On Thursday, I wrote about Mookie Betts' 29-game stretch (114 at-bats) without a strikeout. My research found that it was the third longest stretch of at-bats without a strikeout since 2000 (and longest since 2010). I also discovered that pinch hitters in the 1980s were sweet, but pretty bad at baseball. It is possible to avoid striking out, and still fail to be a productive hitter. That's something The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh wrote about on Wednesday; while still a very good hitter, Betts' numbers were worse during his streak.
So strikeouts are good, right? Well, kind of. If you hit for power, you're probably going to strike out a good amount. Mike Trout, Carlos Correa, Paul Goldschmidt, and Kris Bryant were all in the top 50 in strikeouts last year. Obviously, there's a point when strikeouts become an issue. And that's what we're looking at today. Yesterday was the longest stretch without a strikeout. Today is the longest stretch with a strikeout.
Consecutive Games With A Strikeout (since 1980)
It's not surprising at all to see more familiar names on this list (except Rich Gale). For one, the amount of strikeouts in baseball continues to skyrocket, so the names are more recent. More on that in a second. The second reason these names are more recognizable is because they all hit homers. Let's combine the players on each list and compare their streaks.
This quick math comparison revealed a couple things to me. One, the players on the strikeout list hit for a ton more power. The ten guys above hit for 50 HR during their streaks, compared with just 6 for the contact guys from yesterday. But, the second thing I realized was that a list of extreme contact guys will almost always produce a few baseball legends. In this case, Pete Rose and Tony Gwynn accounted for 64 percent (147.9) of the total career WAR.
Alright, back to my point about strikeouts constantly rising. Here are the top 10 years for strikeouts per game in baseball history.
That's right, the last 10 seasons are the top 10 for strikeouts in perfect order. For more context, here's a graph of strikeouts per game since 1940.
Strikeouts Per Game
All of this makes Mookie's stretch even more impressive. Strikeouts are at an all-time high, yet he was able to avoid them. But, we also see that strikeouts aren't completely bad; without them, you don't get any power. Like most things in life, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
By the way, Dunn's 36-game strikeout streak was to start the 2012 season with the White Sox. His game log that year is wonderful. Dunn struck out in 135 of 151 games (89.4%), leading to a career-high 222 SO. So he was terrible, right? Well actually, he made the All-Star team and cranked 41 HR. Baseball is weird.