Strike Out Rates

Getting some stat watching done over the weekend as it has been a glaring weakness of late.  Game is at 7pm EDT.  Preview is here.

Over the last couple weeks, something that has really stood out to me as I watch the Michigan baseball team has been the rate at which we strike out. Strike outs are obviously the worst form of put out out side of the double play (or triple play, although much less common). Strike outs do not test the defense. They, statistically speaking, are subject to much less chance of error for the defense. Unless the batter swing at a pitch in the dirt with no runner on first, the batter is out. Even if the ball is in the dirt, there is still slim chance that the runner beats out a throw to first.

For the season, we have played 13 games, and we have struck out 116 times. That works to an average of 8.9 Ks/game. For the sake of continuing with tempo free statistics to balance out games in which we are home and don’t bat in the 8th inning and games in which we have gone into extra innings, we have hit a total of 114 innings, placing our strike out rate at 9.16 Ks/9-innings, or just 1.018 Ks/inning. That rate is obscenely high, and has killed several run scoring opportunities.

You can click on that graph to see it a little bit larger. You can pretty much ignore Safara, Bircher, and Arbor as they have one plate appearance or less this season. Really, outside of the normal starters, you should still probably reserve judgment, as Oaks, Aspinwall, Kittle, and Stephens all have far fewer plate appearances than the regulars. Crank is teetering on meaningful.

Looking at just the starters, 3 players stand out from the bulk, that is Lorenz, Fellows, and Cislo. Lorenz is currently striking out at least once in every three plate appearances, ~1 K in 2.67 PA. On the other side of the graph is Fellows and Cislo. Fellows is doing fairly well, striking out at a rate of .13 per plate appearance, or one in every 7.57 plate appearances. Cislo is by far the best on the team, striking out at a rate of .04, or once in every 16 at bats.

The rest of the team falls between .20 (McLouth) and .25 (Toth), meaning they strike out at about once per 4 (Toth) or 5 (McLouth) plate appearances. This generally means at least one strikeout per game per batter. Not good.

It gets worse when you look at it in terms of how that effects run scoring opportunities. By having the strike outs spread throughout the whole team, there is no way to really adjust the lineup to get the hitters together. Coach Maloney has already changed the order to adjust for the Fellows and Toth strike out rates, as well as Dufek and McLouth. There isn’t really anything he can do from a game management standpoint. It is up to the hitters to go out and do their thing.


Commenter Other Chris pointed out that it may or may not be good to compare last year’s numbers to this year’s, at least for the players who had considerable plate appearances last season.  I went back to look and came up with the following.

Player Last Year This Year
Mike Dufek .14 .23
Kevin Cilso .11 .06
Ryan LaMarre .17 .21
Alan Oaks .29 .45
Chris Berset .18 .04

While we are only a little ways into the season, some of these numbers are quite different from last year to this.  While LaMarre’s numbers don’t appear to be a big change, he’s averaging at least one more strike out per week.  LaMarre is almost always up to bat with runners on base, so those outs do affect whether or not we put up runs.  Dufek’s is even more drastic, averaging another strike out every other game, but that’s also why he’s dropped in the batting order.

I’ll be keeping an eye on these as the weekend and the conference schedule go along.  The pitching seems to be a strength with some of the other contenders, especically Penn State and Macy.  Go Blue.

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11 Comments so far

  1. JJ says...

    Power hitter always strike out more than others…and Coach LOVES power hitters. Oaks is the perfect example… in the past 3 years, both spring & summer, Oaks has more K’s than hits. Not a real solid performance if you ask me. Why does he play?…simple…coach loves power over everything else. Until the staff figures out that putting the ball in play is better than hoping for a long ball once or twice every game…probably wont change. Players know the way for a spot is to hit long, not for average. Staff is content to be strong in BT play…not on the national scene. Pitching is the same. Although coach says spots and changing speed is the key… the only pitcher you hear him talk about is Dufek and his 95mph fastball. And he has what?…2 appearances?

  2. I agree with power hitting having a place on the team, but at the same time, average has its place too. Oaks earned a starting role for his power for a few stints last season, but it was lost because ultimately, he didn’t have the balance of average. That’s at least how I interpreted it. I think that also had a lot to do with Fellows’ emergence as a pinch hitter more last season. Fellows was slightly more consistent and fit the pinch hit role of “get on base” rather than “knock runs in.” It depends on the players around them. This team is missing a key part of the lineup that is currently filled by Lorenz. He just hasn’t been producing to the level of the rest of the team.

