Strikeout Milestones and Related Musings

Following up on a post by birtelcom concerning the continually increasing trend to more strikeouts in the game, I noticed that there is likely to be a lot of action on the strikeout milestone list this year. After the break, I’ll take a look at today’s career strikeout kings and their predecessors.

First, the milestones:

2500 – Earlier this season, Jim Thome became the second member of the 2500 strikeout club, the first in 26 years to join inaugural club member Reggie Jackson, who reached that total with his final strikeout of the 1986 season. Thome, if he plays again next year, has a shot at displacing Jackson as the all-time leader, though Adam Dunn, at his current pace, may have the better chance.

2000 – Later this season, Alex Rodriguez and Adam Dunn will likely become the 5th and 6th members of the 2000 strikeout club. Prior to the last week of the 2003 season, only Jackson was at this total, which he reached 20 years previously, in 1983.

1500 – Further down the list, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and possibly Carlos Pena are poised to join the 1500 club later this season, which would then number 54 members. Mickey Mantle was the first to reach this total, in 1966, and fewer than 20 players had done so as recently as the start of the 1995 season.

Despite this explosion of new names on the upper reaches of the career strikeout list, only 5 players in the past 100 years have held the top spot. Jimmy Sheckard succeeded Tom Brown (one of only two players to hail from Liverpool, England) in 1912, then was passed by Babe Ruth with the Bambino’s 850th whiff in 1928. Ruth retired with 1330 Ks, a mark not passed until Mantle in 1964. Willie Stargell passed Mantle’s 1710 total in 1978, and Stargell was passed by Jackson in the 1982 season while Pops was still active. Reggie’s 30 years and counting in the top spot are approaching the Babe’s tenure of 36 years.

Following from a recent post on achievements by teammates, these are the players (unless I’ve missed some) to accumulate 2000 or more combined strikeouts as teammates. The ones in red are the pairs who had achieved this mark when Reggie Jackson became the career strikeout leader in 1982.

With the explosion in strikeouts in the past 30 hours has come an explosion in home runs. Here are the members of the strikeout and home run clubs in the past 50 years.

[table id=62 /]

 

So, there are now more players in the 500 HR club than were in the 300 HR club in 1960. Similarly, by the end of this season, there will likely be as many players in the 2000 strikeout club as were in the 1000 strikeout club in 1960.

But, are the extra home runs worth all the extra strikeouts? I don’t know, but maybe the serious sabermetricians out there can tackle that one. FWIW, here are the extremes – the players with the best and worst career ratios between home runs and strikeouts.

[table id=61 /]

[table id=63 /]

 

Some other little tidbits.

  • The most career home runs by a player to never strike out is … one, by 4 players (excl. 2 in the Federal League). This was accomplished most recently by pitchers Mark Worrell and Esteban Yao, both in very limited PAs. The other two were Mike Ulicny (19 PA in 1945) and Abie Hood (23 PA in 1925), both with the Braves.
  • The most career strikeouts by a player never to hit a home run is …  420, by Dean Chance. The most for a non-pitcher is 231 by Tim Thompson, an infielder with the Brewers and Blue Jays in the 1970s.
  • For the past two seasons, the Yankees have had three 1500 strikeout players (Jeter, A-Rod and Andruw) on their roster, the only team with this distinction.
  • The only pair of teammates with 4000 combined career strikeouts were Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers, with a mark of 4061 at the end of the 2009 season.
  • The first game with two players with a combined 3000 career strikeouts was Yankees vs Tigers on Sep 25, 1967, with Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews. This was also the first AL game featuring two players each with 500 career home runs.
  • The first game with two players with a combined 4000 career strikeouts was Athletics vs Angels on Apr 11, 1986, with Reggie Jackson and Dave Kingman.
  • The first game with two players each with 2000 career strikeouts was Rangers vs White Sox on Aug 28, 2007, with Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome. At the end of the Aug 30 game of the same series, their combined total was 4316. This series was the only time two 2000 strikeout players have faced each other. Other pairs of such players (A-Rod/Dunn, A-Rod/Thome and Dunn/Thome) may connect later this season.
  • With a combined total of 4361, Jim Thome and A-Rod have the most strikeouts of any two players to appear together in the same game, when the Twins faced the Yankees on Aug 21, 2011. This was also the first (and, so far, the only) AL game with two players each with 600 career home runs. Now that Thome is back in the AL, both these marks may be extended.

