Friday, March 27, 2015

A Rule Needs to be Changed

In the 1930s and 1940s the good hitters of the league almost always had more walks than strikeouts. It was their belief, and should still be held in high regard, that you had to have productive at-bats.

During a cactus league contest in which Gregor Blanco grounded into a double play with less than 2 outs with a runner on first and third base but the run did score to tie the game at 5-5, it was Jon Miller's contention that Blanco did his job. Albeit his at-bat cost his team two outs he did in fact get the runner in from third base.

Miller referred to something Reggie Smith, the former Red Sox, Cardinal, Dodger, and Giant's slugger who belted 314 career home runs, told him while he was a hitting coach. Smith expressed his dissatisfaction that grounding into a double-play with less than two outs but scores the runner does not count for a run batted in. Because the runner didn't pop-up, strikeout or do something in which the runner had no chance to score. His at-bat allowed the runner to score.

Rule 10.04 Runs Batted In
(b) The official scorer shall not credit a run batted in
(1) when the batter grounds into a force double play or a reverse-force double play; or
(2) when a fielder is charged with an error because the fielder muffs a throw at first base that would have completed a force double play.

I got to thinking about this as I was listening to all the player and position changes and I think you have to account for your at-bats. Back in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, players were career minor leaguers if they struck out excessively (in comparison to bases on balls). Regardless if they hit 30 to 40 home runs. Those guys got called up in September and got to show a little of what they were capable of but for the most part they were not given a chance to show, over the long haul, that they were worth the look by the big league club.

Things are beginning to change nowadays. Teams are more willing to sign the Mark Reynolds's in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. Especially if those constructing the team feel their team has the pitching and defense. If they have players with the ability of making plays to squelch opponents' efforts to build a rally, a batter who strikes out most of the time but does connect often enough to reach 30-HRs and 90-RBIs might be have a place within their budget. Teams are willing to sacrifice the out whereas the contact hitter may ground into a few more double-plays and kill any potential for a big inning which to their way of thinking does a team more harm than good. The team can still pay based on what their numbers produce, regardless if it's inning-ending double-plays or multiple strikeouts per game played.

The player, back in the day, that first came to mind was someone who hit several home runs but who only played one full season in the major leagues. That player was Steve Bilko. In 1953, with the St. Louis Cardinals he hit 21-HR and had 84-RBI. But he also struck out 125 times versus 70 walks. Teams didn't go for the big power numbers if the batter struck out a good percentage of the time.

Bilko was the only player in Pacific Coast League history to win the league's MVP award in three consecutive seasons (1955-57)..In 1956 he won the Triple Crown with 55-HR, 164-RBI, and .360-AVG.

(Note: There is a current ballplayer who has shown he can hit the long ball but has a knack for swinging-and-missing, and that player is Mark Reynolds.)

Rank/ Player (age that year)/Strikeouts/Year/(side of plate player)Bats
1. Mark Reynolds (25) 223 2009 R
2. Adam Dunn (32) 222 2012 L
4. Mark Reynolds (26) 211 2010 R
5. Drew Stubbs (26) 205 2011 R
6. Mark Reynolds (24) 204 2008 R
Adam Dunn (30) 199 2010 L
Ryan Howard (27) 199 2007 L
Ryan Howard (28) 199 2008 L
12. Mark Reynolds (27) 196 2011 R
13. Adam Dunn (24) 195 2004 L
15. Adam Dunn (26) 194 2006 L
16. Ryan Howard (34) 190 2014 L
Adam Dunn (33) 189 2013 L
Rob Deer (26) 186 1987 R
Ryan Howard (29) 186 2009 L
33. Mike Trout (22) 184 2014 R
Mark Trumbo (27) 184 2013 R
Rickie Weeks (27) 184 2010 R
Carlos Pena (34) 182 2012 L
41. Ryan Howard (26) 181 2006 L
46. Rob Deer (25) 179 1986 R
47. Richie Sexson (26) 178 2001 R
48. Adam Dunn (29) 177 2009 L
Adam Dunn (31) 177 2011 L
In the days of Joe DiMaggio (790-BBs,369-Ks) and Ted Williams (2021-BBs,709-Ks) you would see these highly impressive numbers but if the superstar struck out more than he walked he most certainly did not get a raise or, even more startling, got a pay reduction. It was a tough go for those old-timers but I firmly believe their approach was appropriate.(Stan Musial's all-time strikeout to walk ratio was 1599-BBs to 696-K's. He's also the guy with the most incredible statistic ever, of his 3,630 hits, exactly 1815 were at home and 1815 were on the road. How about that!)

Just as Carl Reginald Smith was accurate in saying Gregor Blanco should be credited with a run batted in. He did his job even if two outs were made during his plate appearance. He wasn't butting heads with the establishment as to why they choose who they choose, he was just saying that the ground out double-play with less than two outs IS a productive out.

And if you look at current lists of batters who went deep more than the average player, but were players who didn't spend a whole lot of time in the majors
why don't these batters get a longer look? Bad glove, one-dimensional, just not meant-to-be, etc. See the following list, these guys didn't get much of a shot to excel at the major league level, despite their minor league totals.

Hector Espino, 484
Nelson Barrera, 479
Andres Mora, 444
Alejandro (Alex) Ortiz, 434
Buzz Arlett, 432
Nick Cullop, 420
Merv Connors, 400
Mike Hessman, 400

I just think productive at-bats always trumps the occasional long ball.

Kevin J. Marquez