Strikeouts Taking the Excitement Out of Baseball

Robby Messer | June 4th, 2018

In the movie Bull Durham, arguably one of the greatest baseball movies, Crash Davis said what is becoming more of a prophetic quote by the day “Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring. Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some more groundballs, it’s more democratic.” Of course, at the time of that quote, Crash was talking to Nuke Laloosh in his pursuit of showing off his “million dollar arm,” but he could be talking about “the great church of baseball” as it stands today.

Saturday night, the Cubs rallied for six runs in the 14th inning to beat the Mets. That may sound exciting, but here’s what happened in between naps for fans. The Cubs struck out 24 times, which means for more than half of their outs, nothing happened. In a five hour game.

But wait, there’s more. Two of the Cubs most exciting young players, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, each struck out four times. Albert Almora struck out three times, but at least he redeemed himself with the game-winning hit.

But wait…

This was the second time this season the Cubs struck out at least 20 times in a game. They also struck out 20 times against the Marlins, THE MARLINS, on March 30. This is just an example of how teams and players seem to focus more on the three absolute outcomes, strikeouts, home runs, and walks. Perhaps the thinking is if teams can force a pitcher to throw more pitches through walks, a team’s big hitters might hit more home runs with men on base, but who cares if they strikeout. Where’s the excitement in that? It’s not a sexy thing to say, but whatever happened to a little small ball when players, big and small, tried to just get a hit to drive in runs?

The Cubs struck out five times with the bases loaded Saturday. Credit does need to go to Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom, who pitched a wonderful seven innings and struck out 13, but it seems going for the big hit made it a little easier for him. And it wasn’t just the Cubs game.

The Nationals-Braves game, which also went 14 innings, also featured two teams not afraid to swing and miss. The Braves struck out 16 times and the Nationals, who won, struck out 18 times. But wait, there’s more.

Two of the Nationals most exciting players, Bryce Harper and Trea Turner accounted for half of their team’s strikeouts. Nine times? Harper struck out four times, which is bad enough, but Turner did him one better (or worse), with five.

This is the state of Major League Baseball right now, where the science of sabermetrics is eroding the fun of the unlikely hit, such as the one by Nationals pitcher, PITCHER, Max Scherzer, who also scored the winning run. And these two games were no fluke, strikeouts are only going to add up faster than the money some free agents are set to make this off-season. In April, players struck out more than 6,600 times according to Elias. Players had just over 6,300 hits. How does that make it exciting for the fans? It doesn’t.

Unfortunately, Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman are not walking onto the field anytime soon to steal some of the dry lightning teams are trying to bring to the game. Some stolen bases would be nice, maybe some hit and runs and bunt singles that force throwing errors.

But I fear those ideas might just swing and miss.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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