor. This is also very important.

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  24. RMR says:

    I think the role of selection bias needs to be stated. The reason strikeouts don’t strongly correlate with poor offensive performance in MLB is because they guys who strike out a lot and don’t make up for it with their other skills don’t make it to the majors.

    But really, the same can be said about any of the tools. Overall production is a function of making contact, using your legs to advance yourself, hitting for power to advance the other base-runners and being willing and able to take walks if you don’t get anything to hit. If you struggle excessively in any of those areas, you have to make up for it elsewhere.

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    • philosofool says:

      It’s not about correlation! A sttike out is an out, but its not a worse out than other outs. The reason traditional baseball thining didn’t likestrikesouts was because those guys valued productive outs, but since “productive outs” don’t significantly chnage run scoring, this is basically a myth.

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      • RMR says:

        Of course, but you are drawing a false equivalency. This is THE fundamental disconnect that always happens in this conversation. The choice is not between a strikeout and a batted ball out. The choice is between a strikeout and a batted ball.

        People aren’t wishing that Drew Stubbs would replace his strikeouts with more ground balls to short. They want him to replace those strikeouts with batted balls and their commensurate distribution of outcomes. Put the ball in play and you have a chance of 30%+ chance of being a hit (when you include homers). So sure, replacing strikeouts with other outs does not make a player more productive. But replacing strikeouts with generic batted balls does.

        So the way a player who strikes out more than another is equally productive is through more walks (OBP=1.000), more power, or a higher BABIP. If he doesn’t do those things however, he will be less productive than a player with a lower strikeout rate.

        Of course, many would suggest that the types of players who strike out a lot:
        1) Simply are not physically able to make more contact and would merely be adding swings and misses, an obvious losing proposition
        2) Would have to give up their ability to make good contact to make more contact, thus reducing their power and BABIP and making the whole exercise pointless
        3) Would, in the process of swinging more, hurt their BB%

        The problem with strikeouts is not that they are particularly bad outs. It’s that they are outs.

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  25. Franky Fruitcake says:

    If you don’t know the outcome of a plate appearance and had to answer the question: what’s a more favorable way for this plate appearance to end for the hitter: with a ball in play, or with a ball not in play (BB, HR, K)…what would the answer to that question be (assuming you have no knowledge of the pitcher or the defense). It depends on the talent level of the player at the plate. There might be some players where you would prefer that the PA ends without the ball put in play.

    If the batter is a true talent 25% K, 8% BB, 10% HR guy with average speed, then you would probably prefer that the PA ends on a ball in play.

    If the batter is a true talent 25% K, 18% BB, 15% HR guy with below average speed, then you would prefer the ball not in play.

    If the batter is a true talent 10% K, 20% BB, 20% HR guy with average speed, then you would prefer the ball not in play.

    And you could keep going on with the possible combos as far as you like.

    So I think it is a little too simple to say that K’s are worse than saberists think they are. K’s aren’t independent of all those other pieces. They all work together. You can’t just say that the batter is hurting his value by striking out in that PA. If with that strikeout came a 20% chance to hit a homerun and a 20% chance to draw a walk, well then you will eventually be very happy with this hitter for taking that approach even though it did not work in that particular PA.

    And if you already do know the outcome of the plate appearances, and you know that it was an out…then it doesn’t really matter if it was a K or not. Yeah sometimes the runners won’t get moved over, and you won’t give the defense a chance to make a mental or physical mistake. But you will also largely avoid more double plays. I think it is only very slightly worse to get out via K than any other out, assuming you are looking back on an at-bat that you know already ended in an out.

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    • Nick44 says:

      The problem with this logic is the non-quantifiable nature of “approach”. Approach suggests a modification of true talent level based on something that cannot be quantified – in essence that true talent level can be adjusted by changing the way you play. The hard part of measuring that is obvious and is one of the main criticisms of “true talent level” in general.

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  26. Tim_the_Beaver says:

    ah, TTO.
    I’ve missed you

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  27. dcs says:

    It’s very difficult to study this issue properly, to try to separate correlation from causation, without lots of controls. And the most important control is probably the identity of the batter. The only study I’ve seen that does this was by Tangotiger, looking at individuals who either strongly increased or decreased their K rates in successive samples. And he found that the isolated power remained about the same (decreased HR mostly compensated for by increased 2B and 3B), and ditto for the BB. But the difference was that the BABIP remained the same, and so the extra (or fewer) balls in play went for hits at the usual rate. The difference was around .11 runs per K, or K avoided, IIRC.

