Swing Batter Swing: The Blue Jays and Strikeouts

It's not exactly news for any of us that have been watching the games but we are striking out a ton. We lead the league in strikeouts by 15 on the next team (Tampa Bay). We are averaging 8.74 strikeouts a game or, if you would rather, we are striking out in 23.2% of our plate appearances. 

Cito says not to worry about the strikeouts, that we are a team of power hitters and power hitters strikeout. We are tied for the league lead in home runs and 6th in the league in slugging. But we are also second last in the league in batting average (.223, one point ahead of the White Sox, who have the same number of homers as we do) and 9th in the league in runs score per game (4.26 and falling). He has a point, power hitters do tend to strikeout a bunch, but I think there is a danger in telling all your batters that they are power hitters so don't worry about those pesky K's.

Last night Richard Griffin had a funny whwip 'They say the baseball season is a marathon, but for the Jays every night is a 10K'.

You can argue the relative merits of strikeouts to other types of outs. Yeah, it is better to strikeout than to hit into a double play, but then you can't advance a base on a strikeout. I always think that, if a ball is in play, it might find a hole.

TV commentators will drive you to drink when they talk about strikeouts. Rance Mulliniks, last night at one point, was telling us the team had to be more aggressive at the plate and then in the same inning complained about the number of time we strikeout. Consistency is a virtue.

He also talked about the value of having a 'two strike approach", that a batter should cut down on his swing with two strikes. We, very clearly, don't do that. Guys swing from the heels at strike one and swing from the heels at strike three. We don't know what Cito and new batting coach Dwayne Murphy are telling the guys in private, but we did run Gary Denbo out of town because his 'take a pitch' approach didn't seem to be working. Maybe picking a middle point between the two approaches might work?

Just for the fun of it, I did a chart comparing the strikeout rates of the Jay players this year and last year. I used strikeouts per plate appearance. Most players rates are higher this year. The notable exception is Travis Snider. Small sample warnings, especially for the guys that haven't been playing a lot, abound:

Player

2010

2009

John Buck

35.2%

27.3%

Lyle Overbay

27.6%

23.2%

John McDonald

10%

11.5%

Alex Gonzalez

23.2%

15.2%

Edwin Encarnacion

21.6%

19.8%

Travis Snider

21.5%

28.3%

Vernon Wells

17.3%

12.6%

Jose Bautista

20.2%

21.0%

Adam Lind

27.4%

16.8%

Randy Ruiz

25.0%

26.9%

Mike McCoy

21.2%

33.3%

Fred Lewis

33.3%

25.0%

Aaron Hill

18.2%

13.5%

Jose Molina

20.0%

18.1%

I'll leave it to you to draw conclusions. The ones that stand out to me are Buck (of course), Lind (which might be explained by a minor slump he's been in) and Gonzalez. Vernon's strikeout numbers are up too but since he is hitting the ball hard, I'll forgive.

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