We Don’t Mind Missing
In my piece for the Wall Street Journal today, I note the exponential increase in strikeouts over the last 50 years. Over the last 10-15 years especially, there has been an extreme shift towards the acceptance of whiffing, as teams have discovered that it’s okay to build an offense around non-contact hitters as long as they do good stuff when they put the bat on the ball.
Perhaps nowhere is the change in management philosophy more obvious than the Mariners. Last year, the Mariners struck out in just 15.8% of their at-bats, fewest in the majors. This was by design, as the Bavasi regime placed significant value on guys who didn’t strike out. The M’s saw contact rate as a big positive, and the team was constructed to maximize balls in play as an offensive strategy.
Jack Zduriencik? Couldn’t care less about strikeouts. Seriously, look at the list of guys he’s brought in.
Branyan – 34.6% K%
Hall – 34.4%
Langerhans – 27.4%
Hannahan – 23.1%
Gutierrez – 22.4%
Practically every position player the team has added since the new administration took over has had contact ability listed as a weakness. They do other things well, and that’s what they were acquired for. Defense, extra base hits, walks… these are the things that are valued now. Making feeble contact just for the sake of making contact? No thanks.
You might not like to watch the offense as currently constructed, but you should still be encouraged – the GM has shown that when it comes to bringing in hitters, he’s not going to be looking for the same kind of slap-hitting, anti-walk, contact specialists that formed the basis for the lousy teams that we saw the last five years. This offense isn’t good, but our GM realizes that strikeouts by his hitters aren’t a problem, and that’s just another reason to be optimistic about the future.