Living with Strikeouts: An Inspirational Story

Otto Greule Jr

Strikeouts are a problem that affects many of today's ballplayers; your favorite player, or perhaps your second favorite player may be coping with this disease. Yet most of them can have productive, fulfilling careers.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Terry Francona, manager, TV analyst, and spokesman for Players with Strikeouts:

"We're going to have some. That's the way it is," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Now, the one nice thing that's changed over the winter is we've acquired so much speed that we should be able to manufacture some runs. We are, we're going to strike out a lot. We have guys that strike out.

"There's going to be periods where the team is in a funk or whatever, and you're going to see a lot of strikeouts. But the good side of that is we have some guys that really can run."

Terry has spent most of his managing career working with Players with Strikeouts, encouraging these unfortunate athletes to rise above this debilitating condition. Besides, strikeouts should not define who a player is.

Mark Reynolds is a first baseman, a designated hitter, a home run hitter, and an all-around nice guy who just happens to strike out once every three plate appearances. But that hasn't prevented him from having a successful career. He has 181 career home runs and 408 career walks and...well, that's about it, but those home runs and walks make him a useful player if deployed effectively.

Perfect all-around players are very rare; even if you take defense out of the equation, a perfect offensive player is rare. If you're lucky, you might have one or two players with few offensive flaws on your roster. The rest, even if they have their good points, will likely have weaknesses that the opposition will try to expose. The Indians have some players with nice offensive tools, such as Michael Bourn (speed), Nick Swisher (power, on-base skills), and the aforementioned Mark Reynolds (power). All three players strike out a lot. Hence these stories are already appearing, and I would imagine that they'll continue to appear.

For an offense, the goal is simple: drive in as many runs as possible. To drive in as many runs as possible, you must limit your outs. That means limiting weak ground balls to the first baseman, hard-hit double plays to the shortstop, short lazy fly balls to the center fielder, and strikeouts. A strikeout is an out, but there are many ways to make an out. A strikeout can tell you a bit about how aggressive a hitter is, a trend of increasing strikeouts will probably worry you about the future viability of a player, but the strikeout in the course of a season matters only as much as Casey Kotchman's special variety of weak dribblers to the right side of the infield.

"Ultimately what matters is how many runs you produce," Francona said. "Certainly, it's nice to have guys in your batting order that, with like a runner on third in a tight game, can put the bat on the ball. But we don't want [someone like] Reynolds to shorten up, to put the ball in play at the expense of his power.

"He is what he is. He's going to go up there and try to whack it. Well, go ahead."

It would be nice for Mark Reynolds to combine his power with a short stroke that can dump the ball into the opposite field with two strikes, but he isn't that guy. He's going to hit home runs, and he's going to strike out. We can wish Reynolds to become the reincarnation of Joe Sewell, but those wishes rarely come true, not at this stage in his career. There will be times with a runner on third and one out when Reynolds will strike out. We'll probably be ticked off, and call him all sorts of unpleasant names. But there will also be times when he'll hit a two-run homer with a runner on first and two outs, and then he'll be the greatest thing ever.

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