Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The power of a strikeout

Since the voting results of Major League Baseball's Cy Young Award winners were released today, it's only fitting to write a blog post about the power of a strikeout in baseball.

A strikeout is like no other out in America's favorite pastime. When a pitcher throws a sizzling 99-mph fastball or a nasty change-up that totally fools a hitter, it shows pure dominance of the pitcher over teh hitter. In many cases, a hitter will make a face, drop his bat, or even bark at the umpire about the location of the pitch. It's also a great feeling for a pitcher to strike out a batter. Sending a batter back to the dugout via a strikeout is so much different than doing so any other way. Think about it. Is a slow grounder to the shortshop who then tosses to the first baseman really that upsetting? Is a pop fly into centerfield that disappointing for a hitter? The answer is probably not. But when it comes to being "caught looking" or swinging through a pitch and missing it, there is an added feeling of being on the short end of the stick - a feeling of losing the one-on-one matchup with the guy on the mound. It's almost like a boxing match and getting knocked to the ground.

Another thing that shows the power of a strikeout is how much this statistic means to writers who vote for the best pitcher in each league. The Rays' David Price won the Cy Young for the 2012 season in the American League. Price collected 205 strikeouts. Although this didn't lead the league, it was a feat accomplished in just 211 innings, meaning he almost struck out one batter each inning in which he pitched. In the NL, R.A Dickey of the Mets took home the award and whiffed 230 batters in 233 innings. This "K" total was enough to lead his league, and many of these punch-outs came via his tricky knuckleball pitch.

The bottom line is that no hitter in baseball wants to step up to the plate and strike out. Hitters want to hit a home run, get on base, or at least get walked. The last thing they want to do is chase a nasty breaking ball or a dazzling fastball and have to face their teammates on the bench. I've never been in the cleats of a major leaguer, but from what I have observed, it's got to be like a punch to the gut. The best way to get over this feeling is probably to get up to bat again and make up for it.