by Harold Friend
It is almost a certainty that in 2009, every American League team will have struck out at least 1.000 times. Oakland has 998 strikeouts, Chicago has 986, New York has 975, Minnesota is at 973, and Baltimore has the fewest with 970. The league average for team strikeouts is 1,052.
The Mets Will Not Have 1,000 Strikeouts
The only National League teams that have fewer than 1.000 strikeouts are the Mets (907), and the Astros (951). Both are offensively challenged teams, and with only a few games remaining, it unlikely that either will reach 1,000 team strikeouts. The National League averages 1,099 strikeouts per team.
Every Team Struck Out at Least 1,000 Times
In 1997 and again in 2001, every National League team had at least 1.000 strikeouts. Of course, the National League plays baseball the traditional way. The pitcher bats because there is no designated hitter allowed.
Mark Reynolds: "So What?"
The top strikeout artist is Arizona's Mark Reynolds, who has set an all-time record by whiffing 211 times. The Diamondbacks have six games remaining, which gives Mark an excellent chance to reach at least 220 strikeouts. For his three-year major league career, Reynolds averages 214 strikeouts over a 162 game season.
After he set the new strikeout record, Reynolds was asked about his strikeouts, he responded, "So what?" Mark has 44 home runs, 101 RBIs, and has stolen 24 bases.
Major league teams average 4.62 runs a game in 2009 because despite the strikeouts, the team average for home runs is over 160.
Let's go to 1920, one season after the Cincinnati Reds defeated the highly favored Chicago White Sox. Some White Sox players didn't try as hard as they should have tried, so the baseball powers wanted the game to become even more offensive than it has been before the scandal.
In 1920, teams averaged 4.36 runs a game, or 0.26 fewer runs than in 2009, but no team came close to 1,000 strikeouts. The Yankees led baseball with 621 strikeouts. The team average was 453 strikeouts.
Nineteen thirty was a highly offensive season. Teams scored 5.55 runs a game, and averaged 98 home runs with 496 strikeouts.
The following summarizes average team runs scored and strikeouts for some selected seasons during different eras:
YEAR RUNS K's
1910 4.03 276
1920 4.36 453
1930 5.55 496
2009 4.62 1077
Strikeouts and Scoring
Recognizing the limitation that only four seasons have been selected, care must be taken when drawing conclusions, but it cannot be denied that despite so many strikeouts, teams today score at least as many runs as did past teams that had fewer strikeouts.
No Longer a Disgrace
The objective is to win the game, and the game is won by scoring more runs than the opposition. That rule doesn't change for teams that win with pitching and defense. They must still score at least one more run than the opposition.
Strikeouts are no longer disgraceful. Swinging and missing is not shameful. It has become accepted that strikeouts are merely another way for a batter to be retired. As Mark Reynolds said about his lack of contact, "So what?"