Driving back to Ohio after Sunday’s game was not at all pleasant. After a nicely played contest on Saturday night, the fewer fans who turned out Sunday were treated to a sloppily played stink-fest. Mat Latos didn’t look all that sharp to me. Most of his pitches seemed flat and he was wild in the early going. Yet he managed to strike out eleven men. The bullpen contributed six more punch outs for a grand total of 17.
I had to watch Alex Presley square around to bunt in the first inning right after Jose Tabata was plunked leading off the game. Why not see if Latos is going to be wild before trying to bunt the runner over? He just hit a guy. take a couple of pitches and see what happens. Turns out, he was wild as he walked the next two men. Todd Frazier made a nice play on Casey McGehee and Nate McLouth started the whiff festivities by taking strike three to end the inning. Pittsburgh would only advance one more runner past second base all game.
So how bad is it for a team to strike out 17 times in a game? On the drive back home I was thinking it was catastrophic: only really bad teams whiff that often and those that do are doomed to finish well below .500. So how bad is it?
I searched baseball-reference.com for all incidences of a 16 whiff (16 instead of 17 to get a few more points of data) or more performance by a team in a nine inning game. Over the last five full seasons (2007-2011), it has happened 46 times. Here are some stats:
1. 15% of all the teams that suffered a 16 strikeout game went on to make the playoffs – seven out of 46.
2. 41% of all such teams finished with a mark of .500 or better.
3. The average number of wins (factoring out teams that were victimized multiple times in the same year – like the 2011 Mariners whom I counted once in spite of three such contests) for a team that suffered the indignity of 16 or more Ks was 79.
4. The starting pitchers involved in fanning so many playoff bound hitters ranged from the studly (Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy) to the the up and coming talents (Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir – up and coming when he was a part of it, Brandon Morrow) to the journeymen (Byung-Hyun Kim, Vicente Padilla).
Mr. Obvious would tell you that striking out so often isn’t a good thing by any means. But it isn’t quite as bad as I figured it was.
Other final thoughts on my weekend in Pittsburgh. I was disappointed that batting practice ended so early on Sunday. We got there as the park was opening and it was over about 10 minutes later.
With Ken the Lemonade guy no longer with us – we looked forward to seeing him every year – my new favorite vendor is a guy who sells water at the base on the Clemente bridge closest to PNC. He simply bellows ‘watta one dolla watta one dolla watta one dolla’ over and over and over again.
The shirts they were giving away as part of the Clemente ticket package were more than a bit effeminate. Not sure why they went with a v neck. Do they think that Pittsburgh is populated by a bunch of Daniel Tosh disciples? No way could I pull of a v neck t-shirt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an even larger number than normal of those find their way onto ebay.
I was happy that Clint Barmes was pinch hit for his last time up on Sunday. After he was booed twice by the home fans, my son said remarked, ‘I feel bad for him.’ In a way, I did too. He looked awful at the plate both Saturday (two weak grounders and two whiffs) and Sunday (three whiffs for five straight strike outs). Watching Barmes was like watching Mike Benjamin.
I’ve been coming over every year since 2001 to see a Saturday night game followed by a Sunday afternoon game. I have not one single time witness the Pirates win both contests. My brother called the Sunday game after the third inning was over with Pittsburgh trailing 4-0. He simply said, ‘No way this lineup scores five runs’. He was right.