Sunday, February 8, 2009

More Strikeouts Than Times on Base

In a comment on my post of last Sunday, Mitchell Marshall suggested I look at players whose career strikeout percentage was greater than their career on base percentage. It's an interesting idea and I wish it didn't take me a week to get to it, but so it goes. I'm sure most readers are aware of the formula for on base percentage:

Thanks Wikipedia. The numerator of that fraction is sometimes shortened to times on base (TOB). There's other ways to reach base (errors, fielder's choice, etc.), but the three used in calculating OBP are the most common. So in order to compare strikeouts to on base percentage, I think it would be simplest to compare strikeouts to times on base. Thus in this post strikeout percentage is that same fraction but with only strikeouts in the numerator.

Tossing out pitchers, twenty-one players had 20 or more strikeouts than times on base in their careers. Most of them had a single season's worth or fewer plate appearances. Obviously, they all struggled to get on base: the highest OBP on the list is .328. Only five hitters were over .300.

Players With 20+ More Strikeouts Than Times on Base in Career

Tom Egan1965-1975108433628551.313.266
Jim Fuller1973-19773411308446.385.249
J.R. Phillips1993-199954518013446.331.247
Melvin Nieves1992-1998139248343746.347.314
Dave Nicholson1960-1967166157352746.346.318
Russell Branyan1998-2008231979775938.344.328
Chad Hermansen1999-200454116813632.315.255
Ed Gastfield1884-18859037829.411.089
Brad Eldred2005-2007255936429.365.251
Bo Jackson1986-1994262684181229.321.309
Jared Sandberg2001-200370623620828.337.297
Cliff Cook1959-196343513610927.317.254
Billy Ashley1992-199868823621125.343.307
Kevin Cash2002-200855716113724.292.248
Mike Hubbard1995-2001198603723.303.187
Jason Smith2001-200859117215022.297.259
Frank Cox1884104361521.346.144
Paul Ratliff1963-19723361199821.355.293
Phil Hiatt1993-200146314912821.323.278
Jackie Warner1966133553520.414.263
Ray Busse1971-1974168543420.325.205

My favorite player listed above is Ed Gastfield. The youngest player in the 1884 National League, Gastfield backed up Detroit catcher Charlie Bennett. While Bennett was a hitting star (OPS+ of 129 or higher in 7 of 8 seasons in Detroit), Gastfield was hapless at the plate. It's possible he was overmatched because of how young he was, but his awful .073/.095/.085 (6-82, 1 2B, 2 BB, 34 K in 84 PA) batting line in 23 games didn't make it likely he'd get a chance when he was older. Neither did his 20 passed balls and 35 errors in 19 games. Gastfield did suit up one time for Detroit in 1885, going 0-3 with 2 strikeouts. Somehow he made his way to Chicago, appearing in one game and going 0-3 with 1 strikeout and 3 passed balls. That game ended his major league career.

Gastfield's career batting line works out to .068/.089/.080, good for a .169 OPS. I know it's comparing dissimilar things but I think it's interesting his SO% was more than double his OPS. He's one of only four players in all of major league history to have a higher SO% than OPS in 50 or more plate appearances:
  • Ed Gastfield, .411 SO%, .168 OPS in 90 PA
  • Enrique Cruz, .390 SO%, .240 OPS in 77 PA
  • John Roskos, .358 SO%, .294 OPS in 53 PA
  • Frank Cox, .346 SO%, .321 OPS in 104 PA
Fred Wood, the second-youngest player in the 1884 NL and Ed Gastfield's teammate, had a .367 SO% and .188 OPS in 49 plate appearances. Frank Cox also played on the 1884 Detroit Wolverines, helping to explain why they went 28-84, though at 26 he was an old man on the club. If 1884 is currently known as the year Chicago tinkered with their outfield fences and skewed home run totals, it should also be known as the year Detroit had a really, really, really bad offense. It's skewed because of the aforementioned Chicago shenanigans, but the team's OPS+ was 74. The team hit .208/.247/.284. Blech.

What of Cruz and Roskos? Well, Cruz was a rule 5 draft pick who spent all of 2003 in the majors with Milwaukee and resurfaced for one at bat with Cincinnati in 2007. Roskos was a C/1B/OF type who was drafted in the second round by Florida in 1993 and worked his way up the Marlins' minor league system but never really got a shot in the majors.


David said...


Thanks for coming up with a list that contains one of all time favorites, Paul Ratliff. It's interesting to see how many of these guys are catchers.

Marshall said...

That's "Marshall", not "Mitchell".

But thanks for taking the suggestion!

I was thinking of Mark Bellhorn when I suggested this stat - but he's not there. 847 TOB vs 723 Ks

Theron Schultz said...

Oops, sorry! I should've gone back and looked to make sure I got the name right. I've fixed it now.