Barring a batter reaching on a third strike and a wild pitch, not much good comes from a strikeout. Certainly, some good can come from a walk.
Orioles fans know their team well and the Baltimore offense in recent seasons has featured too many strikeouts and too few walks. This was a problem again in the 2017 season.
The Orioles’ strikeout rate of 23 percent of all plate appearances by the team ranked as fifth-most in the American League this year. The team walk rate of 6.4 percent ranked last in the major leagues.
AL highest strikeout rates in 2017:
25 percent - Rays
24.4 percent - Rangers
24.3 percent - Athletics
23.1 percent - White Sox
23 percent - Orioles
The Orioles produced the ninth-worst team strikeout rate in the majors this season when the average was 21.6. The major league average for walk rate was 8.5 percent.
In major league history, no season ever produced both more strikeouts and more home runs than the 2017 season. Teams combined for 6,105 homers this year, the most since 2000. The combined strikeout total was also a record at 40,105. The record had been set just the previous year in 2016 at 38,982. That is a lot of strike threes.
I understand the obvious - that putting the ball in play is almost always better than not doing so. But I also believe that we can overstate strikeouts for hitters. It is often just like any other out and sometimes comes with the batter seeing more pitches than an out that comes on a ball put in play.
Hopefully, the Orioles will become a team that puts the ball in play more. Even a team that hits more foul balls can help itself. Foul balls can increase pitch counts for pitchers. Plus, they allow hitters to see more pitches and eventually they may get the one they can drive somewhere. We’ve seen opponents like Boston foul off pitch after pitch, and often something good comes from it.
O’s worst strikeout rates in 2017 (minimum 200 plate appearances):
37.2 percent - Chris Davis
27.1 percent- Caleb Joseph
26.6 percent- Welington Castillo
24.8 percent- Tim Beckham
24.7 percent - Mark Trumbo
23.7percent - Trey Mancini
A team can improve in the strikeouts stat. Houston went from worst to first in two years. The 2015 Astros were the worst in the AL in strikeout rate at 22.9 percent and second in 2016 at 23.4 percent. But they had the best strikeout rate in 2017 at 17.3 percent on their way to the World Series title. Cleveland ranked second in the AL this year at 18.5 percent and Boston was third at 19.3 percent.
Three playoff teams ranked as the best in the AL in putting the ball in play. They certainly didn’t make postseason solely due to that, but it didn’t hurt. How much would fewer strikeouts help the Orioles and how do they get there?