This past week, Jack Cust was released and later picked up by the Yankees on a minor-league contract. Cust, at 53.0%, is the active career leader in TTO% (three true outcomes – % of PAs resulting in BBs, Ks or HRs). Generally, those high on the TTO list (usually around 50% of PAs) need to be high up on each of the component lists, if not among the league leaders. If they are, they stand a decent chance of being positive contributors.

Strikeouts are customarily seen as unproductive outs and therefore something to be minimized. Of course, those with high strikeouts can mitigate their negative impact by providing power. I was interested, though, to find out if any players had made positive offensive contributions even when their power did not seem adequate to compensate for their strikeouts.

To find out, I looked for qualifying seasons where a player has 3 times as many strikeouts as extra-base hits. There have been 404 such seasons since 1961. Here’s how those seasons are distributed.

OPS+ WAR
Maximum 148 6.7
Top Decile 113 3.2
Top Quartile 98 2.2
Median 84 1.0
Bottom Quartile 73 0.1
Bottom Decile 60 -0.7
Minimum 38 -2.9

Clearly, it’s not easy to contribute with this batting characteristic. Less than one quarter of these seasons achieved even 100 OPS+. However, the top of the list at 148 OPS+ and 6.7 WAR, while not off the charts, is clearly nothing to sneeze at. Those guys could play on my team. So, who are they?

Here are the guys with OPS+ of 125 and WAR of 2 or more. It’s a pretty short list.

Rk Player OPS+ WAR/pos SO XBH Year Tm G PA AB R H HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Jack Clark 148 4.2 145 46 1989 SDP 142 594 455 76 110 26 94 132 .242 .410 .459 .869 *39
2 Jack Cust 146 3.0 164 45 2007 OAK 124 507 395 61 101 26 82 105 .256 .408 .504 .912 D97
3 Rick Monday 141 3.9 143 39 1968 OAK 148 563 482 56 132 8 49 72 .274 .371 .402 .773 *8
4 Reggie Jackson 138 4.9 171 48 1968 OAK 154 614 553 82 138 29 74 50 .250 .316 .452 .768 *98/7
5 B.J. Upton 136 4.7 154 50 2007 TBD 129 548 474 86 142 24 82 65 .300 .386 .508 .894 *84/D
6 Billy Grabarkewitz 134 6.5 149 45 1970 LAD 156 640 529 92 153 17 84 95 .289 .399 .454 .852 *564
7 Phil Bradley 132 3.3 134 43 1986 SEA 143 615 526 88 163 12 50 77 .310 .405 .445 .849 *7/8
8 Jack Clark 130 3.1 141 41 1988 NYY 150 616 496 81 120 27 93 113 .242 .381 .433 .815 *D93/7
9 Jack Cust 129 2.3 197 52 2008 OAK 148 598 481 77 111 33 77 111 .231 .375 .476 .851 *7D/9
10 Dwayne Murphy 129 4.6 91 28 1981 OAK 107 477 390 58 98 15 60 73 .251 .369 .408 .777 *8/D
11 Jose Canseco 128 2.1 128 41 1992 TOT 119 512 439 74 107 26 87 63 .244 .344 .456 .799 *9D
12 Ron LeFlore 128 4.8 111 35 1976 DET 135 603 544 93 172 4 39 51 .316 .376 .410 .786 *8/D
13 Jesse Barfield 127 4.6 150 48 1990 NYY 153 570 476 69 117 25 78 82 .246 .359 .456 .815 *9/8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/13/2012.

Overall, quite a mixed bag of different kinds of players, and none of the free-swinging guys of recent years. There is some decent WAR too, with most of the seasons above 4. Also a bit remarkable that, with only 13 players from the last 51 years, 2 of those 13 (Jackson and Monday) would be from the same team.

The two Jacks (Clark and Cust) both appear here twice, each time with over 100 walks. Most of the guys here walk quite a bit, but a couple (Leflore, Jackson) have comparatively modest totals. Jackson, in fact, managed only a .316 OBP (although, the AL average that year was only .297).

A few guys had decent (but only decent) batting averages, but 8 of the 13 had averages of .256 or less. But, probably not too surprising given the number of strikeouts.

Most showed some power, but not massively, and some (LeFlore, Monday) hardly at all. The highest total of extra-base hits was only 52, hardly an imposing total (the lowest league-leading total in a full live-ball season was 61 by Enos Slaughter in 1942).

Mixed bag of speed on this list, too. Everything from molasses-like Cust to speedsters like Upton and LeFlore.

Looking at the top 10 in WAR, regardless of OPS+ give us mostly a different set of seasons.

Rk Player WAR/pos OPS+ SO XBH Year Age Tm G PA AB R H HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Bill North 6.7 110 89 20 1973 25 OAK 146 642 554 98 158 5 34 78 .285 .376 .348 .725 *8/D9
2 Billy Grabarkewitz 6.5 134 149 45 1970 24 LAD 156 640 529 92 153 17 84 95 .289 .399 .454 .852 *564
3 Brett Gardner 5.2 105 101 32 2010 26 NYY 150 569 477 97 132 5 47 79 .277 .383 .379 .762 *78/D
4 Drew Stubbs 5.2 105 168 47 2010 25 CIN 150 583 514 91 131 22 77 55 .255 .329 .444 .773 *8
5 Bill North 5.2 103 80 23 1975 27 OAK 140 624 524 74 143 1 43 81 .273 .373 .330 .703 *8/7D
6 Brett Butler 5.1 114 79 20 1991 34 LAD 161 730 615 112 182 2 38 108 .296 .401 .343 .744 *8
7 Michael Bourn 5.0 104 140 46 2011 28 TOT 158 722 656 94 193 2 50 53 .294 .349 .386 .734 *8
8 Michael Bourn 4.9 89 109 33 2010 27 HOU 141 605 535 84 142 2 38 59 .265 .341 .346 .686 *8
9 Reggie Jackson 4.9 138 171 48 1968 22 OAK 154 614 553 82 138 29 74 50 .250 .316 .452 .768 *98/7
10 Gary Pettis 4.8 88 132 32 1986 28 CAL 154 628 539 93 139 5 58 69 .258 .339 .343 .683 *8/D
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/1/2012.

The lower OPS+ guys here got good chunks of their WAR from their baserunning or their defense (or both).

So, what’s the secret to being a positive contributor with lots of strikeouts and not a lot of power?

 

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