Monday, November 2, 2015

Is Kris Bryant too strikeout prone?

I was looking at the season stats for Kris Bryant, the likely ROY winner for the National League this year, when I saw something startling ...  Bryant struck out 199 times this year.  It easily lead the National League and it's tied for eighth all time.  He's tied with such strikeout illuminaries as Chris Davis, Ryan Howard, and Adam Dunn.  If he had started the year in the majors, he would have easily crossed 200 strikeouts, joining strikeouts legends like Mark Reynolds in the 200+ club.

Needless to say, Bryant was a rookie, so perhaps I'm picking on his 199 strikeouts a bit too much.  However, looking up Kris Bryant's minor league record, he struck out an amazing 162 times in the minor leagues in 2014.  And that was against AA and AAA pitchers.

Now strikeouts have been going up across baseball, so they are perhaps nothing to be too concerned about.  Mike Trout had 184 strikeouts in his MVP 2014 season.  But then again, Trout admitted he was also learning to hit for more power in 2014.  That strikeout total came down to 158 in 2015.  He also never had over a 100 strikeouts in any minor league season.

In contrast, Paul Goldschmidt had 151 strikeouts this year and 145 strikeouts in his breakout 2013 season.  He also had 161 strikeouts during his full year of playing in A ball in 2010.

Still, strikeouts in the 150s range is still much lower than the 200ish that Bryant approached.  Looking at other great hitters from the past few years, the high strikeout rate for Bryant is a tad concerning.

The great Joey Votto struck out a career high of only 138 times in 2013 but has usually hovered in the low 100 range.

Miguel Cabrera struck out a career high 148 times in his rookie year but usually has hovered in the low 100s.  In his elite run from 2010-2013, he never had over 100 strikeouts.

Prince Fielder never struck out more than 138 times.  He struck out a very low 88 times in 2015.

Robinson Cano had a career high 107 strikeouts in 2015, but never crossed the 100 mark in any other year.

Jose Bautista has also hovered in the low 100 strikout land, with a career high of 116 in 2010.

I can't remember where I read it, but there was a saying that "The greatest way for a hitter to succeed to is to not make outs."  Not everyone is going to be an Albert Pujols (career high of 93 strikeouts in his rookie year, never higher than 76 in any other year) but the 199 strikeouts is a tad concerning.  If he can't get the strikeouts down, Bryant's ceiling may not be as high as everyone hoped.  This isn't to say he won't be a great player, but he may not be the second coming of Frank Thomas (career high 115 strikeouts in 2002 & 2003).

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