HR’s & K’s vs Hits, Running & Defense


Which would you rather have?

Well, as in most choices in life, you have your pros and you have your cons to consider.

On the pro side of the fence: Who doesn’t enjoy the epic 9th inning, “Get up baby, get up, get up…oh yeah!” home run?  Everyone and their mother loves the four-bagger/moon shot.

But, unfortunately, every silver lining has a cloud; and the dark cloud looming here is the price you pay for all those Home Runs you are devouring as a fan.

What is the cost: Strikeouts, lots and lots of  OMG he whiffed again strikeouts.

Are they striking out more now than back in the day?  Does Dotem need to be set free?  Yeah; duh, of course they are striking out – way more.  We have all witnessed the feast (HR) or famine (K’s) that is now Major League Baseball’s standard fare.  Now, if you have been around a while, you have what they call ‘historical perspective’ (Old Fart) remembering the glory days of “Whitey-ball” when Vince, Willie and Ozzie were whizzing around the bases, stealing runs and wins with their legs and their defense, only interrupted by a timely shot in the gap, to the wall.

Statistically speaking, in way of a contrast comparison, in 1980 the MLB average Strikeouts per game was 4.80.  Thirty-Eight years later in 2018, to date, the K’s average has nearly doubled to 8.47.  (4.80 vs 8.47)

So, the reward: Dingers; lots of sexy Dingers.

We all have been conditioned to savor those long, majestic bombs over the centerfield wall that fill the highlight reel night in and night out. (Think 2011 game 6).

More Stats: In 1980 MLB averaged .78 HR’s per game, in 2018 the MLB average muscled up almost 50% higher to 1.14 HR’s per game.  More specifically, the St. Louis Cardinals are averaging 1.24 HR’s per game in 2018 whilst striking out an average 8.44 times per game.  (1.14  HR, 8.44 K’s) (Of course, if you remove the DF factor, you can lower the strikeouts per game to 4.44. (Poke, poke, jab, jab)

Well, which would YOU rather have served up?  Lots of HR’s smothered in K’s, or Base stealing, Field diving, keep the line moving, Charlie Hustle Baseball?

For my money?  I guess I would like to see a nice blend of Home Runs along with some good old-fashioned situational hitting, more players laying out to steal a hit (Think Harrison Bader) and dudes running around the bases like there is no tomorrow.

This brave, new world would look something like this:  The Cardinals are down by a run in the bottom of the 5th, man on second, nobody out.  You’re up to bat and your goal is to move the runner over to third.  What do you need to do?  Hit a ground ball to the right side or lay down a bunt on the third base line.  Either way, you choke up a little, shorten your swing with two strikes and you get that sucker over to third, whatever it takes.  Of course, an integral part of what it will take will be the willingness to sacrifice your power stats and ego.  Maybe, even more importantly, coaches in the minors need to teach the young guns to be more flexible with their swing.  You develop the hitting skills in the minors to shorten your swing or have an inside-out swing etc.  Ultimately, management should reward players for their adaptive style of hitting with appropriate promotions to the big leagues.

If we wonder, how did we get into this feast or famine pickle?  Possibly, it was born out of necessity, to allow baseball to become relevant again in the shadows of the post-strike era.  Hence, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation with the HR race of ’98.  That HR dash to destiny was on the heels of a major off the field battle over money and power between ownership and players. Ironically, both sides of the battle also had to ultimately sacrifice something short-term to realize long-term gains.

Now, factor in who was sitting in front of their T.V.’s and watching the HR race of ’98?  You, me and whole bunch of future MLB players who spent endless summers, as kids, sitting in their rooms with friends, playing Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest on their Nintendo 64.

Can you picture it?  Matt Carpenter – who is currently, in real life, tied for the national league HR race with 28 Home Runs, who was at that time, a pimple-faced impressionable 12-year-old kid when Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy Sosa were launching bomb after glorious bomb over the ramparts of every stadium in the league. Picture little Matty sitting there on his Nintendo 64 pretending to be Big Mac, being the hero with the walk-off HR.  So is there a psychological connection between the hero worship of Mark McGwire that Carp experienced as a kid and the swing that he eventually developed?

I am remembering, Chris Berman on SportsCenter with his over the top Back, Back, Back, Back etc. HR calls of the 90’s. (Click and enjoy)

Back to the article: I would certainly think the Home Run race played some part in Carpenter’s professional development, combined with baseball’s desire for viewership and sequentially, television contracts/revenue.

So, if you had your druthers, what would it be?  Home Run Heaven paved by Strikeout Kings or Lightning McQueen Speed, Dope Defense and a take it to the opposite-field-single by the Wizard?


NOTES: Hope you enjoyed the article. Would love to hear your thoughts on Home Run baseball… and enjoy all of the videos and audio by clicking on the links.

QUESTION: Do you know the record for most strikeouts in an inning? Answer: ________?

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About the Author

Lumpy Rutherford
Lumpy Rutherford is the head writer for the Toast Dispatch. His favorite topics are St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jeremy Rutherford and former Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak.