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« A Tale of Two Lefty-Killers | Main | The Red Sox Love That Dirty Water »

Whiffing the Count

Peter Abraham has an interesting article today, oddly placed on the front page (?!?) of the Boston Globe. The piece is somewhat of a validation of the Red Sox who set a franchise record with 1,308 strikeouts during the regular season and have added 106 more strikeouts in 10 postseason games.

The premise of his piece is that teams are willing to accept high strikeout totals if their hitters are disciplined and provide home run hitting power.

Abraham's focal point is Mike Napoli, who set a Sox franchise record with 187 strikeouts this season, but also hit 38 doubles and 23 home runs.

“You’d prefer somebody hit for power and not strike out often,” Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen told Abraham. “But those guys are the superstars and they’re fairly rare. Sometimes you have to have an appreciation for what a good strikeout can do. You have to look at those long at-bats as contributing to the overall good of the lineup. Power is hard to find and you learn to live with the strikeouts.”

Let's take a deeper dive looking at teams

Is pitches per plate appearance a reflection of a team's success?

I felt this was a good place to start and I was immediately disavowed of the assumption. The Red Sox (97-65) did lead the majors in P/PA, but they were tied with the less-than-terrific Minnesota Twins (66-96). Granted the three teams with the lowest P/PA had horrible records, but I also noticed that both the Cardinals and Tigers were in the bottom five in the majors in P/PA.

2013 Regular Season Pitches Per Plate Appearance
1. Minnesota Twins4.02
2. Boston Red Sox4.02
3. Cleveland Indians3.95
4. Oakland Athletics3.94
5. New York Mets3.91
6. Seattle Mariners3.91
7. Toronto Blue Jays3.89
8. Tampa Bay Rays3.87
9. Pittsburgh Pirates3.86
10. Texas Rangers3.85
11. Chicago Cubs3.85
12. Atlanta Braves3.83
13. Arizona Diamondbacks3.83
14. Houston Astros3.82
15. New York Yankees3.81
16. San Diego Padres3.81
17. Los Angeles Angels3.81
18. Los Angeles Dodgers3.81
19. Baltimore Orioles3.80
20. Cincinnati Reds3.80
21. Washington Nationals3.80
22. Miami Marlins3.79
23. Philadelphia Phillies3.78
24. San Francisco Giants3.77
25. Kansas City Royals3.77
26. St. Louis Cardinals3.76
27. Detroit Tigers3.76
28. Chicago White Sox3.76
29. Colorado Rockies3.72
30. Milwaukee Brewers3.72

Is there an ideal home run to strikeout ratio?

The majors leading home run hitting team, the Baltimore Orioles, hit one homer for every 5.30 strikeout. The Red Sox homered once every 7.34 strikeout. The Braves homered once every 7.64 strikeout. The Tigers homered once every 6.09 strikeout. The Rays homered once every 7.09 strikeout. The Cardinals homered once every 8.88 strikeout.

2013 Regular Season Home Runs and Strikeouts
1. Baltimore Orioles2121,125
2. Seattle Mariners1881,353
3. Oakland Athletics1861,178
4. Toronto Blue Jays1851,123
5. Atlanta Braves1811,384
6. Boston Red Sox1781,308
7. Texas Rangers1761,067
8. Detroit Tigers1761,073
9. Chicago Cubs1721,230
10. Cleveland Indians1711,283
11. Tampa Bay Rays1651,171
12. Los Angeles Angels1641,221
13. Washington Nationals1611,192
14. Pittsburgh Pirates1611,330
15. Colorado Rockies1591,204
16. Milwaukee Brewers1571,183
17. Cincinnati Reds1551,245
18. Minnesota Twins1511,430
19. Houston Astros1481,535
20. Chicago White Sox1481,207
21. San Diego Padres1461,309
22. New York Yankees1441,214
23. Philadelphia Phillies1401,205
24. Los Angeles Dodgers1381,146
25. New York Mets1301,384
26. Arizona Diamondbacks1301,142
27. St. Louis Cardinals1251,110
28. Kansas City Royals1121,048
29. San Francisco Giants1071,078
30. Miami Marlins951,232

Let's look at some individual numbers

Here are the 23 players with at least 140 strikeouts in 2013 with their homer and strikeout totals. I've also included their homer and strikeout percentages as well as their P/PA. I threw batting average in there as measure of consistency.

As I look at this, I do see Napoli building up the pitch count, but I also see a batter who strikes out way too much and doesn't produce enough homers to compensate for it. In this group, Paul Goldschmidt really excels and Chris Davis is steller. Marlon Byrd looks like a better Napoli, but he takes one less pitch per at bat, which comes out to three additional pitches against starters, which to me is worth the sacrifice.

There are numerous others who I like on this list who whiff less than 30% of the time.

2013 Regular HR and Strikeouts
1. Chris Carter (HOU)292124.205.7%36.2%.223
2. Chris Davis (BAL)531993.979.1%29.6%.286
3. Adam Dunn (CWS)341894.296.5%31.1%.219
4. Mike Napoli (BOS)231874.584.6%32.4%.259
5. Pedro Alvarez (PIT)361863.926.5%30.3%.233
6. Jay Bruce (CIN)301853.964.8%26.5%.262
7. Mark Trumbo (LAA)341843.725.5%27.1%.234
8. Dan Uggla (ATL)221714.144.9%31.8%.179
9. Evan Longoria (TB)321624.005.2%23.4%.269
10. Justin Upton (ATL)271614.084.8%25.0%.263
11. Josh Hamilton (LAA)211583.733.6%24.8%.250
12. Alfonso Soriano (NYY)341563.745.9%24.9%.255
13. Mark Reynolds (NYY)211544.224.7%30.6%.220
14. Alejandro De Aza (CWS)171474.062.8%21.8%.264
15. Carlos Gomez (MIL)241463.674.5%24.7%.284
16. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)361454.126.0%20.4%.302
17. Ian Desmond (WSH)201453.693.3%22.1%.280
18. Marlon Byrd (PIT)241443.654.5%24.9%.291
19. Jason Kipnis (CLE)171434.193.0%21.7%.284
20. Chase Headley (SD)131423.962.5%23.7%.250
21. Alex Gordon (KC)201414.003.2%20.1%.265
22. Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)241404.145.6%27.8%.249
23. Brandon Moss (OAK)301403.996.7%27.7%.256

Four Top 10 Lists

In closing, I wanted to look at four variables, strikeouts, homers, hits, and walks and what the P/PA was for the leaders in each category.

This report shows you that amongst batters in the top ten in strikeouts, nobody worked the count more than Justin Upton.
2013 Top 10 Strikeout Leaders with P/PA
1. Chris Carter (HOU)2124.87
2. Chris Davis (BAL)1994.87
3. Adam Dunn (CWS)1895.08
4. Mike Napoli (BOS)1875.00
5. Pedro Alvarez (PIT)1864.60
6. Jay Bruce (CIN)1855.03
7. Mark Trumbo (LAA)1844.55
8. Dan Uggla (ATL)1715.02
9. Evan Longoria (TB)1624.85
10. Justin Upton (ATL)1615.10

This report shows you that amongst batters in the top ten in homers, nobody worked the count better than Paul Goldschmidt. Napoli when he homered saw 3.83 pitches.
2013 HR Leaders with P/PA
1. Chris Davis (BAL)533.40
2. Miguel Cabrera (DET)443.18
3. Pedro Alvarez (PIT)362.81
4. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)364.17
5. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)363.06
6. Mark Trumbo (LAA)342.82
7. Alfonso Soriano (NYY)342.74
8. Adam Dunn (CWS)343.79
9. Adam Jones (BAL)332.58
10. Evan Longoria (TB)322.56

This report shows you that amongst batters in the top ten in hits, nobody worked the count more than Mike Trout. Matt Carpenter and Dustin Pedroia both had very productive at bats that led to a hit. Napoli had productive at bats that ended up in a hit seeing 4.11 pitches.
2013 Hits Leaders with P/PA
1. Matt Carpenter (STL)1994.12
2. Adrian Beltre (TEX)1993.67
3. Miguel Cabrera (DET)1933.71
4. Dustin Pedroia (BOS)1934.05
5. Robinson Cano (NYY)1903.63
6. Mike Trout (LAA)1904.21
7. Manny Machado (BAL)1893.53
8. Eric Hosmer (KC)1883.77
9. Daniel Murphy (NYM)1883.63
10. Adam Jones (BAL)1863.54

This report shows you that amongst batters in the top eleven in walks, nobody worked the count more than Dan Uggla and Andrew McCutcheon. Napoli averaged 5.84 pitches in his 73 walks.
Top 11 Leaders in Walks with P/PA
1. Joey Votto (CIN)1355.41
2. Shin-Soo Choo (CIN)1125.63
3. Mike Trout (LAA)1105.50
4. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)995.43
5. Carlos Santana (CLE)935.58
6. Miguel Cabrera (DET)905.34
7. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)825.60
8. Billy Butler (KC)795.06
9. Andrew McCutchen (PIT)785.71
10. Nick Swisher (CLE)775.64
11. Dan Uggla (ATL)775.78

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