Read any fantasy baseball analysis and you’re bound to encounter the hitter strikeout rate (or K-percentage) statistic. “Player A’s strikeout rate has increased from 18% last year to 22% so far this year”. I understand K-percentage is, it’s not complicated to calculate. But I’ve never been able to locate a good explanation of why strikeout rate is inherently bad or what it indicates. So I set out to answer some of these questions.
My goal in this post is to take a deep look into what strikeout rate is and what effect it has on batting average. If you’re not much for reading, skip to the spreadsheet illustrating the effect of strikeout rate on batting average.
What Is Strikeout Rate?
This is simply the percentage of plate appearances that result in a strikeout. Fangraphs has a good, brief discussion of the statistic and what represents an Awful-to-Excellent rate.
Strikeout Rate = Strikeouts / Plate Appearances
What Does This Mean? Why Do We Care?
After quite a bit of scouring the internet, I am still unable to locate anything more than the basic definition of the term strikeout rate (if you know of a great explanation, please leave a comment or Tweet me the link). The Fangraphs article mentions the more a player strikes out, the more difficult it is to maintain a high batting average, but it’s short on specifics. I found a nice article at Beyond the Box Score about how to predict strikeout rate. But that seems like a pointless exercise until I understand more about the statistic (why predict something I don’t fully understand!).
Since I can’t find a great resource, I’m left to speculate and make an educated guess. It’s pretty clear that a strikeout is a missed opportunity to put the ball in play. It’s certainly an out. So it inherently is detrimental to a players batting average (the ball is not put into play, so the AB cannot result in a hit). Further, it can’t lead to a run, HR, or RBI.
While we know it’s bad for batting average, it’s very important to keep in mind that there is also a trade off. Watch enough baseball and you know that striking out is related to power. And it’s been proven that this is the case. So we know that striking out negatively affects batting average, but it is positively related to hitting for power. Meaning there’s likely some point at which you could optimize a hitters ability to hit for average and still hit for power. That seems like a different article for a different day.
The Effect On Batting Average
How much does strikeout rate affect batting average? (more…)