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Color By Numbers: One, Two, Three Strikes…

Posted By William Juliano On September 13, 2012 @ 2:28 pm In 1: Featured | Comments Disabled

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Without much fanfare, Curtis Granderson established a new single season franchise record for most strikeouts by a Yankee batter. Ironically, Granderson’s 170th strikeout came against Aaron Cook, whose 1.98 K/9 rate is the lowest among all pitchers with at least 80 innings. Otherwise, the centerfielder’s prolific accumulation of strikeouts hasn’t been surprising. After all, the record he broke was his own.

Most Strikeouts, Total and Rate, in Yankee History, Since 1901
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Note: Qualified seasons only for rate list.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

In addition to holding the new Yankee record for most strikeouts, Granderson’s K rate of 28.4% also ranks first among all qualified seasons in franchise history, surpassing the previous high of 26.3% set by Jesse Barfield in 1990. However, the left handed slugger hasn’t been the only Yankee with a propensity for striking out. Nick Swisher’s rate of 23.5% would also rank among the top 10, and as a team, the Bronx Bombers have struck out more frequently than at any point in their long history.

Yankees’ K Rate (Offense), Since 1901
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Note: Rate is a percentage of plate appearances.
Source: fangraphs.com 

The Yankees’ record setting strikeout pace extends to both sides of the ball. The pitching staff’s 8.17 strikeouts per nine innings currently represent the highest total in franchise history, besting the 7.85 figure posted in 2001. Although no pitchers are in line to break a record on their own, C.C. Sabathia’s K/9 rate of 8.82 is good for fourth on the team’s all-time list (qualified seasons only).

Yankees’ K Rate (Pitching), Since 1901
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Note: Rate is per nine innings.
Source: fangraphs.com

Strikeouts have not only been popular in the Bronx, but across the major leagues as well. In fact, the league-wide K rates this season have been the highest recorded since 1901. Since the early 1980s, strike outs have been on gradual increase throughout the game, but that trend has accelerated in the last five years. As a result, the Yankees’ record setting rates don’t really stand out when compared to the league leaders. On offense, the Bronx Bombers actually have struck out below the MLB average of 19.7%, leading to a ranking in the bottom third of the lead. On the pitching side, the Yankees do rank third in the American League and sixth in the majors, but the team’s punch out percentage isn’t far above the norm.

Historical Strikeouts Rates (Offense), Since 1913

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Source: fangraphs.com

Historical Strikeouts Rates (Pitching), Since 1901
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Source: fangraphs.com

There are lots of theories that could explain the accelerating increase in strikeouts. PED withdrawal, a new crop of young, strong-armed pitchers, umpire evaluation technology that has forced an expansion in the strike zone, and bullpen specialization are theories that either by themselves or in conjuction could be responsible for the upward trend. Regardless of the reason, baseball is the midst of the golden age of the strikeout, so players like Curtis Granderson shouldn’t hang their heads in shame. Besides, nothing beats a nice cool breeze in the summer anyway.


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