    Like anything baseball, big hits and big arms turn heads as they produce results… when they happen. Fetter doesn’t have that speed, but he’s our All American candidate because he produces consistently.

    As for Dufek, I’m not sure why he isn’t pitching as much this season. He has done well so far. I’m wondering if Coach Maloney isn’t throwing him just to let him focus on offense. There are several coaches that would pull a pitcher rather than placing him back on the field, removing the bat from the lineup. I recall Coach putting Abraham back at third a few times in 2007, but those were few and far between as it was generally to close out games.

    Lastly, as this comment is getting pretty long, I agree with the focus that we perform on the BigTen level, but as I said about Macy at Penn State, the pitching in the BigTen is pretty good this year. Illinois and Ohio State also look to have above average pitching. We’ve also struggled against a few pitching staffs that have come out of nowhere to look really good. So its just a concern I have at this point. I think we’ll do well in the conference schedule, just not quite a well as normal.

  3. Jamal Wockenfuss says...

    “Strikeout” is one word.

  4. Other Chris says...

    I said it last year about Arizona’s game against EMU at Regionals, and the last sentence is still true: “That game was closer than the score looked. Arizona is totally mortal. Except for their closer, who is one scary MF.”

  5. colin says...

    What is the Big Ten Conference average? How does that adjust to out of conference games? How is the offense doing? Taking a lot of walks and hitting for power?

    A strikeout is worth 1 out. A weakly hit ground ball is 9/10 of an out. The marginal difference is totally unexceptional when you consider the benefit that typically comes with the strikeout: power. If you know the run value of outs, you know the value of power relative to outs, so you can determine who is striking out too much based on who can’t hit the ball hard. As long as the total output is sufficient, increased strikeouts hardly matter.

    You know, this was kind of straight out of Moneyball…

  6. I think you do an excellent job of explaining my thought on balance. I’m not sure the balance is there for a couple players, primarily Lorenz. Dufek might also be slightly behind that curve, but his numbers are improving. I’ll work on getting the BigTen team stats, but it’ll be a bit later in the week. The difference in competition may make it a little hard to quantify some of this. Teams like Ohio State are batting over .430 as a team right now. We’ll see if I find something half way close to conclusive.

  7. JJ says...

    Not a good series…ouch. Shoulda, woulda, coulda the first game… and then pitching disappeared for the final two. I don’t think Az is really all that good, I think we just wasn’t ready…or…maybe we’re just not that good? Hate to think that, but I thought this series was going to be the measuring stick. They’ll need to bounce back strong and kick some serious conference azz. Go Blue!

  8. Absolutely. Its something we should have known losing all those players last year, we’re going to struggle. We still have the conference schedule to get things figured out, it just won’t be the cake walk the last two years have been. Recap will be out in the morning to give Paul’s post some time to mellow.

  9. GeorgieBlue says...

    Nothing against Katzman or Smith, but I’d like to see Burgoon get a shot at starting one of the games next weekend. He performed well his last year starting in some big games as a Freshman. I understand the value of a solid closer, but lately he seems like he only gets thrown into bad situation after bad situation. No starter outside of Fetter is exactly setting the world on fire and I think Burgoon deserves a shot at starting a game fresh rather than cleaning up the mess all the time. Miller is another guy I would consider for a spot start. What do you guys think about giving some other guys a chance to start?

  10. I’m not sold on Katzman staying in the rotation too much longer unless he has another breakout performance like he did in his first game to buy him more time there. I’m really liking the idea of Miller getting a chance. He’s the most deserving at this point. We just haven’t had any mid-week games to try new guys out this season.

    As for Burgoon, it may very well be done soon, but I’ll leave that up for speculation. He’s been just as inconsistent as the rest of the staff sans Fetter/Miller. I just don’t know what to expect from anyone right now.

    Either way, I half expect someone else to be tested this weekend as a starter, if for no other reason to light a fire under one of the two current starters. My guess would be Sinnery, as he has more of the starter build.

  11. quag77 says...

    Gulp! Right now I’d leave the starters where they’re at. Tough few games but I think we’ll be ok. Strange that the entire(ok, all but 2) staff has inconsistency problems at the same time? Again, they’ll be fine.


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