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Feature
 
 
Strikeouts Are Not The Problem

Bethke
on 07/29/2001

 
Paul Molitor was down with OBP.

Many Brewers fans see their team leading the NL in K's, on a record pace mind you, and blame that for the team's offensive woes. Well, many fans are incorrect.

Strikeouts are not a good thing, but neither are fly outs and ground outs. There are few circumstances in which a K is worse than other types of outs, but they are few and far between. Many people feel that one of the keys to successful run production is as simple as NOT making outs. This is why many of us do not worry about K totals nearly as much as we do the team's OBP (on base percentage). Taking a look at this year's NL team statistics, you may see why.

First of all, let's take a look at the teams with the most K's, shall we? I will list the top five strikeout teams, followed by their rank in runs scored.

MIL-13th (of 16th)
SD-----3rd
HOU--2nd
FLA---7th
CIN---14th

So, the top five K teams include 2 of the top 3 offensive teams, and 3 of the top 7. It seems to me this is hardly a convincing argument that being strikeout prone is why our Brewers have struggled. So, allow us to do the same with the bottom 5 OBP teams.

MIL-13th
PIT----15th
NYM-16th
CIN---14th
ATL-9th

All 5 are in the bottom half, and the bottom 4 OBP teams are also the bottom 4 run producing teams. This seems like a pretty factual "if this, then that" argument. If you are a poor OBP club, you will also be a poor run producing team.

So while it may be fashionable to blame the strikeout, the problem appears to be simply not getting on base enough. Looking at the lineup, it won't be an easy problem to fix. Only two members of the lineup, Ronnie Belliard and Jeromy Burnitz, are above average at their position in OBP. It could also be noted that these two are the most unpopular Brewers, as far as internet message boards and talk radio goes. The casual baseball fan either doesn't care, or isn't educated enough to understand it. Geoff Jenkins is near mediocre, the rest of the club is below average. Does that mean we have five positions that we need to improve? Well..

Richie Sexson is going nowhere. His OBP was a question when we got him, and it appears he will peak at an OK OBP. If he is able to keep his SLG at current levels, OK is fine.

The other positions; C, SS, 3B, and CF are where the obvious upgrades must occur. In a successful, above average season for him, Jose Hernandez still has mustered only a .300 OBP. Tyler Houston, while in the midst of a two year resurgence, still owns a .300ish career OBP. Making at least one out in 70% of your plate appearances is simply not acceptable.

This is not an easy thing to deal with. Hitting is a lifetime art. No one can simply change the way a hitter approaches his AB. Many look to attack the first good pitch they see. Of course, Paul Molitor was a first pitch, fastball hitter for his entire career, and finished with HOF numbers, including a very good OBP.

Plate discipline is the key. Houston and Hernandez, for the most part, couldn't hit a breaking ball if they knew it was coming. But that doesn't stop them from trying. Belliard and Burnitz both take a lot of pitches, before the two strike mark. If they don't like 'em, they don't swing at 'em. This is not to say they are never fooled, and never swing at poor pitches. But, overall, they wait for a pitch they can hit, work the count, and do their best to "not get out".

If only we had eight guys in our lineup that thought that way, we'd have a much better offensive team. If they struck out a lot while doing that, so be it.

The Brewers are not producing at a high level offensively because of a poor OBP, not because many of their outs are of one variety and not another.

 




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