Home Runs & Strikeouts….ugh by Bob Ryan

Watching a complete MLB baseball game has become a tedious process…unless you’re doing something else and looking up when the announcer raises his voice…..or when you are there in person. It seems to have become a marathon of long counts on each batter, walks galore, home runs flying out in bunches, strikeouts…more strikeouts…. and the longer time between innings. You better carve out 3+ hours to enjoy game….and that IS a long time for any one activity. You must either…really, really love the game or….have the patience of a saint. Is it the thrill…and chance… of the home run ball that keeps us there? Let’s look at a few statistics regarding home runs & strikeouts. Dan McLaughlin, Cardinal announcer, said recently on-air…this is not an exact quote, but very close….’Major League Baseball is concerned about the game with all its Home Run, Strikeouts and Walks’…and they should be!

……The man who changed baseball was Babe Ruth. His prodigious HR blasts, personality, location, and personal charm took baseball to the forefront of the entertainment world. In 1927 when Babe blasted 60 home runs, it was 6.5% of the league total, he hit a home run once in every 9.0 AB. IT was so stunning because across the league, home runs were hit on an average of once every 98 at bats! Sooooo.. Babe was hitting home runs 10x more often than the other MLB players!!! Home runs were rare….unless the Babe was playing.  Hence, being in New York, Babe Ruth was the center of attention…. and so was baseball….btw…..we all know about Babe’s unbelievable home run total…but he really was an all-around player….some of his records still standing…his slugging percentage for a career .690, most times hitting 2 home runs in a game-72x; longest home run-575 feet!!; Highest Winning Percentage for a left-handed pitcher: 67.14%; He was the AL batting champion one year!; Runs batted in, career: 2,213; Lowest ratio of hits per nine innings pitched for a left-handed pitcher: 7.1774…now a couple of those pitching records have been broken…but he was ..to use a football term….a true 2-way player!  His 60 home run total stood until 1961. In 1961, another Yankee, Roger Maris poked 61 home runs out of the park. By that time, his 61 dingers were just 2.2% of league total. Maris hit a home run every 9.67 AB, across the league it was every 36.1 AB. The substance abuse “power” hitters arrived in the late 90’s…In 2001, Barry Bonds….beefed up by the roids….poked 73 HR and incredible 6.5AB….now…one must remember that Barry drew tons of walks –which kept down his official At bats. Barry hit HR at a 6.5AB clip—really incredible. The rest of the league did it at 48.7 AB(about twice as often as in 1927).. I guess most of the guys couldn’t afford the masking agents of the drugs J  Bonds HR were 2.7% of the total league homeruns….just a notch above Maris’ 61 total. In 2017 , GianCarlo Stanton blasted 59 HR in Miami…the Siberia of MLB. He hit a HR every 10.1 AB and he was 3.56% of the overall league total. Now, the MLB hit HR across the league every 27.1 at bats.  Remember at Babe’s era, it was once every 98 at bats! Sooo.. from  a fan’s view point, all MLB teams get through their lineups 4x…sometimes 5x….that means that we should statistically see about 3 HR per game. They aren’t so special any longer.

The rise in strikeouts is very similar….

       Strikeouts                   AB for league       strikeout %

2017   40104                       165,567                                 24

2001   32404                       166,234                                 19

1961   14947                    97,032                                   15

1927     6889                     84,461                                  8

So in a baseball game in 2017, you were seeing 3x the strikeout percentages as back in 1927. “back in the day” it was viewed as a negative to be unable to hit the ball in 3 swings.  Now….it’s accepted that with the new launch angle swing,  that you’ll strike out much more often. NOW, the rational is that “an out is an out”….forget about that hitting the ball, it may…just may…cause some errors and could advance runners…even when making outs.

Why the dramatic increase in HR?  There are several possibilities ….here’s a few..

…..it seems that salaries are directly related to power players vs the “contact hitters”. Good average hitters don’t get to drink as deep into the salary well as the round trip boys. This is the primary reason from my view….if an owner paid more for .300 hitters than big HR numbers.. .you’d see a change.

