May 11, 2021

Breaking News: Strikeouts Are Bad (FanGraphs)


When I first learned about a mysterious cabal of smart nerds who were analyzing baseball, I took the words I got from them as though passed down from heaven. I read Moneyball, of course. But I also read about DIPS theory, wOBA, and whatever else I could get my hands on. I read The Book so many times I wore it out and had to buy a new copy. It felt like there were cheat codes just under the surface of the sport that someone was highlighting for me.

Many of those lessons from 15 years ago are still kicking around in my head. I’m skeptical of BABIP-driven hitters, perhaps more skeptical than I should be. I dismiss batters with anomalous platoon splits, even if there’s something about them that really does make them unique. And recently I realized that I might be misunderstanding the signaling value of strikeout rate.

Back in the early 2000s, batters who struck out more hit better. That sounds counterintuitive, because strikeouts are bad. It’s actually not that weird though. Barry Bonds struck out more than Ozzie Smith in his career, just to pick two illustrative examples. Bonds isn’t even a great example, because his batting eye was otherworldly. Alex Rodriguez struck…

Read “Breaking News: Strikeouts Are Bad” at FanGraphs