    But that holds only for the batters in Tango’s samples, even though it was a decent sized sample. Maybe there is something about batters who can (or at least did) suddenly change their K rates that would not apply to the Adam Dunns or Juan Pierres.

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  28. Richie says:

    What ‘Mitch’ says times a trillion. Assuming “a league-average BABIP rate” is like assuming it’ll snow on August 10th. Guys who hit with power while striking out alot have high BABIP rates. Because they swing hard.

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  29. Richie says:

    Really, why use a “thought experiment” regarding a subject where research is plentifully available?

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    • RMR says:

      A good thought experiment is often more accessible than dense research. Steve isn’t trying to advance the world of sabermetric knowledge, but to make a given point more accessible.

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  30. Ben Hall says:

    Steve,

    I think this is a very good article. Those of us who read most everything on Fangraphs probably are aware of this, but I agree with your notion that “casual saberists” or something along those lines, underrate the importance of the batter strikeout.

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  31. Tommy Lasordas Pasta says:

    As a newbie to the saber community and FanGraphs, I gotta say good article and good discussion. I learn something every time I come to the site.

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  32. pft says:

    If you have a decent OBP (if not great) and hit with power who cares about the K’s. An out is an out. Sure, a K lowers OBP, but so does a GIDP and any BIP out. Why attack the K if it can result in Player X hitting more HR while still maintaining a healthy OBP.

    Now if Player X strikes out a lot and does not hit with much power and has a low OBP, then you might want to try and reduce his K rate. In this case Player X is guilty of the Evil K.

    Striking out is not evil for everyone, at least not for those who do other things well (eg. hit for power). For them K’s are a necessary evil since trying to avoid them may cost SLG. In this run environment, SLG is more valuable than in the juiced ERA, and OBP is less valuable than in a higher run environment. Anyone think the Yankees care about Grandersons K rate?

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  33. Mike B. says:

    What a coincidence–I went to high school with a guy named Badock Zartlett. Swell article, BTW.

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  34. mbt online says:

    to regress a hitter based on a different K%, BB%, HR%, or — most likely — BABIP.

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  35. Dan says:

    I don’t think sabermatricians don’t care about K rates. It’s just that we take care of them implicitly. A saber guy might say, “Wow, player X increased his OBP by 100 points! Oh, wait, his BABIP is much higher than career norm so he will probably regress” but he could have also said “Oh, wait, he isn’t walking any more and he isn’t making more contact, so it is just that his hits are falling in at an unsustainable rate.”

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  36. Bill says:

    Great article – I’ve been reading this site for about two years and this might be my favorite. Always great to consider a certain “norm” from a new angle.

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  37. Dr.Rockzo says:

    I read this and only could ask myself, what is the purpose of the article? Strikeouts are less good than potential non-outs isn’t really an issue anyone has. Outside of attempting to place a track of projected power and k% against the necessary contact/babip skills to “succeed” in MLB, this seems more of an attempt to compare the value of OBP vs SLG.

    This article seems to allude to a premise that lowering K% and attempting to up contact rate will increase a hitter’s chance for success. The problem with this is that hitters, especially with this type of profile, have power as the reason they are in the majors. The change in batting approach to lower K% would inevitably alter their results. It is anecdotal but can serve as an example; Early in the year Uggla seemed to be trying to reduce his Ks and was making terrible contact with the ball. This is most certainly not the entire cause of why he had a terrible first half, but the premise that attempting to lower K rate can increase a hitter chance of success is a fallacy. Attempting to lower a K rate may increase their batting average and but it may affect their SLG and even their walk rate.

    If given the option of a guy who hits 300/400/500 with 30 HRs and a 10% k rate vs a guy with a 300/400/500 30 HR and 22% k rate, I’ll take the first guy everytime because he’s almost certainly the better overall hitter.

    What if it’s most like 250/340/470 with 25 HR and a 20% k rate vs like 310/350/420 with about 10 HR and a 10% k rate?

