Batters control strikeouts more than pitchers

In 2011, there were 185,245 plate appearances and 34,488 strikeouts, meaning that 18.6% of PAs resulted in strikeouts. This number is obviously the same whether you look at it from the batters’ standpoint or the pitchers’–both groups averaged the same 18.6% strikeout rate.

Among batters, though, we know there is a large variation in strikeouts. Among those who qualified for the batting title, Drew Stubbs (205) and Mark Reynolds (196) led the way while Juan Pierre (41) and Jose Reyes (41) had the fewest. That range of a factor of 5 is larger than that of pitchers. Among starters who qualified for the ERA title, Justin Verlander (250) and Clayton Kershaw (248) had the most while Brad Penny (74) and Josh Tomlin (89) brought up the rear. (Penny and Tomlin also pitched many fewer innings, and their K/9 rates were even closer to the leaders’.)

Click through for a histogram of the 2011 season broken down.


This plot shows the percentage of batters (among those qualified for the batting title) or pitchers (among those qualified for the ERA title) who had a given K per PA rate. At first glance, it may look like the distributions are quite similar. Notice, though, that the pitchers have a higher & narrower peak than the batters. Both groups have their peak in the 17.5 to 20% range but the pitchers have a significantly higher fraction of their members in this bin. The batters, meanwhile, place a higher percentage of players at the edges–below 12.5% and above 25%.

The data shows the same as what we described in words above–that batters have a wider range than pitchers. This means that striking out is really more in the batter’s control than the pitcher’s. Pretty much every starting pitcher will have a K rate within 50% of the average, while many batters do not.

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Doug
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“Pretty much every starting pitcher will have a K rate within 50% of the average, while many batters do not.”

Here are the numbers of 2011.
– 50% above mean: 1 pitcher (Greinke), 2 batters (Reynolds, Stubbs)
– 50% below mean: 1 pitcher (Penny), 9 batters (Callaspo, Carlos Lee, Victor Marinez, Molina, Pierre, Polanco, Prado, Pujols, Reyes)

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Definitely true.
A guy like Stubbs, great speed, marginal power, big value on D – product of an era that says ‘hack away’, you’re not gonna get to the Majors by bunting.

Speed: 93
Contact: 14

Those numbers should really be closer.

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/profile.asp?P=Drew-Stubbs

John Autin
Editor

What’s in a name?

Franklin Stubbs (1984-95) had a 96 OPS+, 3.6% HR rate, some speed, and one of the 40 highest K rates to that point in MLB history.

Drew Stubbs (2009-11) has a 96 OPS+, 3.1% HR rate, good speed, and the 14th-highest K rate in MLB history (nonpitchers, min. 1000 PAs).

Baseball Cube rates Franklin a 14 on Contact, same as Drew. They’re not related, as far as I know.

Stubby Overmire made better contact than either Stubbs, and he was a pitcher.

Tmckelv
Guest

I really thought Drew Stubbs 2011 would have the K + SB single season “record” (205 + 40 = 245), but then I noticed Mark Reynolds 2009 season (223K + 24SB = 247). Reynolds can’t be beat when it comes to K’s.

Ed
Guest

John – Franklin’s black, Drew’s white. So definitely not related.

John Autin
Editor

Ed … I thought you didn’t like jumping to conclusions? 🙂 I’m sure it’s unlikely, but very far from impossible.

Ed
Guest

I only jump when the conclusions are obvious. 🙂

“First, Stubbs has no relation to legendary Los Angeles Dodgers’ OF of the 1980’s Franklin Stubbs for obvious reasons. If you watch a Reds’ game from now until September, you will what I am talking about.”

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/239653-drew-stubbs-arives-in-cincinnati

kds
Guest

High K rate does not mean the batter is a hacker. Hackers don’t take pitches, so almost universally have low walk rates. Babe Ruth held the career K record for more than 35 years, he was not a hacker. (He held the career walk record for almost twice as long.) Juan Pierre doesn’t strike out often. He is a hacker, but has fairly good contact skills.

CursedClevelander
Guest

Since Jose Hernandez finished 1 short of Bobby Bonds’s K record in 2002 (Hernandez had 188, Bonds had 189), 5 guys have combined for 11 seasons of at least 194 K’s in the period from 2004-2011.

Take a bow, Mark Reynolds!

CursedClevelander
Guest

Alas, though Mark Reynolds left as the learner, Russell the Muscle is still the TTO master:

Career TTO%:

Reynolds: 50.1%
Branyan: 50.5%

Doug
Guest

Jack Cust is at 53% TTO for his career.

CursedClevelander
Guest

You’re right, Cust is even higher than Russ, though Russ is over the 3,000 PA cutoff used for a lot of rate stat records.

Doug
Guest

Adam Dunn is at 49.4%.

Dunn has 7 seasons with 25+ HR, 100+ BB and 150+ K. Jim Thome has 4 such seasons. Nobody else has more than two.

