Statistical Relationships


I listened to the game Sunday afternoon and was excited to notice an unfortunate rarity.  Drew Stubbs had not struck out in two consecutive games and after singling in his first at bat had a chance to accomplish something he has not been able to do since May 14.  He could string three games in a row without a strikeout.  He has only managed this feat once though he flirted with it four different times in July but alas it was not to be as he struck out twice during yesterday’s unpleasant ballgame and now leads all of baseball with 184 strikeouts.  He averages a little more than 1.3 strikeouts a game so that projects to 28 more K’s for the season for a total of 212.  212 is the number of strikeouts Stubbs needs to have the second most strikeouts in Major League history.  Mark Reynolds has been in the spotlight for this unfortunate distinction.  He has strung together seasons of 211, 223, and 204 over the last three seasons respectively and Stubbs would become the second player to ever record 200 strikeouts and would be in second place all time.

I have been accused more than once of being hyper sensitive to the importance of strikeouts and while that may be true strikeouts do hurt production.  A ground out can be a good thing but a strikeout is only useful if it involves more than a 5 pitch at bat to wear down the pitchers arm.  I am certain it is safe to say that managers, while preferring a 3 pitch strikeout, will not quibble with one of a 9 pitch variety.  This line of thinking prompted the question:  Is there a relationship between strikeouts and runs scored?

In order to discover what relationship might exist, I decided to look at National League players who met 1 (or all) of three criteria.  To qualify each player had to have 500 at bats, 75 runs scored, and/or 100 strikeouts.  20 players have had 500 or more at bats, 22 have scored 75 runs, and 28 have struck out 100 times or more.  10 players have done all three and 3 of those play for the Cincinnati Reds:  Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and of course Drew Stubbs.  Taken individually these stats tell a story of production tinged with futility that characterizes a free swinging hitter with power.  Are these numbers important?  I believe they are but they must be taken in context.  Every legitimate candidate for MVP this year is on this list so there must be some correlation between the numbers.

The two players on this list with the worst differential are Stubbs and Bruce but this list is of the producers in the league.  These are the guys who are crossing the plate and scoring runs so it is hard to be too critical.  Stubbs, with 88 runs scored is one of the best due to his speed on the base paths.  The question that I would pose to Brook Jacoby is, why is he not improving?  Kerry Moss wrote an excellent piece a couple of weeks ago comparing Drew to a young Curtis Granderson.  His point was that they have had very similar years at the age of 24.  I agree with this view my only concern is that Granderson did this in his first season with the Tigers while Stubbs has actually had more trouble here in his second season with the Reds.  If Stubbs can harness his power and reduce his strikeout total he will become one of the most feared batters in all of baseball.  He does not need to hit for a .300 average but it should be at least .270.

Moving on the we add in all players with 500 at bats and we add this group.

Finally we add in the group that has not scored runs but still struck out 100 or more times.  Anyone who follows the teams these players are a part of are all too familiar with the struggles and lack of production among this group.

It is worth noting only 6 players in the league have a positive runs/strikeout differential that exceeds 10.

And we also have 8 players who have struck out 70 or more times than they have scored.  Note Kelly Johnson‘s number only counts the NL add -4 to his season differential.

What do these numbers mean.  Nothing maybe, but I would argue they demonstrate the potential that Drew Stubbs can offer if he can become more disciplined in this approach at the plate.  Both Stubbs and Bruce are young enough to not only adjust but to excel at the plate.  His 88 runs are vital to the Reds success and if he is on base 40 more times a season he will begin to dominate the opposition.

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