One of the many hot topics early in the Cardinals’ season, is the amount of strikeouts the offense is racking up.
Entering Thursday’s game in Cincinnati, the Cards were striking out just over 25 percent of their at-bats. In 2017, the team struck out in 21.7 percent of its at-bats. That’s a sizable difference.
Of course, a decent chunk of those strikeouts can be attributed to the fact Paul DeJong had whiffed in 19 of his first 46 plate appearances. His 41.3 percent K-rate would’ve led all of baseball in 2017 for batters with more than 300 plate appearances.
It’s safe to say his strikeout rate will drop, but it’s not clear by how much. The current era of baseball puts a premium on power and lessened the stigma around high strikeout numbers.
Basically, if a player strikes out a lot, but still produces runs, that’s acceptable. If that player can combine his power with a high walk rate, all the better.
Last season, Aaron Judge took baseball by storm while maintaining a 30.7 percent strikeout rate. He did so while hitting 52 home runs and walking 18.7 percent of the time. His home run total was second only to Giancarlo Stanton, and his walk rate was second only to Joey Votto.
DeJong is not Judge. He’s not going to hit 52 home runs. In 2017, he walked 4.7 percent of the time. He’s walking even less this season. His issue is largely one of plate discipline.
Marcell Ozuna is also doing his part to raise the Cardinals’ strikeout stats. The team’s major offseason acquisition has produced solid numbers thus far, but he’s striking out nearly 29 percent of the time.
What’s more noteworthy at this point is that, entering Thursday, Ozuna hadn’t taken a single walk. For his career, he’s walked 7 percent of the time and struck out 22 percent. So, it’s reasonable to believe things will even out before they get worse.
The final regular with an inflated strikeout rate is Matt Carpenter. His current pace, 27 percent, would be a nearly 9 percent increase over his career rate.
With the exception of DeJong, the strikeout numbers should mostly even out. Still, their elevated strikeout rate isn’t the most pressing issue.
After searching for power and adding Ozuna, the Cardinals still find themselves lacking pop. The extra Ks would be acceptable if the team wasn’t experiencing an extend power outage.
The team’s slugging percentage is down from 2017. The isolated power metric – slugging percentage minus batting average – is down about 30 points from last year. Plus, the Cardinals are getting on base less than a season ago.
In short, the Cardinals are doing things backward. While their strikeout rate is peaking (hopefully), their on-base percentage and power numbers are lagging.
It’s easy to get up in arms about too many strikeouts, and while that angst isn’t altogether misplaced, it would be easier to stomach if they was paired with greater production.