From SABR member Graham Womack at Baseball Past and Present on May 16:
I was reading through Ken Burns Baseball over the weekend, and I was struck by a passage that noted Ty Cobb struck out 357 times in his career and sported a .367 lifetime average. While this passage turned out to be incorrect, since it didn’t count the first eight seasons of the Georgia Peach’s career, it got me thinking. Treating batting average as a round number, I wondered how many players who had at least 5,000 plate appearances retired with a higher batting average than number of strikeouts. From what I can tell, it’s a rare feat, and it might be unheard of today.
Baseball’s undergone many shifts over the years, and one of them is that players strike out much more these days. Joe Sewell played from 1920 to 1933 and fanned just 114 times in his career. Mark Reynolds almost did twice that in 2009. Heck, Sewell had whole seasons where he struck out less than Reynolds does in a day. Granted, Reynolds is far from the only player seemingly less concerned with making contact than swinging for power. The trend seems to go back to at least the 1950s. I don’t know what it is, if pitching has gotten better or coaches have de-emphasized contact hitting, but batters like Sewell are long gone from baseball.
The following is a list of players with at least 5,000 plate appearances who retired with a higher batting average than number of strikeouts.
Read the full article here: http://baseballpastandpresent.com/2011/05/16/higher-batting-average-strikeouts/
Originally published: May 16, 2011. Last Updated: May 16, 2011.