Nationals Baseball: Do K's really matter?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Do K's really matter?

The amount of times the Nats have struckout in the past few games has become a hot topic (I'm surprised I don't see a little "#Whiffsburgh" in the corner of highlights). The why is obvious. Strikeouts are the worst one-out thing that can happen in an offense. Since they don't put the ball in play there can be no positive outcome from the out created. A ball in play of course can become a hit, but even when it doesn't good things can happen. Runners can be driven in or moved over, fielders can commit errors. Force the other team to make the play and maybe they won't. Of course not putting the ball in play does have its advantages, namely no double plays, but I think we can all agree that you'd usually rather see the Nats make the other team work.

So the Nats are looking to correct their strikeout issues. Which is going to probably get them exactly nowhere.

You see, while strikeouts may be a bad thing, not getting on base and not hitting for power is far far worse.  If you are looking for reasons a team can't score, those two things are going to be driving the car, strikeouts will be slight breeze gently buffeting the back of the vehicle.

Take a look at how K's correlate with runs scored per game the past few years. (For those not familiar with correlations the closer to 1 the stronger the connection, anything below 0.3 is usually ignorable, and if it's positive they move together. In this example then, a positive number means "More Ks = More runs")

2012: +0.01
2011: -0.47
2010: +0.11
2009: +0.36
2008: +0.03

What do you see? A big mess of nothing really.  Strikeouts per team had no correlation at all with scoring runs in 2008 and so far in 2012.  In 2011 it was moderately correlated in a negative way, but in 2009 and 2010 it was moderately and ignorably correlated in a positive way.  Basically - there is no good connection between Ks and scoring runs.

Why is that? Well it's because strikeouts generally go hand in hand with the drivers of offense.  If I look at strikeout's correlation with average, yes of course strikeouts are bad for that.  They are more outs and more outs = less hits.  At the same time if you look at OBP and SLG you don't see that same negative correlation. If you take average out of the equation and look at isoOBP and isoSLG you see a pretty strong historical positive correlation. (I can show you these numbers if you so demand)  Again what that means is the same guys that strikeout a lot tend to walk alot and get a lot of XBH.  They do these things enough so that the drop in average isn't important, and you score runs anyway.

And here you get to the Nats offensive issues. They don't have guys that can slug and, with Werth out, aren't so great at getting on base, either.  Espinosa isn't killing the Nats because he has 39 Ks.  He's killing the Nats because he has 4 XBH and his below .200 average kills his OBP. Desmond and Ankiel aren't getting on base. Lombo and Ramos aren't slugging.  Nady and Bernie can't hit.  Some of this will be solved by guys getting back into the groove (like Zimm), some will be solved by injury recovery, but the solution to the offensive woes is not striking out less, it's getting better hitters in this lineup.


DCNatty said...

I would say better hitters will/should strike out less - no. But i get your point. And yes we need better hitters as discussed numerous times over the pass month.

It feels like we can never get that runner in from 3rd with less then 2 outs. Always striking out...when a flyball or even grounout can get the run in. Selective memory i guess, where you only remember the K's that kill.

blovy8 said...

Bad hitters strike out a lot too. Thing is, no one bothers walking them too often.

I think we're going to miss Werth extending a pitcher's inning with long atbats a lot.

There was a point a few weeks ago where the k rate for the team was down toward 18 percent and the walk rate was closer to 10. I think Ankiel playing a lot and Nady still playing often is hurting that stat apart from Espinosa's obvious continuing contact struggle. Those guys hack. Even so, I would think over time, Harper and Zimmerman will be getting on base, and LaRoche will get his walks to offset his K propensity. Espinosa can't go on starting much longer with these results. Lombardozzi's OBP is just going to look too good to Davey in the near future. A contact guy like that lets him be more aggressive with runners too. No way you can move so-so to slow baserunners with these guys striking out all the time. I'm still kind of surprised Desmond isn't running more.

Strasburger said...

Or improving the existing batters, right? We have to, HAVE to, assume that Danny is going to step up his game. The promising thing is that he looks literally incredibly frustrated by how poorly he is playing. The nats have fallen back of late, but I believe that is mostly due to injury. We know Ramos can slug, and I think he will when we really need it. In my opinion Harper, the really missing pop in the lineup is represented by Morse. He seems to be a clutch guy. And, since the first three batters in the line up have done a decent job of getting on base, He would most certainly be driving in some runs. With him back, and LaRoche at 5th (?) you hope to see some serious improvement in runs per game. I just want to get to the all star break first in the division. I think storen back will represent a huge chunk of wins with the lead going into the ninth. the guy is rock solid. Even so, your visions of weak offense have certainly come true. Let's just hope they can limp into the all star break with at least a game in hand over the braves somehow.

DCNatty said...

Even if they are with 3-4 games of 1st place Ill take it. Think of that scenario before the season started and I think anyone of us would have taken it. We got spoiled by the fast start and the awesome pitching though.

DezoPenguin said...

tl;dr -- bad hitters hit badly

DezoPenguin said...

Looking at tonight's box score, I am very happy that we won, elated that LaRoche is continuing to be hot after his injury hiccup, but rather disquieted to realize that in terms of his stat line Strasburg was the second-best hitter in that lineup. I wonder if he can play left field when he hits his innings limit. ^_-

Harper said...

DC Natty - exactly - when you are looking for something that's all you see. The only situation with a man on third and less that two out they are hitting poorly is bases loaded 1-out. Rest of the time they are average or ok.

blovy8 - well I guess you can say the numbers are skewed a little since if you K alot and you can't walk and slug you just won't play. But it doesn't mean these high K good walkers/sluggers don't exist in droves.

I do think the SLG will improve. OBP... not sure I think they are about where they should be.

burger - I think the way you do about Espy and Ramos, but those are gut feelings. Espy's minor league numbers say this kind of season is possible and Ramos wasn't much of a slugger coming up. Morse, even coming back down from 2011, would certainly help with the SLG. Let's see where the Nats are when he gets back.

Dezo - Strasburg is the new Micah Owings! People are gaga over Harper but Strasburg is hitting doubles at a better rate. Of course that's not going to keep up btu it's almost like Steven is like "what do I have to do other than figuratively pop my collar to get your attention here?"