108: Blue Jays' early strikeout rate shocking, but not concerning

Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays struck-out at an unprecedented rate down in Tampa Bay - but don't expect that trend to continue (photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press).

Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays struck-out at an unprecedented rate down in Tampa Bay - but don't expect that trend to continue (photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press).

Apr. 7, 2016

By: Tyler King

Canadian Baseball Network

Even though the Blue Jays split their opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s hard to imagine any Jays fan feeling good about the team’s start.

A lot went wrong over the course of the first four games. There were two blown leads, a sexist comment from the manager, and some really, really weak hamstring and calf muscles - with Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders apparently both missing time due to muscle tightness. 

And I won’t even start on the end of that third game, where Bautista was called out for breaking up a double-play like every player in the history of baseball has been taught. If I said anymore on the topic I would probably end up ranting in such an unapologetic fashion that I'd make Gregg Zaun look like Mother Theresa. So we’ll just let that one alone.

Plus, the million-or-so strikeouts Jays hitters managed to rack up this week have many fans more concerned than any bogus, subjective rule change.

Let me first state that there is absolutely no reason to be worried about the strikeouts (I’ll explain soon), however I’d be remiss not to point out that the team was drifting in some unchartered waters down at the Trop’.

Their 46 (FORTY-SIX) strikeouts was apparently a franchise record over a four-game series. All I can say to that is, I sure as hell hope it would be. 

Eight players struck-out four or more times, while only five players managed to draw even a single walk.

In fact, it was so bad that the Blue Jays’ hitters struck-out in 30.9% of all their at-bats. 

Let's just think about that for a moment ... every third at-bat had opposing fans hanging a “K” sign on the banister (just kidding, Tampa doesn’t have any fans). 

Joking aside, those are some pretty shocking numbers.

Getting a gold star on this series’ Wall of SHAME are everybody’s favourite Troy Tulowitzki and Donaldson, who each struck-out seven times. 

Oddly enough, those two guys are also going on the series’ Wall of FAME for driving in seven of the team’s 14 runs. It’s a crazy game, folks.

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Alright, now allow me guess what you’re thinking:

“Forty-six strikeouts, 30.9% strikeout rate, arguably the team’s best two hitters combine for 14 K’s, and I’m not supposed to be concerned by all this!?”

No. No you’re not.

Those numbers mean literally nothing by the simple fact that it’s only been four games. Although that being said, when you have a World Series championship on the brain it is much easier to get spooked by the little (big) things.

However, if you look around the rest of the league you’ll notice that just about everybody is getting K’d at an absurdly high-rate. It’s common for hitters to be a step or two behind pitchers immediately coming out of Spring-Training, and that has been rather evident so far in 2016.

The current league average for team strikeout percentage is 23.8%. Admittedly, that’s a lot lower than the Jays 30.9%, but compare that to last season - where the league average at the end of the year was 19.9% - and you’re likely going to see a natural regression to the mean in the coming weeks.

Also, these Blue Jays hitters haven’t really struck-out much historically. Last year, the Jays were collectively below the league average in strikeout percentage at 18.5%, so don’t go thinking the new faces are going to ruin this thing. Oh that’s right, there aren’t any new faces ... (a reassuring thought).

But if you want even more peace of mind, just look at the numbers of some of those individual star players.

Tulowitzki’s strikeout rate was 43.8% for the opening series, but it’s only 16.7% over the course of his 11-year career. I promise you, Tulo did not forget how to hit a baseball in five months.

The same trend goes for Donaldson, whose career strikeout percentage of 18.7% is heaps lower than his series rate of 38.9%.

Those preposterously high numbers simply will not hold over the course of 10 games, let alone 162.

I mean, try and see the positive in all this. A team that hit .212 collectively and struck-out 46 times over four games should never win anything. Yet, somehow the Jays snuck away with two W’s. 

So do not fret, Jays fans. Rather, rejoice! Grab a beer or twelve and try to enjoy the home opener. 

And don’t forget to brace yourself for the inevitable offensive onslaught.

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Follow Tyler and #Section108 on twitter: @tylerJoseph108