Is Baseball Now All About the Next HR?

Curt Walker, OF, .304 BA
MLB: 1919-1930
Struck out Less Than 5% of the Time

Back in the 1920s, two good old Texas-born and raised outfielders, Ross Youngs and Curt Walker, were two of the best when it came to avoiding strikeouts. In the second half of the 20th century, as the game moved even deeper into the layers of commitment to bomb baseball, two more modern bangers, Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle, swung many of the dry bat toasts to nothing but air as a regular outcome consequence of their aims and swinging styles.

The following little K/PA chart easily displays the oceanic career differences that exist between these two different eras of the game. Although, as we all know, there was a guy named Ruth already rewriting the game for today by his own dramatic thunder-crunching of baseballs into the stratosphere.

A K/PA Selective Comparison of Different Style Hitters

K per PA Comparisons K/PA = K / PA
Curt Walker .046 254 5572
Ross Youngs .073 390 5336
Mickey Mantle .173 1710 9907
Reggie Jackson .228 2597 11418

Brief Notes:

Curt Walker (1919-1930) (.304 BA) (64 HR) struck out less than 5% of the time.

Ross Youngs (1917-1926) (.322 BA) (42 HR) held the strike out K down to a little over 7% time experience.

Mickey Mantle (1951-1968) (.298 BA) (536 HR) mourned the loss of his .300 BA at the end.

Reggie Jackson (1967-1987) (.262 BA) ((563 HR): When Reggie wasn’t stirring, he was whiffing.

In General: Curt Walker did some exciting things with the bat during his career. In 1926, he became one of the few to ever hit two triples in one inning. What are the odds of anyone ever getting three triples in one inning? But no matter, what he did was not enough for those who honor greatness. Walker is the only one of our four players here who is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Specific to the Question: Would it hurt the game to have a few more guys in the lineup today who batted more like Walker and Youngs? Or – are we headed toward a time in which the long ball is going to be expected of at least 7 of the 9 hitting players?

And how much has the almost 100-year-old long ball expectation shift contributed to the decline in fundamental skills on balls in play – and an apparent disinterest among some clubs in not working too hard on defensive decision-making and play execution in game situations with runners on base?

Forgive me if I seem to be posting news that’s as fresh as the attack on Pearl Harbor, but maybe Astros manager A.J Hinch already has put in motion a plan that covers greater emphasis on building a team that has to work on developing a deeper understanding of fundamental baseball.

Hinch plans to train several key Astros to play several different positions. That’s great. It will both protect the club against the nettlesome problem of losing a key player to injury during the season – and it automatically forces players to take a sharper refreshing look at the fundamental differences that come into play from one spot to another in key game situations.

Gotta love it.

At any rate, the subject needs to stay fresh, even if it has aged. Once the introspection stops, baseball becomes like the 4th of July. As fans, we just go to the game and wait for the fireworks.

Oh. – Are we already there?

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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4 Responses to “Is Baseball Now All About the Next HR?”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    The fact that the infield shift works so well is evidence that modern batters can’t properly handle a bat, something the old-fashioned game of Pepper taught so well. Now it’s all about proper elevation and power through the zone.

    And the MLB network and ESPN don’t help with their emphasis on home runs over defense. I never watch the homerun hitting contest at the All-Star Game. And when I attend a game, I’m always hoping to see a no hitter.

  2. Larry Dierker Says:

    Check out Joe Sewell :for a contact hitter.

    • Tom Hunter Says:

      At your suggestion, I checked out Joe Sewell’s incredible record of lowest strikeout rate in major league history. What was more remarkable is the report in his New York Times obituary that he played his entire career using only ONE bat (a 40-ouncer he dubbed “Black Betsy.”), which he kept in shape by rubbing with a Coke bottle and seasoning with chewing tobacco.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thank you, Mr. Dierker. Yes, Joe Sewell is the crazy-about-contact-hitting model for all-time, even making guys like Curt Walker or Ross Youngs look like wild and woolly free swingers. Sewell’s 114 career strike outs in 8,333 career plate appearances left him with an almost-can’t-miss K/PA of 0.04.

      Joe Sewell could almost throw his bat at a pitch and come up with a contact bunt single on the infield grass to show for it.

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