Follow up to yesterday’s “Can’t ANYBODY Hit the Ball?“
As rookie Cody Bellinger and second-year man Corey Seager are developing into solid power hitters in the LA Dodgers’ lineup, one thinks back over the past few decades to three other power-hitting duos that the Dodgers featured for long stretches of time, duos that hit home runs and drove in runs, but that struck out at significantly lower rates than the average player of today, and at significantly lower rates that Bellinger and Seager do today.
Going back to the 1970s, the Dodgers’ lineup featured the play and the power of Steve Garvey and Ron Cey. Garvey was an everyday player in the team’s lineup for nine full seasons and over that time he seldom if ever missed a game, coming to the plate over 600 times season after season, and he averaged 21 home runs per season. But not once in all
those years did he ever strike out 100 times in a season, averaging only 69 strikeouts per season, with a season high of 90. Cey played every day for ten years averaging 23 home runs per season, and hit the 100 strikeout figure exactly one time as a Dodger, as he averaged 83 strikeouts per season over that time.
In the 1990s, the duo of Mike Piazza and Eric Karros combined for similar strikeout frequencies, though Karros struck out much more than Garvey, Cey or Piazza, but with Piazza hitting record numbers of homers while seldom striking out, their combined numbers overall were similar to the earlier two players. While Karros did strike out as many as 122 times in a season and averaged exactly 100 times per season with 24.5 home runs per season over the eleven seasons he was in the Dodgers’ lineup day after day, that is a pittance compared to today’s players. As to Piazza, his numbers astounded: A Dodgers’ regular for five seasons, he averaged 33.4 homers per season and 80 strikeouts per, with a high of 93.
In the early 2000s, Dodgers’ lineups featured the power hitting of Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre. Beltre was a Dodgers’ everyday regular for six season, averaging 23 homers per year and 92 strikeout per season, breaking 100 exactly once, at 103. Green was a Dodgers’ regular for five seasons, averaging over 32 homers per year and a relatively high – though low by today’s standards – 113 strikeout per season, once fanning as many as 121 times in a season.
And then there is today. Seager, in his fabulous rookie season, hit 26 home runs but stuck out 133 times, more, and in most cases MUCH more, than Garvey, Cey, Karros, Piazza, Beltre or Green ever struck out over a season in a Dodgers’ uniform. So far this season, in exactly 1/3 of the season, Seager has struck out 47 times, putting him on a pace for 141 for the season. Bellinger in only 135 at bats has struck out a horrid 48 times, which projected for a full season would produce a strikeout total exceeding 200.
Last season, Milwaukee Brewers’ batters struck out more times than any major league team in history This season, they are on a pace to break that record, but they are not even leading baseball in total strikeouts! In fact, they are not even close, trailing Tampa Bay by
a strikeout per game over the first third of the season. This season, 8.26 batters per team have struck out every nine innings. Ten years ago in 2007, that figure was 6.67 per nine innings. That is an increase of two-and-one-half strikeouts per team per game, in only a decade.
Sure, home runs are fun, and they can and do turn a game around in an instant. But how exciting is it to see hitter after hitting swing and miss, swing and miss, swing and miss, at bat after at bat, game after game? And the trend is getting more and more extreme, season after season.