Whiff of of­fense: Strike­outs top hits in month for 1st time

West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY RON­ALD BLUM

NEW YORK — Base­ball had a whiff of of­fense in the air dur­ing a cold and wet April.

Strike­outs ex­ceeded hits dur­ing a full cal­en­dar month for the first time in the sport’s nearly cen­tu­ryand-a-half his­tory, ac­cord­ing to the Elias Sports Bu­reau. Nearly one-third of plate ap­pear­ances this sea­son have ended with­out the ball be­ing put in play.

“One month is a rather small sam­ple and we are hop­ing that

the phe­nom­e­non of strike­outs ex­ceed­ing hits is an anom­aly that will not per­sist over the course of the sea­son,” base­ball Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred said in an email to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Ma­jor League Base­ball has in­creas­ingly be­come a game of long balls and long walks — back to the dugout.

There were 6,656 strike­outs and 6,360 hits in April, ac­cord­ing to Elias. The pre­vi­ous low dif­fer­en­tial was in April 2017, when there were 138 more hits than strike­outs.

“It’s what’s sexy now,” Cincin­nati catcher Tucker Barn­hart said. “Home runs are sexy. Strike­outs are sexy. Early ground balls with one strike are not sexy.”

In­clud­ing the first three days of the sea­son in March, 32.8 per­cent of 32,324 plate ap­pear­ances this sea­son have ended with­out a bat­ted ball in play: 7,335 strike­outs, 2,921 walks, 354 hit bat­ters and eight catcher’s in­ter­fer­ence calls.

“Ev­ery­one wants more ac­tion, so I can’t prob­a­bly say it’s good for base­ball un­less you want to go out there and see pitch­ers go for 25 strike­outs,” said Min­nesota man­ager Paul Moli­tor, a Hall of Famer. “I just don’t think that would be the choice day to day for most peo­ple to come out and watch.”

Home runs dipped slightly from last year’s record level. There were 912 long balls in 419 games through Mon­day, an av­er­age of 2.18, down from 863 in 369 games through the first full month last year, an av­er­age of 2.34. Scor­ing dropped slightly to 8.93 runs per game from 8.96.

Strike­outs have set a record for 10 con­sec­u­tive sea­sons, and the av­er­age of 17.5 per game in April was a ma­jor league record for a cal­en­dar month, ac­cord­ing to Elias. This year’s rate projects to 42,539 — which would shat­ter last year’s mark of 40,104. The to­tal was 32,884 in 2008.

“I think more spe­cial­ized use of the bullpen — bullpen arms, bullpen power, bullpen strike­outs,” Colorado man­ager Bud Black said. “It is not sur­pris­ing, yet alarm­ing at the same time. I think you will see in time a cor­rec­tion in am­a­teur base­ball where putting the ball in play will be­come more of a pri­or­ity.”

Joe DiMag­gio never struck out more than 39 times in a sea­son. Among those who al­ready topped that this sea­son are Yoan Mon­cada of the Chicago White Sox (47), Car­los Gomez of Tampa Bay (40), and Gian­carlo Stan­ton of the New York Yan­kees and Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes of the Mets (43).

“Maybe we’re ac­cept­ing the strike­out now. We’re ac­cept­ing it in high school and col­lege and Lit­tle League,” said Mi­ami man­ager Don Mat­tingly, whose strike­out high was 43. “It’s re­ally dif­fer­ent from when I first came up. It was em­bar­rass­ing to strike out.”

San Diego bat­ters lead the ma­jors with 309 strike­outs, and Kansas City and Seat­tle are tied for the fewest at 200.

“Added ve­loc­ity, data in­for­ma­tion, re­ally know­ing where to at­tack a hit­ter in the zone, re­ally presents a big hole un­less you’re ex­cep­tion­ally tal­ented,” Chicago Cubs man­ager Joe Mad­don said.

Just 11 teams have more hits than strike­outs, and Bos­ton has the top dif­fer­en­tial (270 hits and 214 strike­outs). The Padres, with 235 hits, have the worst.

“I no­ticed last year, a lot of teams we played, it looked like they were try­ing to do one thing and that’s hit it in the seats, and strike­outs didn’t mat­ter,” At­lanta man­ager Brian Snitker said.

Shifts have en­cour­aged long balls as play­ers try to avoid ground ball outs. There have been 6,060 shifts ob­served on balls in play this year, ac­cord­ing to Base­ball Info So­lu­tions. That puts the ma­jor leagues on pace for 35,145 shifts, up 31 per­cent from last sea­son’s 26,705 and well above the record 28,130 in 2016.

“It’s proven that the high­est slug­ging per­cent­age and the high­est av­er­age comes from a ball that’s pulled in the air,” said the Mets’ Jay Bruce, who fre­quently faces three in­field­ers on the right side. “You have to lis­ten to the game and what it’s telling you and the data.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.