Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Power Without Strikeouts

Often times, when discussing baseball or evaluating the performance of players, we talk about rate stats and insightful ratios. For example, scribes and announcers will quickly mention a pitcher's strikeout-to-walk ratio or a hitter's propensity for home runs per plate appearance.

Math is a tricky subject matter for discussion. Interpretation takes a back seat to right and wrong in mathematics. Numbers can be boring, but they can also enlighten. New statistics can expand our minds, lending a fresh appreciation to the subject we're studying. We have no grandiose delusions of being the next Voros McCracken or Tom Tango, but we do like to mess around with math and stats in search of minute, modern discoveries.

Tonight, we're going to try and look at rates stats that we haven't really heard much about. There's a chance this is a big waste of time that won't tell us much. Perhaps, there are other stats that tell us enough of what we want to know.

We'll never know if we don't try.

What we really want is to appreciate two skills that don't often match up: power and a control of the strike zone. 

Total Bases per Strikeout
Jose Reyes's contact skills help
him avoid wasting his speed.
Jeff Keppinger 6.18

Extra-base Hits per Strikeout
Jeff Keppinger is tough to strikeout.
Jeff Keppinger 1.18

Home Runs per Strikeout
Even in his worst season, Albert
Pujols shines in all three categories.
Adrian Beltre 0.50

Which of these guys are the best overall players? Does this tell us anything more than simultaneously considering home runs, slugging percentage, strikeouts, and other traditional stats?

Blue Jays fans should be thrilled to see their rookie third baseman, Brett Lawrie, listed here among this collection of venerable veterans. It's a good thing, too, because if someone is going to be photographed looking as ignorant as he did in the photo below, he better be good on the field. To change a long-time baseball expression about pitchers and their arms, Brett Lawrie sure looks like he has a million dollar bat and a ten cent head.

How stupid is this kid? Maybe he's smart, just maybe.

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