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  38. Jon L. says:

    Between a guy who hits .270/.350/.470 with 60 strikeouts and a guy who hits .270/.350/.470 with 120 strikeouts, I’ll take the 120-strikeout guy. I ‘d take him because he’ll cost less because people like the author of this article fail to recognize that his value is the same.

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    • objectiveobserver says:

      And Jon L. fails to recognize that if his team has 9 hitters who hit .270/.350/.470 with 120 K’s each, he will be wondering why his team scored fewer runs than a team with 9 hitters who hit .270/.350/.470 but only K’d 60 times each.

      He’ll undoubtedly chalk it up to bad luck.

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      • ToddM says:

        Except that’s just not accurate. If the triple slash line is the EXACT same, more strikeouts is probably better, because the guy with more strikeouts is hitting the ball — when he hits it — with more authority, a very important skill. He’s also likely grounding into fewer DPs, the worst outcome possible in almost every situation.

        This is all silly, though, as production doesn’t stay the same for a batter if strikeouts change. Some guys may adapt well and increase their productivity by concentrating on contact, while other may lose the selectivity and power skills they had originally. It depends on the skills of the player. Adam Dunn would likely be a godawful slap hitter, while Austiin Jackson really does need to think about shortening up.

        One last time, although others have already said it: I’ve never heard anyone say strikeouts don’t matter, but rather the savvy sabr-ist often hears “strikeouts are terrible” and responds with “not nearly as bad as you think for most of the guys that strike out a lot”.

        Anecdotal nonsense to conclude with: Curtis Granderson is striking out at his highest rate since 2005.

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      • objectiveobserver says:

        “If the triple slash line is the EXACT same, more strikeouts is probably better, because the guy with more strikeouts is hitting the ball — when he hits it — with more authority” … huh?

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  39. Eric M. Van says:

    Well, the one screamingly obvious error in this analysis is that, for hitters, all the good things — walk rate, HR / Contact, BABIP, and XBH / Hits in Play — are POSITIVELY CORRELATED to strikeout rate. (Can’t emphasize that enough, eh?) A Mark Reynolds can be expected to hit 8 times as many HR as a Jeff Keppinger (per contact), walk 60% more often, have a 12% higher BABIP, and have 52% more of those hits in play go for extra bases.

    So the tables which show expected BA and OBP for a given K rate, assuming league average BABIP and BB rate, are nonsense — because BABIP and BB rate are demonstrably functions of K rate.

    Using the regressions from last year (minimum 250 PA), all of which are immensely significant, a player with Keppinger’s MLB-”best” K rate of .063 could be expected to hit .276 / .324 / .339, while a player with Reynolds’ MLB-worst .358 could be expected to hit .227 / .310 / .387, which is an edge of .245 to .240 in TAv (sorry, that’s the OPS to run-metric conversion I have handy).

    So this article is basically completely wrong. The problem is never too many strikeouts; it’s the failure to have the expected high walk and hardness-of-contact rates that ordinarily accompany lots of strikeouts.

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  40. Adam dunn says:

    So this entire article was based around how much a strikeout hurts, yet nary a mention of:

    -moving runners up
    -sacrifice flies
    -errors in the field
    -putting pressure on the defense w/ aggressive baserunning after contact
    -being able to put the runner on 1st in motion w/ a contact hitter to open holes
    -demoralizing for a lineup to strikeout so much

    All of these things are key to winning close games during the year. I think I(A.Dunn), went 2 years w/out a sacrifice fly….think about that! A hitter like P.Polanco can help produce 2 runs in a game where he doesn’t show much at all in the boxscore. He can make contact at will, and hit behind the runner, etc. He has little power, and doesn’t walk much, but he can put a lot of pressure on the defense and allow mangers to send the runner whenever they want w/ a hit & run. Maybe it has to do w/ the gravitational pull of his head sucking the ball toward him after it’s released?

    In the playoffs, when elite SP’s are on the mound facing off against one another frequently, teams need to manufacture runs.

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  41. homebrewed says:

    a great case in point was yesterday’s (april 9, 2012) cubs-brewers game. the brewers went 1-for-8 with risp, yet scored 4 runs on sacrifices, winning 7-5. had those 4 outs been strikeouts, the brewers lose. no way to argue strikeouts aren’t any worse than other outs.

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