…. I didn’t realize this fact…..after Babe Ruth’s 1927 HR barrage and the increasing popularity across the league….the owners wanted to see that excitement across the league all the time. Soooo…..most owners brought in the fences so that the home runs would increase.  The old ballpark that the Boston Braves played in was 550 feet to straight away center. The Polo Grounds was 455 feet to center. Teams thought that bat control, sacrificing,  and hitting behind the runner was more valuable than they did the home run. Babe Ruth changed all that, though. And once the fans became enamored with the home run, as stadiums were built, their dimensions became smaller and smaller

…the change physically of the players in the MLB.  From the stats that I could gather, it seems like MLB players are 4-5 inches taller in the norm than they were decades ago. However, in todays larger population base, the abnormal—much, much larger players –are arriving in greater numbers to the MLB every year.  Remember, back in the day in 1957, a 6-7 player named Frank Howard arrived on the scene.  Every game…almost every AB.. the size of Frank Howard was mentioned. Now…according to my (unofficial) research…there are 34 players 6’6” or taller in the MLB. Obviously…..the bigger the players the more strength, more power…..hence…more home runs.

Soooo….what can be done…..it all goes back to the owners….do they want this high number of home runs?  If not….pay the high average hitters more….move back the fences…..get rid of that box on TV showing the strike zone (let the umps stretch the “corners” a bit more). Specifically…here in St Louis…here’s one easy idea to subtract some HR and add speed to the game…..take out the entire “green” area in CF.  Make that area “in play”….we’d have less HR but many more triples….which I believe is one of the most exciting plays in baseball. There are probably ways in every ball park to cut down HR….maybe putting up a screen…or netting…. like the one at Busch I in front of cozy dimensions in some ball fields ….keep the ball in play….keep the game moving.  What do you think?

…on the ice, games 1 & 2 of the Blues series were thrilling to watch….the momentum changed back and forth throughout the match to keep the interest high….I’d forgotten about how aggressive hockey players become in the real season(the playoffs)..the “white out” in Winnipeg has been very impressive…and standing outside to watch the game on the big screen…..boy!! Somehow, O’Reilly, Boumeester & Pietrangelo seemed to be a marked men by the Jets—they’ve been pounding them from the first whistle…..Robert Thomas just keeps growing as a player…his puck control …and speed …are exciting…. Jaden Schwartz has demonstrated…repeatedly in games 1&2…the swirling, turning moves to free himself up for passes or shots….I still wish that he shot more…..Patrick Maroon’s strength, puck control, passing around the net and aggression have been noticeable and significant for the Blues….what can I say about Binnington….he’s been very good…he ALONE may be the catalyst that spiked the Blues upward to begin the Blues turnaround in 2019… game 3 was a REAL clinker….it was all Jets…they played at a different level and speed than the Blues…the Blues couldn’t get out of their zone…the forwards were standing at the blue line and the defensemen couldn’t escape the checking Jets forwards pressure. Binnington was fabulous in the 1st period but eventually the odds swung to the more aggressive, speedier and more physical Jets. On Sunday night, the Blues were outclassed.

…..The “Roar of the Tiger” was dominant on Sunday….yes…all pro golfers receive applause and/or clapping when they hit a magnificent shot but no one matches the Roar of the Tiger. The extremely loud cheers from many…if not all…. of the gallery ALWAYS belonged to Tiger Woods. Btw…just saying the word “Tiger” and most sports fan know immediately who you are referring to in the discussion…few others have experienced that one-word distinction….Babe, Stan, Ali, Wilt, Michael are some that come to mind. Any others?  Anyway…..Tiger winning in Augusta for the 1st time since 2002 was a tremendous accomplishment ….wow….think about yourself 17 years ago…..and now repeating that same difficult task against the best of the world …who were totally different competitors than 17 years ago…..and doing it on the biggest golf stage of the year. In addition to his unbelievable shots, Tiger’s emotion AFTER he won the tournament was refreshing to see.   These athletes….who have worked their entire lives to reach this incredible level of achievement…SHOULD by smiling, fist-pumping, hugging, kissing, waving their hat, etc, when they win!

Across the sports world….there are players/owners/teams/and even a TV personality hitting home runs and striking out in different ways. Hitting HOME runs..literally sometimes!  Sometimes in different ways.

….Cody Bellinger (LA Dodgers) has 8 home runs already…here we go again….look what I point out FIRSTJ… 21 rbi, 1.378 OPS..last year Bellinger had 25  HR and struck out 151x…every 3.68 at bats!

