Eighteen of the thirty Major League Baseball teams struckout more than 1200 times in 2012.
So what do the Pittsburgh Pirates have in common with some of the best clubs in the game like the Oakland A’s, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, and the hated Cincinnati Reds? Each of those teams were in the top ten in strikeouts in 2012.
The Pittsburgh Pirates struck out a ton last year. It seemed that all too often, the Bucs were allowing an opposing starting pitcher to set a new career high in strikeouts. Max Scherzer, Yovani Gallardo, Mat Latos, Jaime Garcia, Travis Wood, blah, blah, blah all set records against the swing-and-missin’ Buccos.
But knowing that more and more outcomes for Major League hitters end up with strikeouts, we weren’t concerned as much as we were interested in knowing how the Pirates ranked by position against the successful teams in baseball.
We went to Fangraphs and took a longer look at those 1,354 strikeouts recorded by Bucco hitters. The Pirates ranked third in Major League Baseball behind the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros.
As we mentioned above, it was the other teams in the top ten that surprised us as well as something we discovered when looking at the strikeouts by position player.
The A’s won 94 games while leading the league in strikeouts.
The Astros played solid baseball down the stretch after a pitiful start. In fact the team won more games without Wandy Rodriguez than the Pirates did with him. The Astros were the worst team in baseball while finishing second in strikeouts.
The Pirates finished third in strikeouts. But if you remember the Pirates were 16 games over .500 at 63-47 as late as August 8. Ahh, nevermind, just nevermind. You remember what happened to the Pirates in 2012.
The Washington Nationals won 98 games while finishing fourth in the league in strikeouts.
The Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games and finished fifth in strikeouts.
The Baltimore Orioles won 93 games. You guessed it the O’s finished sixth in K’s. The Braves and Diamondbacks followed at seven and eight. While the Reds and Mariners finished off the top ten.
So here is what we found out. Teams are striking out more. Some of the most successful teams we might add, although the World Champion San Francisco Giants did finish 26th in strikeouts. But the three teams that struckout the least, the Indians, Twins, and the Royals, didn’t exactly set MLB on fire with their performance in 2012.
We also discovered that when looking at the Pirates strikeouts by position, only shortstop, left field and right field ranked in the top ten. And barely in each case.
An example of the difference between the A’s and the Bucs is glaring when looking at left field production. While the A’s were the leaders in strikeouts by LF with a monsterous 341, the production from A’s left fielders included 56 bombs, 61 doubles, 148 walks and 190 runs driven in which pales in comparision to the Bucs miniscule 20 homers, 47 doubles, just 71 walks and 73 runs driven in from left fielders.
Face it. In the modern game, we are seeing less and less balls put into play which means thanks to the pitchers taking care of business, defense is having less of an impact than it has in the past. More runs are being scored thanks, in part, to a higher home run percentage than we saw twenty years ago.
I’m not saying the Pirates don’t have a strikeout problem. I am saying that a lot of teams have a strikeout problem. When you go back and look at the strikeouts by team from 1992, the leader was the San Francisco Giants with 1067. The Giants would finish 29th with that number in 2012. Back in 1992, the Pirates were 16th with 872.
So when the guy in the Starter jacket bitches about all those Bucco strikeouts, tell him what you learned today. Everyone’s doing it old man! Drink your beer, relax and enjoy the trend known as MLB strikeout warming.
Oh yeh, be sure to remind him that Jay Bell is the Pirates new sheriff in town, that may shut him up.
Pirates Strikeouts by Position from Fangraphs
C 142 strikeouts 13th
1B 204 stirkeouts 14th
2B 157 strikeouts 11th
SS 159 strikeouts 7th
3B 180 strikeouts 11th*
RF 227 strikeouts 9th
CF 150 strikeouts 22nd
LF 243 strikeouts 9th
OF 512 strikeouts 14th ( Only the Brewers outfielders (500) struckout less within the NL Central )
Fangraphs production numbers for the Pirates third base * position seems whack. What it looks like is Pedro Alvarez’s numbers are posted while I know for example Josh Harrison struckout three times while playing 3B. So take the 3B number with a grain of salt.