Two reasons strikeouts are on the rise in MLB


(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Strikeouts have been on the rise for the past eight seasons, and this year is no exception.


Source: Baseball Reference

David Price has pitched 17 games this season, eight were double-digit strikeout games, thanks to a pretty nasty cut fastball. Mashahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish are tied for second in the majors with five games featuring 10 or more strikeouts.

Last season, pitchers struck out 7.57 batters per nine innings pitched, an increase over 6.38 per nine in 2005. This season pitchers are sitting batters down 7.73 times per nine with no signs of letting up. I see two reasons — one hitting and one pitching — contributing to the rise.

More specialized pitching

The days of pitchers going deep into games are continually fading away. Hitters are facing more specialized relievers and fresher arms earlier in the game. In the mid to late 1990s it was common to see pitchers go through the batting order four or more times, in excess of 1,400 innings pitched. Now, we see half as many innings pitched in those circumstances.


Source: Baseball Reference

Hitters having less success with two strikes

Batting averages for hitters with two strikes are at an all-time low (0.176) and it has dropped each season since 2006.


Source: Baseball-Reference

Not even the best hitters in the league are immune. The Dodgers Yasiel Puig has a .312 batting average on the season but is hitting .160 with two strikes. Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has seen his batting average drop .190 basis points (.307 to .117) once the pitcher gets two strikes on him.

Perhaps we will see changes in the way strikes are called or rule modifications that will help turn the tide back in the hitters favor, but for now, expect to see more and more hitters sent back to the dugout on strike three.

 

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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