Oct 30

Strikeout Kings

Washington has a new generation of Strikeout King’s. The past generation of free swingers like Don Lock, Frank Howard and Jim Lemon did not stand a chance against the onslaught of the Next Generation of uninhibited swinging strikeout artists.

The top ten Washington Strikeout Kings

Year Strikeouts
1. Dunn, Adam 2010 199
2. Espinosa, Danny 2012 189
3. Dunn, Adam 2009 177
4. Espinosa, Danny 2011 166
5. Soriano, Alfonso 2006 160
6. Werth, Jayson 2011 160
7. Howard, Frank 1967 155
8. Lock, Don 1963 151
9. Wilkerson, Brad 2005 147
10. Howard, Frank 1968 141

Ian Desmond in 2011 nearly beat out Frank Howard but came up short.

You would expect to see few swingers like Adam Dunn or Hondo on the list, but a six foot middle infielder, seems hard to believe. His 355 strikeouts in two years would be a new record for Washington, except of Adam Dunn’s time here.

Now look at the SLG and OPS figures for the top ten strikeout kings.

1. Soriano, Alfonso 2006 .560 .911
2. Howard, Frank 1968 .552 .890
3. Dunn, Adam 2010 .536 .892
4. Dunn, Adam 2009 .529 .928
5. Howard, Frank 1967 .511 .849
6. Lock, Don 1963 .446 .784
7. Espinosa, Danny 2011 .414 .737
8. Wilkerson, Brad 2005 .405 .756
9. Espinosa, Danny 2012 .402 .717
10. Werth, Jayson 2011 .389 .718

In the minor leagues they call fireworks “bang-for-the-buck. Traveling road shows like “Dynamite Lady” and “Rocking Ray” have been replaced by fireworks because the return on investment, more paying fans, was a better deal. So it is with free swingers. If a manager is going to keep a 160 strikeout a year player in the line-up he better produce.

During his three minor league seasons Espinosa struck out 262 times in 1,205 at bats. In the majors his record is 385 in 1,428 at bats. So he went from a 27.1% during his minor league service to 26.9% in the majors. So there is not much of a difference. Nor does he seem to be improving; in 2012 his strikeout percentage was 31.2%.

Checking fangraphs the estimated strikeout average is 18.5%, and the walk average is 8.5%. Poor starts at 25% and awful is 27.5%. Fangraphs website adds a common sense statement that power hitters tend to have a higher strikeout average. So for his incredibly high strikeout average in 2012, Espinosa walked 7.7% of the time and had a slugging average of .402 and an OPS of .717.

For second baseman, Espinosa’s SLG ranks him 10th in the MLB just ahead of Kendrick. Espinosa’s OBP is 14th ahead of Kelly Johnson and behind Brandon Phillips. Finally, Espinosa’s OPS is 14th. Not good for a club that wants to win a World Series.

Adam Dunn’s OPS for his two years here were .928 and .892. Soriano had an OPS of .911 in his amazing 2006 season for Washington. Even if you combine the OPS for Espinosa’s last two seasons’ the total is still less than any of those. In essence you have a hitter with far less of the production then you would expect for the number of strikeouts, A Brad Wilkerson if you will.

At any level it is historic and doubtful if any team would keep him as a regular if he maintains that level of futility. Can he improve, the answer is of course. Assuming an average strikeout percentage of 18.5% then he would have put 76 more balls into play. Taking his normal batting average this would have raised his average from .247 to 277. We will soon find out.