Thursday, July 2, 2009

Swing and a Miss

OK, I understand that the game of baseball has changed since the beginning of the 20th century and it can be difficult to compare players over different eras, to a certain degree. We've gone from putting the ball in play and stealing bases to smacking home runs back to speed and getting on base to chicks digging the long ball and now to hitting for power while also striking out a lot, which Tim Kurkjian wants to point out to us.

Swinging hard ... and missing often

Players are definitely striking out much more often than their baseball ancestors of yester-year. A price they are paying for aiming over the wall on every at bat. Whether you want to blame that on SportsCenter, steroids, Mark McGwire or David Eckstein, I really do not care.

You can be mad like Timmy that current players have become numb to striking out 100+ times, or even 200+ times, every year. But before you hop on the Kurkjian bandwagon, let's understand a few things first.

  • Tim likes to compare the everyday player to Joe Dimaggio, Babe Ruth, and Slut's all-time favorite baseball player, Ted Williams. Not exactly a fair comparison, but I understand the point he was trying to get across.

  • As he points out, during Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak, he faced 53 different pitchers. Now a batter can face a different pitcher in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. In 1941, the year of the streak, Major League pitchers had 1,027 complete games between the 16 teams. In 2008, we had a whopping 136 complete games with 30 teams. In 1941, there were 1,331 home runs. So there were nearly as many complete games pitched than there were home runs!

  • Adam Dunn is the poster child for striking out.

  • The ultimate kicker is this:

It's also rising because of today's emphasis on on-base percentage, working deep counts and taking walks. Granted, Ruth and Williams were walk machines, but they are the two greatest hitters of all time, and they were way ahead of their time. Dunn is a perfect example of today's hitter. He is in his ninth season, and he has, by a healthy margin, more strikeouts than Williams and DiMaggio combined. But he also has a career on-base percentage of nearly .400 thanks to all his walks.

Yes, you heard it hear from Tim Kurkjian first - strike outs are rising because of On-Base Percentage. The dreaded OBP! So tell me Tim, how does an emphasis on having a better OBP result in more Ks?!?!?!?

And if Adam Dunn is the poster child for striking out, then why do you praise him as the perfect example of today's hitter? While Dunn strikes out more than most, he has hit at least 40 HRs each of the last five years and still is in the Top 10 or 20 in OBP each year. He gets on base which is what players are SUPPOSED to do. If Dunn's OBP was hovering around .300, then you have a better argument. But the fact his lifetime OBP is .382 and his OPS is .901, I would seriously consider having him on my team.

And just exactly how were Ruth and Williams ahead of their time? Not that Tim gives us an explanation of how they were ahead. Were the initial players who used steroids ahead of their time as well?

This article is very Kravitz-ian in that he has a valid point regarding players are striking out more than ever, but like Kravitz, he is either wacky on how he backs up his point (OBP is causing more Ks?!?) or has issues making a point (Dunn sucks because he strikes out too much, but his high OBP makes him the perfect example of today's hitter).

Tim, why don't you go back to your day job! Oh, wait...this is your day job. Aww, shit. Sucks to be you!

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