….It’s fitting right after the Masters Weekend to write about a golf team! Soooo…..UMSL’s men golf team Head Coach, Troy Halterman, has to be pleased after his team shot a school record of 852. The Tritons finished 2nd at its own Las Vegas Desert Classic last week. UMSL shot rounds of 291, 278,283 to break the record. Individually, Freshman Joel Sylven finished 2nd place with a school record of 208. #3 ranked West Florida won the tournament

…unknown in his first 3 years @ Seattle, Daniel Vogelbach is batting .400  with an OPS 1.646 as of Apr 12. He’s never hit over .214 in any of his first 3 years.

….Washington University’s baseball team is 22-5-1..Head Coach Pat Bloom has him team rolling after beginning the season 2-2-1. Frosh Caleb Durham from Lake Forest, Il tops the team in batting with a .438 mark. SLUH graduate, Junior John Brinkmann, is second in batting with a .384 average.

….Frank Cusamano just celebrated 26 years of working @ KSDK. Of course, he does a radio show each weekday also. Frank works very hard at his craft…always has the “Lou” prospective on sports matters and wears his StL heart on his sleeve. Congratulations to Frank for all his success over 26 years of work and wishing him many more.

….Rookie Pete Alonso of the Mets has hits in 7 of his first 10 games this year….batting .370 (17/46) with 6 round trippers.  Be careful before you add him to your fantasy team…the Mets have played Miami and Minnesota in 2 early series…not the toughest pitching staffs.

…after losing to 4 large schools to open the season in the Vianney tournament, Valley Park’s baseball team has now won 9 consecutive games under Head Coach Dave Fleer. Justin Maloney holds a .469 batting mark and Braden Spawr is also over .400 @ .429 as the team batting leaders.

….3B  Anthony Rendon (Wash) is off to a good start….avg of .426, 6 HR, 16 rbi, OPS 1.438

….the Lafayette Girls Lacrosse team remains unbeaten @ 12-0! The Lancers’ Sr Katherine Goddin leads the entire StL area with 51 goals and 62 points. Not far behind, 4th in the area with 53 points on 41 goals and 12 assists is Soph Sophia Scheller.

Some…however…. are striking out…..figuratively…as well as literally… in most cases

…Peter Bourjas (also on the Angels) is just 1 of 24 at the plate

…Daniel Palka (CWS) is 0 for 25 to start the season!

…Eric Stamets (Clev) is 1 of 24 in 2019

…that’s 3 strikes…. and I’m out J…… YOUR comments are always invited…just put them on the Prepcasts site….if difficulty arises.. send them to me….rjryansr@charter.net…and I’ll get them published for you.

Comments

  1. This approach to hitting is all the way down to freshman levels of baseball. Low levels of baseball 10u 12 u etc have short fences and they want everyone to be able to hit the occasional HR so they get into these “launch angle” (bad) habits early. Make these kids play on bigger fields so when they get older they realize line drives are the key to long term success. I don’t think I played on a field with a fence until high school.

    This link is from a 30 year old conversation of Ted Williams, Don Mattingly, & Wade Boggs with Peter Gammons it is great! Best line is Williams saying a great hitter should have three walks for every strikeout! Boggs said how about 2-1 and Williams lectured about that means the great hitters are chasing too many pitcher’s pitches. Enjoy! https://www.si.com/vault/1986/04/14/633776/a-real-rap-session BR

  2. Great blog, Bob. Speaking of Babe Ruth, I remember a sports open line moment on KMOX with Bob Gibson (who was I think was still pitching at the time) as an in-studio guest. A caller asked Bob which home-run hitter he thought was greater: Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron. Bob’s reply was classic. He said, “Aaron was definitely better because any hitter who steps out of the box on me and points to where he will hit it in the bleachers will die on the next pitch.” I know that Babe Ruth moment is supposed to be myth, but I laughed so hard at his typical response that I’ll never forget it. Have a great week. MH