 

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40 Comments on "Strikeout Milestones and Related Musings"

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Mike L
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The question of whether the extra home runs worth all the extra strikeouts seems to be answered by the results-batters go deeper in the count and they swing harder because management, consciously or not, encourages it. Part of the reason they do that is because the players are larger and stronger (steroids or not) and the stadiums are more homer-favorable, so the greater possibility of hitting one out is more attractive than small ball. Part of it is just the way we approach modern baseball. There’s a little vignette in The Summer of ’49 where, in the final, decisive game… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Doug: The 1987 A’s had Reggie, Jose, and Mark—just for one year, but they all clocked out at over 1500 SOs. The question of more home runs being worth the excessive strikeouts ought to have a resounding NO as its answer, if for no other reason than the perpetual complaint of the short-attention-span crowd that nothing happens for such long stretches in a baseball game. But it is this same crowd, paradoxically, who go starry-eyed when a long pop fly makes it past a short fence. Anyone with a feel for the nuances of the game has to dislike the… Read more »
Thomas Court
Guest

I apologize for this being off topic, but I was wondering if anyone could answer this question for me.

Yesterday Derek Jeter appeared in his 1500 game in which his team was victorious. Is there someplace on Baseball Reference where you can find the list of all time leaders in this category? My first though is Pete Rose of course, since he played in more than 3500 games for mostly above average teams.

Thanks in advance

Thomas Court
Guest

Found it… by looking at “Career Splits”

Rose is first with 1972 games played on a winning team
Aaron I believe is second with 1735 games.

Yaz 1718
The Man 1653
Willie 1643
Fat Head 1606
Rickey 1585

Richard Chester
Guest

Here are some more guys with more than 1500 wins:
Reggie Jackson….1579
Brooks Robinson…1636
Hank Aaron……….1735 (confirms post 6)
Omar Vizquel…….1525
Cal Ripken……….1501
Derek Jeter………1500 and counting
Tony Perez………..1503
Babe Ruth had 1405 from 1918 to 1935. I haven’t the time now to check his prior years.

Ed
Guest

Eddie Murray….1601.

no statistician but
Guest

The first player I thought of here was Yogi Berra, since he played on the most championship teams, but upon checking, I found he only played in 2120 games—at a .603 winning %, though: 1276 wins, 839 loses, 5 ties. I don’t have the incentive to check piecemeal, but maybe some of you stats guys can find a shortcut to finding out who played at the highest winning level.

Richard Chester
Guest

Here’s one. Paul Blair’s team record for games in which he played was 1207-740 for .620.

Paul E
Guest

Richard Chester:
Wow! .620 = 100-62 W – L record. Is there any way of checking that compared to the traditional “winners” or is this a timely spread sheet scenario?

Richard Chester
Guest

I have a book that lists highest winning percentage for the years 1957-2006 only. Blair had the highest percentage for all players who appeared in at least 1000 games. If you feel like checking, other names on the list are Jeter, Geronimo, Kubek, Chipper Jones, Belanger, Andruw Jones, Posada, Bernie Williams, Lemke, Gerald Williams, Eric Chavez, Richardson and Justice. The list is missing some names.

bstar
Guest

Thanks, Richard, I’d just spent the last 30 minutes looking for Big Red Machiners and Posada, Bernie, etc. Saved me some time.

