Reynolds breaks own strikeout record in midst of excellent season

Leave a comment

Mark Reynolds broke his own single-season strikeout record last night by whiffing for the 205th (and 206th) time and … well, no one seems to care all that much. Which is a good thing.
Not so long ago a player even approaching the strikeout record was viewed as a big deal that usually drew all sorts of heavy-handed criticism from columnists and talking heads, but whether because the baseball media has evolved or someone breaking his own record simply isn’t much of a story the hand-wringing over Reynolds has been minimal.
Last week, while writing about why the focus on hitter strikeouts is largely misguided, I noted that the 10 guys who’ve struck out most often this season have been significantly more productive hitters than the 10 guys who’ve struck out least often. Along those same lines, the 10 highest single-season strikeout totals have all come from very productive hitters:

                    YEAR      SO      AVG     HR     RBI      OPS
Mark Reynolds       2009     206     .266     43     100     .919
Mark Reynolds       2008     204     .239     28      97     .779
Ryan Howard         2007     199     .268     47     136     .976
Ryan Howard         2008     199     .251     48     146     .881
Jack Cust           2008     197     .231     33      77     .851
Adam Dunn           2004     195     .266     46     102     .956
Adam Dunn           2006     194     .234     40      92     .855
Bobby Bonds         1970     189     .302     26      78     .879
Jose Hernandez      2002     188     .288     24      73     .834
Bobby Bonds         1969     187     .259     32      90     .824
Preston Wilson      2000     187     .264     31     121     .817



It’s very difficult to post a high batting average while striking out 180-200 times in a season, but batting average doesn’t equal production and the seasons shown on the above list have averaged 36 homers and 101 RBIs with an .870 OPS. Reynolds is having a fantastic offensive season, just as guys like Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn and Bobby Bonds did before him, and anyone unwilling to see that is missing the forest through the trees.
There are some situations where a strikeout is worse than other types of outs. For example, with a runner on third base and less than two outs, hitting a sacrifice fly out has more value than striking out. However, there are also some situations where a strikeout is better than other types of outs. For example, with a runner on first base and less than two outs, striking out is more valuable than grounding into a double play (which Reynolds has done just eight times this year compared to 29 for high-contact hitter Miguel Tejada).
Add up all of those different situations and at the end of the day a strikeout is no worse than flying out or grounding out, even if a certain segment of the baseball-watching public refuses to believe it. Striking out has the added bonus of typically coming with lots of homers and walks, and unlike the difference between types of outs those things actually have a huge impact on scoring runs.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
18 Comments

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.