Nationals’ pitching coach Steve McCatty spoke with Yahoo!’s Les Carpenter and gave a less entertaining version of Crash Davis’ “strikeouts are boring, besides that, they’re fascist” speech:
“Strikeouts are bull[bleep],” he says … If you try to strike out every hitter you’re going to burn up pitches … Look, just do the math. If you’re taking 15-20 pitches to get through every inning that will multiply fast.” He would rather his pitchers let the hitters hit the ball.
Probably worth noting that:
- The Nationals are fifth in all of baseball and third in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings; and
- Their two best starters, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, are striking out 11.6 and 10.4 batters per nine innings, respectively, which is number one and number three in all of baseball among starters.
Indeed, there is almost a perfect correlation between how many wins a Nationals pitcher has and how many he’s striking out: the more the better.
Which doesn’t mean that McCatty doesn’t have a point. Ideally, yes, you want your pitcher to throw fewer pitches if possible and striking out guys takes more pitches. But it’s also true that the best way to control damage as a pitcher is to allow fewer opportunities for things to go wrong. Contact can lead to errors and seeing-eye hits and homers and all kinds of bad things. Strikeouts, not so much. Throw strikes and try to miss bats and you’re gonna be successful. And often times, a lot of strikeouts is the byproduct of that.
All of this reminds me of hitting coaches who get all worked up about wanting their hitters to take the ball to the opposite field, shorten their swing and not strike out despite the fact that the team’s best hitter is almost certainly a dude who pulls the ball with authority.