Friday, May 29, 2009

Ask Sports Sturm: All of Nothing

chris-davisAfter Chris Davis' Tuesday performance of the 2-HR, 2-K variety, I was sent this email by Tim in Bedford:

Is Chris Davis the biggest All-or-Nothing guy in Major League Baseball? It seems like it either a HR or a strikeout with this guy, and while I enjoy the good...I do wonder about that bad.


Thanks, Tim. This is a topic I have become interested in with the plight of Chris Davis this season. He is someone I certainly root for, because I enjoy watching him play.

But, the amazing All-or-Nothing discussion is one worth looking at.

First, upon searching this overall concept on google, I found a Sports Illustrated story from Tom Verducci from July, 2000, on the topic:
Get a whiff this. If Marlins centerfielder Preston Wilson keeps striking out at the rate he did over the first half of the season, he will fan nearly as many times in one year than Hall of Famer Nellie Fox did in his 19-year career. On track for 215 punchouts (Fox K'd 216 times), Wilson finally seems to have found something he can't miss: Bobby Bonds's record of 189 strikeouts in 1970. Wilson was hitting .260 and whiffing .350. The likelihood of setting such a notorious record, however, troubles Wilson, 25, and the Marlins not at all. "Oh, I fully expect him to break it," Florida manager John Boles says.

"I don't worry about that," Wilson says. "I'd rather set the strikeout record and help the team win by driving in runs than just go up there and try to cut down on strikeouts. That would be selfish."

Ho, hum. A hundred strikeouts, one of the last great taboos of hitting, has gone mainstream. No one blanches at a 100-whiff season, a mark of dishonor only a decade ago. With the boom in home runs has come the acceptance of the strikeout as their tariff. "It's the price you pay," says Wilson, who is on pace to hit 35 homers and drive in 116 runs-career highs.

Last season 26 of the 45 players who hit 30 or more homers also struck out at least 100 times; overall 71 batters hit the century mark in K's. Despite all the advances in video analysis and instruction, hitters whiff more now than ever before—there have been 13.07 strikouts per game this year, or one out of every four outs. Wilson is the extreme example of today's grip-it-and-rip-it batting culture. Baseball is producing better sluggers, not necessarily better hitters, who've made the strikeout shameless. Boles, for instance, has no plans to curtail Wilson's playing time in September if the record is within reach.

"He can hit the ball as far as anybody and he'll be an impact player," Boles says. "I'd rather accentuate those positives than worry about a negative."

In 2009, Chris Davis is hitting .203, and he is whiffing .449! 71 strikeouts in 158 at bats is not bad; it is historic.

Now, his home run rate is actually up from 2008. Last season, he hit a home run 5.7% of his AB's, and this year it is up to 7.6%. Texas has played 46 games this season, and Davis has played in 45. At this rate, you can project 35+ Home Runs, and well over 210 strikeouts. It is a phenomenal all-or-nothing season.

A few questions I have about Chris Davis, as we try to put this in perspective:

1. Has he always struck out like this? Is this just who he is? What did he do in the minor leagues?

According to , Chris has always struck out, but nothing like this.

YearLevelK Rate
2006-A Spokane23.2%
2007A+ Bakersfield29.4%
2007AA Frisco21.6%
2008AA Frisco21.8%
2008AAA OKCity22.8%
2008MLB Texas27.8%
2009MLB Texas41.8%

Table Tutorial

That certainly is a jump in 2009. It indicates what we all know: That major league pitchers will figure out your weakness, and then pound it until you prove it is not a weakness. 41.8% of plate appearances, and 44.9% of AB's, is a stunning number. But, let's also remember that this is fewer than 200 AB's, and one that will hopefully improve with coaching and hard work.

Please also understand that those strikeout rate numbers do not consider the good of his hitting (the run production that got him here in the first place) which never featured a slugging percentage below .534 at any level of his professional career. Nor, does it consider his above-average defense at first base.

2. Isn't it true that many A.O.N. batters exist in major league baseball, and is it that big of a deal if the HR and run production totals are there?

This is kind of a "beauty in the eye of the beholder" question. Thanks to our valued reader, JMelton, here are the AON leaders from 2008 - Please keep in mind that AON% is the HR% + the K%:

1.Cust, Oak336.9%19741%47.8%
2.Shoppach, Cle216.0%13337.8%43.8%
3.Reynolds, Ari285.2%20437.8%43.0%
4.Howard, Phi487.9%19932.6%40.5%
5.Pena, TB316.3%16633.9%40.2%

Table Tutorial

And, then here is Chris Davis, 2009:

Davis, Tx127.6%7144.9%52.5%

Table Tutorial

As you can see, a 52.5% All-or-Nothing rate is off the charts. But, can Rudy Jaramillo and the gang make his bad numbers shrink and keep the good numbers where they are? I would imagine it will start with working on hitting the fastball, which is starting to look like a real issue. But, I am out of my depths on the fine art of hitting. All I know is the numbers show that he is setting a new standard for the All-Or-Nothing stat.

Work in progress, folks. Work in progress.

No comments: