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.
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.
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.
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?