Cameron: The myth of the passive hitter

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on May 16, 2013:

Apparently, a memo went out to every major media organization that covers Major League Baseball, telling them that they should cover the ever increasing rise of strikeout rate in the sport. …  Pretty much each writer notes that the rise of statistical analysis has taken some of the stigma away from the strikeout, to the point that a hitter who strikes out 150 or 200 times per year is no longer considered to be an offensive black hole.


But, there’s another contention in most of these articles that gets tied into that point; that current hitters have adopted a much more passive approach at the plate, and that the rise in strikeouts is due in large part to hitters staring at pitches that hitters 20 years ago would have no problem swinging at.


I don’t think you can make a particularly good case that there has been a dramatic change in how often hitters are swinging over the last two decades, and you certainly can’t make a case that it’s a recent trend, as the 45.3% swing rate in 2012 was the highest it has been in MLB since 2005, when hitters swung at 45.5% of the pitches they were thrown.

But, of course, strikeouts are indeed on the rise, so something is going on. If hitters aren’t swinging less often, then there are only two real options left; they’re either taking more called strikes or they’re swinging and missing more often.

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Originally published: May 16, 2013. Last Updated: May 16, 2013.