FIRE JOE MORGAN: Meet Modernity, Murray Chass


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Monday, October 03, 2005


Meet Modernity, Murray Chass

Experienced writers sure enjoy their conventional wisdom. Take Murray Chass of the New York Times. He wrote an article called Rodriguez Manages to Be Productive Despite Strikeouts.

Because everyone knows strikeouts are bad, right? They're bad! They make you look silly! Everyone knows that! Everyone!

Rodriguez is having a great season, a most valuable player season, one of the best of his 11-year career, but he is striking out more than ever. Not only has he struck out a career-high number of times, but he has struck out more frequently in the last 10 weeks than he had previously. But - and here's the weird part (emphasis mine) - as his strikeout ratio has risen, he has hit better and more productively than before.

The italicized part is where Murray Chass falls down. Chass assumes that strikeouts are so intrinsically damaging that it's inconceivable that a hitter's productivity could increase when his strikeout rate does the same.

But even a cursory examination of the league leaders in strikeouts puts that assumption into serious doubt.

Here are the top ten leaders in strikeouts in the American League:

Richie Sexson
Alex Rodriguez
Brandon Inge
Hank Blalock
Grady Sizemore
Eric Chavez
Jhonny Peralta
Alfonso Soriano
Mark Teixeira
David Ortiz

And as a bonus, here's number eleven:

Travis Hafner

Notice anything about these guys? They're all pretty decent hitters. In fact, ten of the eleven have 22 or more home runs. No one save for Blalock has an OPS lower than .750. And four of them -- Rodriguez, Teixeira, Ortiz, and Hafner -- are MVP-level mashers.

So isn't it possible that strikeouts aren't so bad? That they correlate positively to power and perhaps discipline (loosely defined)? Why can't Murray Chass take five seconds, go to Yahoo! Sports and click on "K" to sort guys by number of strikeouts? Doesn't he like baseball?

No. Instead, he'll go to his scroll of parchment, remove his feather pen from its inkwell, and write in Middle English about how completely insane it is that Alex Rodriguez manages to be productive despite striking out a lot.

Way to promulgate misinformation, Murray Chass. You probably think Andy Rooney has too many newfangled modern ideas.

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posted by Junior  # 1:56 PM
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