Sunday, November 23, 2008

Should Ryan Howard Try To Strikeout Less?

You might think so. In both 2006 and 2007 he led the major leagues in "contact average." I define that as hits divided by (AB - K + SF). His contact average in 2006 was .448 and in 2007 it was .421 (although it fell to .372 in 2008). And he strikes out about 190 times a year. So more contact would mean more hits, right? Maybe, maybe not. I looked at this issue a few years ago with Strikeouts and the value of hitters.

Generally I found that when batters cut down their strikeout rates from year to year, they hit better. But I also found the effect was slight. Here is an exerpt:

"Using the data from the 2002-3 seasons, I ran a regression with change in AVG being the dependent variable and change in strikeouts per AB being the independent variable.

The equations was:

AVGChange = -.00036 - .274*(SO/AB)Change

This means that if a player cut his strikeouts down by 100, his hits would go up by 27.4. That is like saying on his additional ABs when he does not strikeout, he bats .274. This may not be impressive because for all of these players over the 2002-3 seasons, they already bat about .336 when they don't strikeout. Also, the r-squared was only .068, meaning that the regression explains only about 6.8% of the variation in AVGChange. So if there is any negative side to striking out, it is probably not too large."

This got me to thinking what happens to batter's contact average when their strikeout rate changes (something I had not looked at in this earlier study). I found all the hitters in baseball who had 300+ ABs in both 2006 and 2007 (190 plyaers). Then I calculated their strikeout rates (K/AB), their contact rates and how each one changed from 2006 to 2007. The correlation between the change in strikeout rate and the change in contact rate was .142. So if a batter's strikeout rate increased, his batting average while making contact also increased. Looking at the changes from 2005 to 2006 gave a .18 correlation.

Maybe this makes sense. If you swing harder, you strike out more. But a harder swing means the ball is hit harder, which should mean more hits. So combined with the earlier study, a player should be careful if he thinks he should make a big effort to strikeout less.


Anonymous said...

Howard is difficult to figure out. But, I don't think his strikeouts are a function of how hard he does/doesn't swing. From watching him hit the last few years, his strikeouts are due to an inability to lay off sliders low and away. Believe me, he's swinging pretty hard at those!

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Maybe Howard decides to swing hard alot, regardless of the pitch. So he knows he will strike out alot but he knows if he does make contact hit will be hit hard.


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