• Exclusives

    Will strikeouts sink the Braves?

    As you may have heard by now, the Atlanta Braves made a few changes over the winter.  With the new additions, the Braves lineup figures to be among the most powerful in baseball. But along with all that thunder, there will also be plenty of whiffs. In fact the Braves strikeout tally could be among the highest in the game. Here’s the key question, though…

    Does it matter?

    But before we answer that, let’s start with start with another question (or two): Just how many strikeouts are the Braves adding?  Have they really added that many?

    Uh yes, yes they have.

    Just for fun, let’s see what the Braves strikeout total would look like if the newly acquired Upton brothers, BJ & Justin, and Chris Johnson were on the Atlanta roster last year. That trio brings in a total of 382 strikeouts in their bags of tricks.  Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn have departed and taken their 275 punchouts with them.

    Now that we see the raw strikeout numbers, let’s try to find some context for them. You’ve probably seen K rate, which is strikeouts per plate appearance.  Let’s make that number a little more like a batting average. Instead of hits, we’re dividing strikeouts by at bats.  We’ll call this our “strikeout average”.


    In 2012, the Braves were near the bottom of the pack with a .237 k-avg.  If we take out the 2012 numbers for Bourn, Prado and Jones and replace them with those of the Uptons and C.Johnson, the Braves would have finished the year with a whopping .265 K rate.  That would have led the league. Comfortably.

    Now this isn’t news to anyone. Kris Medlen likes to dance, Johnny Venters throws bowling balls, the Braves strike out a lot.

    Now, back to our earlier question… Does it matter?

    2012 MLB TEAM STRIKEOUT/OFFENSIVE RANKINGS:

     

    k-avg rank

    k-avg

    Offense rank

       

    k-avg rank

    k-avg

    Offense rank

     

    Astros

    30

    .252

    30

    Brewers

    15

    .223

    3

    Athletics

    29

    .251

    14

    White Sox

    14

    .218

    7

    Pirates

    28

    .250

    23

    Rockies

    13

    .218

    6

    Rays

    27

    .245

    18

    Red Sox

    12

    .214

    8

    Braves

    26

    .238

    17

    Yankees

    11

    .213

    2

    Orioles

    25

    .237

    15

    Dodgers

    10

    .213

    26

    Nationals

    24

    .236

    10

    Cardinals

    9

    .212

    5

    Diamondbacks

    23

    .232

    9

    Tigers

    8

    .201

    11

    Reds

    22

    .231

    21

    Angels

    7

    .201

    4

    Mets

    21

    .229

    25

    Giants

    6

    .197

    12

    Mariners

    20

    .229

    27

    Phillies

    5

    .197

    19

    Padres

    19

    .228

    24

    Rangers

    4

    .197

    1

    Cubs

    18

    .228

    28

    Indians

    3

    .197

    22

    Blue Jays

    17

    .228

    13

    Twins

    2

    .192

    16

    Marlins

    16

    .226

    29

    Royals

    1

    .183

    20

    It’s true that Houston was dead last in both k-avg and runs scored. But let’s face it, the Astros are the Astros.  No matter how many times they struck out last year, that lineup wasn’t going to score runs. Not even in that popcorn machine they call a ballpark.

    In just a handful of cases did a team’s k-avg track closely with their overall offensive ranking. Aside from Pittsburgh, the teams that struck out the most were generally middle-of-the-pack in terms of total runs scored.

    On the other end of the strikeout spectrum, Kansas City, Minnesota and Cleveland were the hardest teams in the league to strike out.  They ranked 20th, 16th and 22nd in runs respectively.

    So if strikeouts aren’t the determining factor, then what is?  Below are the top 6 teams in baseball last year in runs scored. Next to runs, a mystery category. Can you guess what it is?

    Runs ??
    Rangers 1 4
    Yankees 2 2
    Brewers 3 9
    Angels 4 5
    Cardinals 5 1
    Rockies 6 6

    And the mystery category is… on-base percentage!  Every plate appearance results in either an out, or not an out. You only have three outs an inning, 27 in a game. The teams that send the most hitters to the plate with their allotted 27 outs tend to score the most runs.

    How about the Braves last year?

    They ranked 13th in team OBP… 17th in runs scored.  The year before that, they were 26th in OBP and 22nd in runs.

    BOTTOM LINE: Braves fans shouldn’t concerned about the extra strikeouts in the lineup this year. This team will strike out. But this team will also hit home runs. How frequently runners reach base in front of those home runs (and other extra-base hits) is going to be the critical factor in this offense.

    Soon, we’ll take a look at importance of strikeouts in the postseason, but for now, rest assured that a gaudy strikeout total isn’t a death knell to the Braves World Series hopes.

    Darren Schienbein is a freelance baseball analyst and BravesWire contributor. Follow Darren on Twitter: @shinesie