The possibility has haunted the locker room for the last month. Strikeouts have been a problem for the White Sox all season, but after eclipsing the team record for strikeouts in a season the league mark wasn’t out of reach.
White Sox hitters now have 1,572 strikeouts this season, the most in a season in MLB history
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) September 29, 2018
The good news is that strikeouts have been trending north the past decade and it’s not like the White Sox broke a century-old record. On the contrary, as far as strikeouts go, the White Sox are unremarkable on the punchout scale. Major League Baseball has seen an increase in strikeouts in each season since 2008.
Keeping Good Company?
The Milwaukee Brewers set the record for most strikeouts as a team last season and the previous record was set by who else but the Brewers the season before. That’s right. The Brewers set high water-marks in consecutive seasons and could win the National League Central Division on Sunday. Meanwhile, their new stallion Christian Yelich might take home the second triple crown in 10 years and only the third in the last 60 years.
Even more encouraging is that the Houston Astros set the record for strikeouts in 2013 before the Brewers joined the party. If we look on the sunny side of things and pray that the Brew Crew win the 2018 World Series, the White Sox could be on the winning side of a strange trend. But strikeouts are not a factor to connect with a winning analysis. The Brewers were very good in 2017 despite their historic punchout rate.
How bad was it?
White Sox fans can’t blame this dubious distinction on Yoan Moncada alone. Unless he goes 0-for-6 tonight with six strikeouts he will fall short of Adam Dunn‘s 2012 strikeout total of 222. Dunn had a miraculous season in 2012 where he walked a league-high 105 times and fanned a league-best as well.
If we look closer at the 2018 White Sox roster, eight players in the Sox lineup struck out 100 times or more. Once again, punchouts are skyrocketing across the league and this isn’t necessarily an isolated problem with the White Sox. Although — let’s call a spade a spade — the South Siders need to improve in 2019. As a team, the worst month for punchouts was August with 244. June came in second with 215 and Sept. is poised to take second place if the Sox fan more than five times on Sunday.
Who needs to worry?
Moncada is immune from discussions on his future with the franchise. Matt Davidson, on the other hand, is not. Despite a white-hot start to the season (mostly against Kansas City) Davidson was a disappointment and struck out 163 times. He demonstrated more patience at the plate but he must improve hard contact next season. In fact, depending on how the offseason develops, Davidson is on the fringe of the roster in my opinion.
Daniel Palka is in a similar position with strikeouts, but he has been more productive in a comparative sample-size with Davidson — more home runs, RBI, total bases and a higher OPS. Davidson is probably more secure on the roster than I make him out to be, but if the team is built for speed (as has become evident) Davidson is a brake peddle in the middle of a dynamic offense. He must drive the ball if he wants to remain on the roster.
Other players have posted higher than desired strikeout totals, including Tim Anderson and Yolmer Sanchez. There’s no question this has to change next season.
The roster is still young and I expect development to move in the right direction. Moncada has shown signs of improvement throughout the season. Anderson is becoming the player he was in 2016. Sanchez is a versatile offensive player. And if Jose Abreu knocks in 100 runs and hits 25-30 home runs he can strike out 100 times a season without consequence.
Let’s look on the sunny side of things and hope for improvement in 2019.