Richard Chester
Guest

Joe DiMaggio:.640

Evil Squirrel
Guest

Scott Ruffcorn: .000 (0-30)

Ed
Guest

Part of Blair’s “success” is due to the fact that he was often used as a late inning defensive replacement, and team’s generally only use defensive subs when they’re already ahead. Blair’s teams won “only” .578 percent of the games he started whereas they won .745 percent of the games he was used as a sub.

MikeD
Guest
If the increase in strikeouts also corresponded to a decrease in run scoring, then we can say it’s counter productive. Yet outside of the recent down tick in scoring, the trend showed the opposite. Hitting was increasing as strikeouts were rising. While strikeouts means nothing can happen to advance a runner, it also means the hitter is not going to produce a doubleplay. Beyond that, I don’t care if a hitter is making an out by popping up to short or striking out. I take that back. I’m actually more annoyed at the pop up to short! The aggressive approach… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
“While strikeouts mean nothing can happen to advance a runner” they also mean the batter doesn’t get to first base by way of a hit—or the occasional error (unless the catcher drops the ball). Anytime this subject arises here there seems to be an outbreak of Twinkillingophobia, as if the inevitable result of a hit baseball with runners on base is a double play. I have no statistics, as usual, to back up this statement, but I doubt seriously that double plays happen with nearly the frequency of hits when there are men on base and fewer than two outs.… Read more »
Michael Sullivan
Guest
the major league average for GIDP is about 11% of opportunities (man on first, less than 2 outs). That’s a lot, and it includes all PAs not just balls put in play. So there is always a pretty good chance of grounding into a DP when you put the ball in play with men on. You will hit more often, but the point here is that the DP changes the relative merits. Nobody will *never* put the ball in play. The patient hitters, will take *marginal* pitches. Pitches they didn’t really like, or thought were probably balls. And some of… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

I’m not sure how your response addresses my rather narrow complaint about some posters here having an irrational fear of the double play. Incidentally, in their careers in potential GIDP situations, Reggie had 572 H, 202 W, 183 GIDP; Lead Foot had 447 H, 226 W, 243 GIDP; Thome had 533 H, 275 W, 161 GIDP. Subtracting for home runs, even Killebrew had 87 more hits than GIDP.

I’m a great believer in both putting the ball in play and in taking a walk when the situation arises. I’m not fond of the home run, walk, or strikeout mentality.

Jim Bouldin
Guest

Would it be fair to say that when Harmon was at the plate in potential GIDP situations, there was reason for a degree of…wait for it now…
“Twintwinkillingophobia”. And if he did that twice in a game, we would have…oh never mind

🙂

Jim Bouldin
Guest

“I’m a great believer in both putting the ball in play and in taking a walk when the situation arises. I’m not fond of the home run, walk, or strikeout mentality.”

I’m with you 100%. Give me 9 Ichiros over 9 Reggie Jacksons any day.

birtelcom
Editor

Interestingly, b-ref gives Reggie 44.5 oWAR for his seasons 27 through 37 and gives Ichiro 44.2 oWAR for his seasons 27 through 37. Essentially identical value estimates as offensive players, for the eleven full age-years they have in common. Different styles, comparable values.

Michael E Sullivan
Guest
What posters have demonstrated an irrational fear of the double play? The person you are replying to? I don’t think so. It’s not irrational to treat the possibility of a GIDP as a downside. It would be irrational to propose that one *never* swing in potential DP situations, but who the heck has ever suggested such a ridiculous thing? All I’ve ever done, or seen saber-inclined people do is justify the preferences of certain top-level major league hitters, who put the ball in play plenty, but *somewhat less* than the average MLB hitter, and thus collect a lot of SOs… Read more »
Jim Bouldin
Guest

hmmm, interesting data birtelcom. I smell a potential analysis brewing.

