There is nothing worse than a strikeout.


A strikeout is not just another out, it is an out that is a completely wasted at-bat for the offensive team.


Almost nothing positive occurs when a batter strikes out, and the few good things that can happen are so rare in today’s game that they can usually be discounted.

A batter can reach base after striking out if, with fewer than two outs and first base is unoccupied or with two outs and first base occupied, the catcher misses the third strike and the batter beats the throw to first.


There is an instance in which a strikeout can be as good as a base on balls.

When the batter has two strikes and the next pitch is clearly going to get by the catcher, an alert batter can intentionally swing at the pitch, knowing he will strike out, but also realizing that he will stand an excellent chance of reaching first base.

Almost none of today’s players ever attempt such a play. The reason players give is that it will break their rhythm for future plate appearances.


When a batter strikes out, runners do not advance and runs do not score. A strikeout eats up an out. That’s it.

Even a double play can be better than a strikeout, and depending on the situation, can actually be productive.

It is recognized when the first batter of an inning is retired, it doesn’t matter if he strikes out or hits a 400-ft drive that is caught, but the not-so-subtle difference is that the pitcher might gain more confidence in the latter instance.


With two outs, it usually doesn’t matter how the defense gets the third out.


In 1962, the Yankees and Giants split the first six games of the World Series. The seventh game at Candlestick Park was a scoreless pitching duel between the Yankees’ Ralph Terry and the Giants’ Jack Sanford until the Yankees batted in the top of the fifth inning.


Bill Skowron singled, Clete Boyer singled, and pitcher Ralph Terry drew a base on balls.


It was a great opportunity for the Yankees to break the game open, but leadoff man Tony Kubek grounded into a double play, scoring Skowron. That was it.


The only run of the game, the run that was the margin of victory for the Yankees to win the World Series, scored as the result of a double play.


Double plays kill rallies, but at least the ball is in play.


Kubek made contact and hit the ball well, but it was hit to a fielder. A batter can’t direct the flight of the ball. But striking out is failure because contact is not made.


In the early days of game, striking out was a disgrace. Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Honus Wagner, and Eddie Collins rarely were strike out victims. They took great pains to avoid such humiliation.


Cobb struck out only 357 times in more than 11,000 official plate appearances, and the four other greats had similar statistics.


Things changed when Babe Ruth popularized the home run, but even the free swingers in those years had some discipline.

Ruth never struck out 100 times in a season.

His highest total was 93 in 1923, but he batted .393, hit 41 home runs, and had an incredible on base average of .545. Still, striking out was shameful and Ruth was criticized for it.

Jimmy Foxx struck out more than 100 times in a season only twice, Hank Greenberg only once, and Ralph Kiner only once, which was his rookie year.

Joe DiMaggio struck out only 369 times in his entire career, which was remarkable for a power hitter.

Great home run hitters do not have to strike out more than 100 times a season, but they do again and again.


In his first full season, which was 1952, Mickey Mantle batted .311 with 23 home runs. In the World Series against the Dodgers, Mantle hit .345 with two home runs, including a grand slam.


It was an excellent season that foreshadowed a great career, yet that winter, baseball periodicals and yearbooks did not emphasize Mantle’s batting average or home runs. They criticized Mantle’s 111 strikeouts and lamented that he would never become a truly great player unless he drastically reduced his strikeouts.

Over a 162-game schedule, Mickey averaged 36 home runs and 115 strikeouts,


Willie Mays averaged 36 home runs and 83 strikeouts.


Henry Aaron averaged 37 home runs and 68 strikeouts.


Today, it is a different game. Sportscasters and former baseball players have stated that “an out is an out” and a strikeout is simply another way of a batter being retired.

No one illustrates that view more than Mark Reynolds. 


The Arizona Diamondbacks’ third baseman averages 35 home runs and an incredible 215 strikeouts over a 162-game season. Mark is considered one of the game’s top hitters.


Many players subscribe to the false belief that a strikeout is no worse than any other type of out. Do they really believe that a strikeout is just as good as a fly ball to the outfield when there is one out and a runner on third?

Would the arbitrator at a salary hearing agree with the concept that “an out is an out?”

For the modern hitter, there is little disgrace or humiliation associated with striking out, especially among those who lead the league in strikeouts but hit for power. The obligatory “I have to cut down on my strikeouts” is ever present in sound bites, but little is done to remedy the problem.

A few seasons ago, Tom Seaver and Gary Thorne discussed whether or not Mark McGwire, with all the strikeouts, was helping St. Louis.


Thorne felt that McGwire was a detriment because if he didn’t hit a home run, he would do nothing to start a rally, continue a rally, or move a runner along. His strikeouts had killed many rallies.


Seaver agreed, but put in the disclaimer that McGwire’s home runs helped the team, and he concluded that McGwire was more of a positive than a negative. Home runs are good.

Implicit in the discussion was the fact that no out is worse than a strikeout.



Baseball Reference



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