  3. Good day sir.
    The strikeout is absolutely ridiculous in my mind. Whoever said an out is an out misses the fact that so much can happen when the ball is put in play. Look at WHITEY BALL and it’s that simple. I can’t hardly stand watching an entire baseball game much less have the desire to attend a game. It takes as long as playing 18 holes of golf and gets boring. And the guys hitting homers are getting paid more? The ball is juiced, the parks are smaller, the players are taught to swing for the fences, the players are juiced (or workout more often – or they better or both) and the strike zone is squeezed. I’d rather manufacture a run with runners on base, a stolen base, a sacrifice or whatever else is possible. The Babe sure started something with the long ball. I guess we blame him, I’m not sure. I know one thing, I think Bonds was a good player and hit a ton of homers but if he gets in the HOF then EVERYBODY who was using steroids should get in too. And, I think he is going to get in sooner than later. On a side note, I think Pete Rose should get into the HOF…just a personal note.
    I’d like to see a screen at the ballpark in right field just like the old stadium. That was always fun to see a play of of it or to even see a ball go over or on top of it, Taking the green area out in center field would be an option and if it caused the possibility for more triples and maybe the occasional inside the park home run I’d be all in. But, if that happened at our stadium I would like to see it done in all other stadiums. However, neither one of those options is EVER going to happen.
    The Blues certainly surprised the heck out of me. I’m not much of a hockey fan but to go from last to 1st was great. Thought winning the 1st two games against the Jets was super but I don’t think Bennington can keep up the pace as the Jets bombarded the shots on goal in every game. Most of the goals were unstoppable in my mind and if that keeps up we are toast. He is a great goalie but can’t stop them all or at least everything that they are throwing at him. The defense was horrible yesterday but maybe we were just out played and kudos goes to the other team.
    Tiger…well, that has to be the comeback of all time in my mind (or that I can think of right now). From where he was to where he went and then to comeback like he has been trying to do the last two years is remarkable. He was the greatest of his time and kept the game of golf alive when Arnold & Jack & Lee and a few others were on their way out. He was the key that kept fans interested in golf for so long. Then when he gets caught in all the scandals he was broken. All his sponsors left him and most of his fans. Then the injuries and surgeries (I think 4 knee and 4 back) and the will to rehab and keep on trying. When he had enough money and could just go out and play for fun IF he wanted to, that wasn’t good enough. He slowly works his way back after “everything” he went through. I thought the scandals would be it for him but I think it speaks volumes that if someone comes out and admits he/she did something wrong, takes accountability and apologizes, I think people will eventually forgive. I’m sure people don’t forget but do forgive. I was absolutely cheering him on yesterday and I do hope he continues to keep his winning ways and is continually competitive. He adds a great deal to the world of golf.
    As for High School and College baseball I just don’t pay much attention and for some reason never have at all. Even when teaching, the baseball team always seemed to be an after thought for most other than the players. Maybe it’s just the spring sports with all the rain outs and the end of the school year with spring break, Easter Break and end of the year planning, baseball never caught my attention. Maybe I’m missing something but not sure what it would be.
    Well…. strike six for me so I’ve stuck out twice without any homers…going back to the minors. JJ

  4. Hey Bob,
    MLB: I’m glad I’m not alone in missing rally’s based on multiple hits.
    The home run/ strike out totals are alarming! Launch angle, velocity of balls leaving the park, have placed emphasis on the long ball. Also believe the ball is wound a bit tighter & I believe the balls are rubbed down at the factory ( shortage of special mud ?) The huge salaries are going to homerun hitters.
    Golf: Tiger has beat all the pundits who said he’d never win again. Public embarrassment, many surgeries were tough to rebound from. Many would have moved to a private island, as money is no object for him. Although the payday is huge, I believe just winning, at this point, means much more to him. Tiger seems more relaxed, more human than the child prodigy we met 20 yrs ago. Read a book about Tiger. Strange childhood, domineering father, few friends his own age. His father groomed him to be the greatest golfer of all time. He succeeded, but caused a lot of social damage to his son.
    High School Sports: I’m upset that some schools simply don’t report scores to the newspaper. Some only post when they win. Don’t know whether coach or AD is responsible for reporting. So many schools now have coaches not on staff..coaches are on campus at 3 pm. Although many itinerant coaches ARE effective, I miss the days when the coaches were full time teachers.. know the school culture, the kids & parents. Perhaps if the coaches were paid more, you could encourage more full time staff to become coaches. Guess times are changing. I just haven’t yet. JP1

  5. Hey Bob
    To your article you need to add Yehlich why is Card nation even pitches to him.
    Masters was great drama and Tiger is BACK!
    Great news on UMSL golf team! I love how you give kudos to the high school & college sports.
    I agree with lot of your followers baseball is just way too long. I will watch the baseball playoffs and World Series but 162 games is way too long for me. Have a great evening!
    P.S. Pete Rose “Hit King” should be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame MB

  6. Hey, Bob. How about television? That screwed up most sports, aka commercial breaks. FS

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