MikeD
Guest
Considering the rapid rise in strikeouts, and that Reggie Jackson retired twenty-five years ago, I am surprised no player has yet to pass him. There are certainly many players who strikeout at a higher percentage, but to own that record a player needs to record a high number of strikeouts, yet also be so good that he can player for twenty-plus years. Based on that, a player like A-Rod might be more likely to pass Reggie than others if he can maintain his health. Ultimately, though, even A-Rod probably won’t have the chance. He has five years left on his… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Jim THOME – 87 SO away, but he’s 42, so even at DH now he’s probably not an everyday player. But if he can continue to pop the occasional HR and draw some walks, he’ll justify giving him enough PA (150 the rest of the year?) to close that gap considerably. If he plays in 2013, he’d have a decent chance of passing Reggie’s 2597. A-ROD – 611 SO away, with 5 1/2 years left on his contract. His K rate this year would be about 140 over a full season,so at first glance it looks like he’s got a… Read more »
Jimbo
Guest

As long as Adam Dunn doesn’t get injured, we are going to be talking about both his 2011 and 2012 season’s for a long time.

My thoughts are that tons of players developed this swing for the fences approach when steroids were abundant and balls were clearing the fences. The steroids went away, and the pitchers adjusted, and now there are guys striking out 130+ times a year who aren’t even hitting for much power.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

#28/Jim Bouldin –
Ichiro! vs. Reggie!: In his Oakland A’s days Reggie Jackson was a good defensive rightfielder, capable of playing CF (188 career games), and also a fine baserunner and base stealer; he was nowhere near the one-dimensional slugger many people remember him from his later Yankees/ Angels days.

While many people will prefer Ichiro! aesthetically, I’ll take Reggie!, because of his better peak value.

As #29/birtelcom says, “Different styles, comparable values.”.

Jim Bouldin
Guest

Actually I was thinking the same thing–Reggie swiped some bags when he was younger, and had a terrific arm. And of course it’s always fun to watch someone vaporize a baseball every now and then, or hit one off of a light tower on a stadium roof–in an All Star game. Seriously, could anybody hit a baseball farther than that guy?

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

“could anybody hit a baseball farther than that guy?”

A) For starters/ ALL-TIME (in rough order, esp. Top-5):
-Babe Ruth (clear #1)
-Mickey Mantle
-Jimmy Foxx
(Mantle and Foxx are about equal, but Mantle wins because he could do it from both sides of the plate)
-Mark McGwire
-Josh Gibson

-Frank Howard (esp. in JFK Stadium)
-Ted Williams
-Willie Stargell
-Dave Kingmen
-Dick Allen

Honorable Mention: Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Junior Griffey

B) Other contemporaries of Reggie:
-Harmon Killebrew
-Jim Rice
-Boog Powell
-Yaz
-Frank Robinson
-Mike Schmidt
-Willie Mays or the other Willie (“Stretch”)

Tell me whom I left out…

Jim Bouldin
Guest

I’m not convinced that any of those guys could hit the ball farther than Reggie could, and definitely not that Ruth was the clear #1. Maybe Kingman or Howard.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Sorry, I didn’t mean to literally state that everyone on my list had indeed hit longer HRs than Reggie Jackson. I was just putting together a quick list of the sluggers who hit the longest HRs. I _do_ think that Ruth (by far), Mantle and Foxx consistently hit longer HRs than Reggie. There’s ample newspaper reports to confirm that The Babe hit the ball further than anyone else in MLB history. And yes, I AM AWARE of Reggie’s monumental HR in Detriot in the 1971 AS game. I’m looking at the whole career, not just one extraordinary moment.
John Autin
Editor
Good post, Doug, and a very interesting topic. Sorry I’m late to the discussion. Some people have asserted that “more strikeouts = more pitches.” I think this is a false assumption that ignores the positive correlation (for pitchers) between strikeouts and success rate, and thus to lasting deep into games. I just ran a little study on pitcher starts in 2012. I gathered all 254 starts facing at least 30 batters, copied them into Excel, and sorted them according to the percentage of batters they struck out. I then formed two groups at the extremes — the top and bottom… Read more »
Velma Ledy
Guest

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