When is a strikeout just like any other out?

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Mark Reynolds is hitting .274/.367/.575 with 41 homers, 28 doubles, 72 walks, and 94 RBIs in 137 games.
Adam Dunn is hitting .282/.410/.563 with 37 homers, 27 doubles, 104 walks, and 99 RBIs in 142 games.
They rank fourth and eighth among NL hitters in OPS, respectively. And yet people continue to make a big deal about their strikeouts.
Yesterday alone MLB.com had an article entitled “Reynolds not worried about strikeout totals” and the New York Times had an article entitled “Dunn keeps swinging despite detractors.”
Conventional wisdom is that strikeouts are a terrible thing and when viewed in isolation that’s certainly true. However, in the grand scheme of things strikeouts are no worse than pop outs or fly outs or ground outs. And unlike those other methods of making an out, strikeouts tend to come along with extra-base hits and walks because guys who whiff a lot usually do so while swinging hard and working long counts.
Among all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances this season, the 10 guys who strike out most often have an average OPS of .938 and the 10 guys who strike out least often have an average OPS of .753. Yet for all the criticism high-strikeout guys take for being productive in a manner that rubs some people the wrong way and all the articles questioning whether guys like Dunn or Reynolds need to cut down on their strikeouts, have you ever seen the opposite?
Where are all the people taking David Eckstein to task for making too much contact while posting a measly .265/.322/.337 line? Where are all the articles wondering if Yuniesky Betancourt should try to strike out more often to improve upon his putrid .241/.275/.347 mark? Despite all the advancements in baseball analysis, apparently there are still an awful lot of people who would prefer if guys like Reynolds and Dunn weren’t nearly as good, but grounded out to second base much more often.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.