Mike L
Guest

Thome’s slash lines in those four years
.277/.426/.540 OPS+141
.266/.398/.532 OPS+132
.291/.416/.624 OPS+170
.266/.385/.573 OPS+154
he had eight full seasons with an OPS+ of over 150 with no less than 134K in any of those years and a 9th with (only) 113K. In 2002 he had an OPS+ of 197 with 139 Ks. I guess he hit them pretty well when he connected

bstar
Guest

Embarrassed for being uninformed, but what exactly is TTO% again?

birtelcom
Guest

No need for embarrassment — it’s Three True Outcomes: walk, strikeout, homer. “True” outcomes because not dependent on the vagaries of the placement and skill of the fielders on defense.

bstar
Guest

Sort of like an FIP stat for hitters, in that sense. FIH? Thnx, birtelcom.

birtelcom
Guest

Highest career K/PA% by a hitter (min. 1600 PAs):
Dave Nicholson 34.50%
Mark Reynolds 33.15%
Russell Branyan 32.90%
Bo Jackson 32.03%
Jack Cust 31.73%
Rob Deer 31.23%
Wily Mo Pena 30.30%

Reynolds and Branyan are career “slash line” clones:
Reynolds: .232 BA/.329 OBP/.485 SLG/.814 OPS
Branyan: .238 BA/.331 OBP/.483 SLG/.815 OPS

Doug
Guest

Reynolds has the highest single season rate – 35.4% in 2010.

Of 21 qualifying seasons over 30%, Reynolds and Rob Deer have 4 each, Jose Hernandez and Jack Cust each have 3, and Nicholson only one in 1963 (because it was his only qualifying season).

Doug
Guest

Biggest gap between #1 and #2 on ML season K list.

40, Gorman Thomas, 1979
37, Gorman Thomas, 1980
37, Mark Reynolds, 2009
35, Bobby Bonds, 1969
33, Bobby Bonds, 1970
33, Vince DiMaggio, 1938
32, Ryan Howard, 2007
31, Chet Ross, 1940
30, Jake Stahl, 1910
30, Billy Maloney, 1906

Cyril Morong
Guest
Interesting post. You may know that looking at the variation in certain stats and comparing hitters to pitchers has been done before. I did something on it, building on Bill James and Rob Wood. Here is the link: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/story/2006/8/25/83511/7939 Called “The Batter-Pitcher Matchup Revisited” It seems like in stats like SO rate, BB rate, HR rate, Hit rate, batters vary more than pitchers In his article “Hitter or Pitcher,” which appeared in the “By the Numbers,” the newsletter of SABR’s statistical analysis committee, Rob Wood supposed that there is a league where all the pitchers are of equal ability but… Read more »
kds
Guest
I think you would expect this. Position players can be good different ways. Ozzie Smith’s career value is to far from Frank Thomas’, but they did it completely differently. We could probably find another good RF/CF with as much offensive value as Ichiro, but much more power, many more K’s and BB’s, much lower BA. For pitchers they really have much less opportunity to add value in different ways. Basically, the pitcher has to get guys out without allowing many runs to score. Fielding his position, shutting down the running game, and batting can all help, but only at the… Read more »
Cyril Morong
Guest

Interesting point. Maybe we should do the hitters variance by position (I think that I have heard that before but can’t recall where)

Albanate
Guest
I don’t know if anyone’s brought this up before, but I mostly read HHS on my mobile device, and I think that one small change to the site would really help people like me who look at the site using mobile devices. When I look at the site, there are usually a half dozen new posts or more (That’s because unlike most of you, I have a job, kids to raise, and don’t live in my mom’s basement and thus can’t be on the site 24/7–Kidding, kidding–please no hate mail) I usually start with the newest posts, read all the… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Albanate. You could try to toggle back to the regular display by clicking on off on the mobile theme at the bottom of the screen

Albanate
Guest

Mile L–thanks for the suggestion. Not sure what you mean though. Will show to a more tech savvy friend who hopefully can explain.

birtelcom
Guest
Re strikeouts: Here’s a shout-out to just-retired Mike Cameron, who had a marvelous career (sadly with no World Series appearances to show for it) and who is also the all-time strikeout king of center fielders. Using the PI’s Batting Game Finder, here are the top 10 most strikeouts accumulated in games played as a center fielder (number of PAs in games played as a CF are in parens): 1. Mike Cameron 1,773 (7,402) 2. Jim Edmonds 1,586 (7,323) 3. Willie Mays 1,447 (12,085) 4. Ken Griffey Jr. 1,442 (9,346) 5. Devon White 1,404 (7,509) 6. Andruw Jones 1,395 (7,225) 7.… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Alba. Try going to the very bottom of the comments and keep scrolling below that to the very bottom of the page. You should see Mobile Theme and a button to the right that says On. Tap that and see if it works

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