Strikeouts are always bad for hitters. There is no good strikeout. Unlike pitchers issuing intentional walks to face the next hitter, you’ve never heard of a batter giving up an “intentional strikeout” to get their next batter up. That is because the strikeout is truly the most useless at-bat possible. No runs score. No runners advance. No defenders are forced to make a play. And some guy in the outfield will keep taping K’s on the wall to keep track of how many times your team has struck out in their stadium.
In fact, the only thing worse than a strikeout is hitting into a non-run producing double play (or a triple play, smarty pants). And the good news is that the A’s were 2nd best in the entire Major Leagues last year in avoiding the double play ball. Only 97 times in the year did the opponents induce the A’s into a double play. The Detroit Tigers actually hit into the most double plays with 156. Despite this, the Tigers wound up going to the World Series after winning the American League Divisional playoff series against Oakland and cruising through the American League Championship round.
One reason for the Tigers superb year may have been for the fact they struck out 1,103 times – good for 6th fewest in the Majors. The San Francisco Giants were 5th fewest in the Majors with 1,097 strikeouts, and they won the World Series. In fact, there is a direct correlation to World Series winners and strikeouts as 11 of the previous 13 World Series Champions all ranked 13th or better in the Majors in avoiding the strikeout during the season they won. The exceptions were the 2004 Boston Red Sox (who led the league during the 2004 regular season in batting average and slugging percentage), and the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies (who led the 2008 postseason in .OPS).
Unfortunately, the 2012 A’s were first (or last?) in the entire Majors with a whopping 1,387 strikeouts in 6,183 plate appearances during the regular season. On average, more than 8.5 times per game the A’s struck out. This is quite alarming. It is also very troublesome considering that the 2012 team set an American League record for strikeouts in a season. In fact, the A’s were so prone to striking out that more than 30% of the team’s outs in a game were made via the strikeout.
To put this statistic in perspective, the A’s struck out in 22.43% of their plate appearances during the regular season. The league average during the regular season was 19.68% (excluding the A’s). Based on the A’s plate appearances, that difference accounted for 170 more strikeouts than had the team been at the league average.
The percentages were actually worse in the postseason. In 5 playoff games against the Tigers the A’s struck out a remarkable 50 times in 172 plate appearances, or 29.07%. The league average during the postseason was 21.83% (excluding the A’s).
In fact, the A’s were more likely to strikeout than to get a hit. During the regular season, compared to the 1,387 strikeouts, the A’s only had 1,315 hits. This ratio is not unusual, but it’s worth noting that none of the playoff teams in 2012 had this unfavorable statistic other than the A’s and Atlanta Braves.
Chili Davis, the A’s hitting coach, himself sported a 16.98% strikeout rate in 9,997 career plate appearances. That is fantastic, and surely the same cannot be expected from the A’s squad. However, last year the average strikeout-to-plate-appearance-ratio for the league was 19.77%. If the A’s had this percentage at even 20%, that would have meant 150 less strikeouts in 2012.
Hopefully this issue has the attention of the coaching staff, Billy Beane and the front office. After all, the last time the A’s won the World Series in 1989 they struck out just 855 times (13.9%) – including 13 by Beane himself.