Saturday, June 03, 2017

The Milwaukee Brewers struck out 26 times in one 12-inning game

The Milwaukee Brewers struck out 26 times in one 12-inning game

And they still had plenty of chances to win it. High strikeout totals are simply a fact of life now. The number of strikeouts per team per game is 8.23 this year. A continuation of that would mark the 11th consecutive year in which the major leagues have set a new record for the most strikeouts. Before that streak began, the average hitter batted .269. Now it is .250.

This is not a new trend, but is a sudden acceleration of the old one. The number of strikeouts per game has been increasing steadily since the lively ball era began in 1920. The average was 2.70 in 1924, and the rate of increase was modest in the early days. It took twenty eight years to reach the four barrier. But the 50s and 60s were free-swinging pitcher-friendly eras and it took only seven more years to reach five and another seven to reach six. Then things started to slow down. The mound was lowered, and the American League took the bats out of its pitchers' hands, so that strikeouts dipped for a while, and it took 27 years before the average would even climb back to six again in 1994. But once it started to climb, the acceleration was rapid and inexorable. It reached seven in 2010 and eight in 2016.

The NY Times sports department graphed the trend a few years back.

Here's one way to look at it. In 1980, pretty much at the center of his career, Nolan Ryan struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings. Today, the average pitcher fans 8.2. Today's hitters are essentially facing Nolan Ryan all the time.

That bold assertion is also backed by the radar gun. It is not rare to hear sports announcers wonder if a pitcher can still win if his velocity drops to 92. These kids are throwing hard, have many breaking pitches, and get replaced with a fresh arm at the first signs of fatigue. It's not easy to be a hitter today.

2 comments:

  1. Plate discipline is no longer stressed, baseball needs the return of hitting coaches like Walt Hriniak.

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  2. I remember when Pete Incaviglia struck out 185 times, and everyone thought it was terrible, despite his otherwise decent numbers (.250/30/88). Last year Chris Davis struck out 219 times, with .221/38/84, and no one seemed to care.

    I think it is a combination of stronger pitching, and less stress on plate discipline.

    And it's better than grounding into a double play, I guess.

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