Tuesday, August 15, 2017

All Strikeouts Are Far From The Same

223. That's the number of strikeouts that Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Mark Reynolds put up in 2009. It's a major league record, and has stood for the past seven seasons. In 2017 however, it's almost certain to fall, and both Miguel Sano and Aaron Judge are chasing it. The question is, are all strikeouts the same?

There's an association with the strikeout that it is representative of negativity. In a certain context, that's a fair principle. At it's core, the strikeout is a non-productive at bat the results in an inning likely becoming less fruitful. For guys like Sano and Judge however, it seems a necessary evil, that most major league teams have given into.

Thus far in 2017, both Sano and Judge have launched their share of homers. The former has 26 to his credit, while the latter has 36. When striking out his big league record amount, Reynolds clubbed 44. There's some key differences among the trio however. As the strikeout ties them together, it's the underlying factors that separate them.

During his record setting season, Reynolds drew 76 walks and posted an on base percentage of .359. With a SLG percentage of .543, he totaled an .892 OPS. In comparison, it's Judge that has made his strikeouts less of a detriment than the Twins Sano. On the year, Judge owns a .420 OBP thanks to his league leading 87 walks. at a 1.028 OPS, he also leads the league. On the flip side, Sano has walked just 49 times, and owns only a .354 OBP. While his SLG is a solid .511, his .865 OPS checks in below the .916 mark he put up in his rookie season.

Looking at the group from a top down view, none of the three represent a black hole for their club. The production, despite the strikeouts, remains an asset. Chris Carter, virtually for his whole career, is where you get into the territory of the positives not being worth the strikeouts. While he launched a good deal of homers from 2013-2016, his OBP hovered around .300, while his OPS was north of .800 just once.

For the sake of this argument, Reynolds' 2009 is probably the baseline for where you'd like the combination to come in. The 44 longballs are a great offensive boon, and the .359 OBP is plenty efficient. Under those sentiments, Sano's 2017 is in jeopardy of leaving plenty to be desired. While he has just 26 homers to his credit, he hasn't picked up the pace significantly in the walks department. Finishing with an identical .269 average across 80 games in 2015, Sano has a .385 OBP. Right now, the Twins need Sano to trend more towards Judge, or even Reynolds.

Judge has drawn plenty of criticism for his second half slide. After batting well north of .300 for the first half, pitchers have beaten him consistently with the low and away pitch. Still though, he's drawn walks and has posted elite numbers despite the strikeouts. When the dust settles, his average is probably going to hover somewhere around the .270 mark. Even with that reality, he should have an OBP up in the .380 range, and his OPS will remain above the league leaders.

Strikeouts are something that plague most power hitters, and teams tend to put up with them to a certain extent. Chris Carter is jobless because his peripherals were of next to no value. Mark Reynolds has since reinvented himself and become a much more complete hitter. Aaron Judge is slipping some, but still owns extraordinary supporting stats. The Twins need Miguel Sano to tighten it up at the plate. In 2017, he's trended more towards Carter than Judge or Reynolds. The power will need to play for more longballs, and the in between times need to have more walks filtered in.

Right now, Sano has just over 1,100 big league at bats, and he's still just 24 years old. He can continue to mature as a hitter and shape his approach at the dish. As the Twins continue to work with him, they'll need to focus on the aspect of discipline and punishing mistakes. There's no cause for concern as it relates to the strikeout, but Minnesota needs more production when the ball isn't leaving the yard.

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