Texas Rangers

Striking trend: Rangers are poster team for rise in strikeouts

Rangers’ Joey Gallo tips cap to tough Astros pitching staff

Joey Gallo assesses Rangers' opening series against the Astros
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Joey Gallo assesses Rangers' opening series against the Astros

The Texas Rangers are the poster team for the state of the game in 2018.

Strikeout rates have increased every year since 2006, when batters struck out 6.52 times per game. In 2018, that number is at an all-time high 8.71 strikeouts a game.

The Rangers went over 400 strikeouts on Saturday. They lead the majors with 424. The Blue Jays are the next-closest American League team at 373. Part of the issue has to do with who Texas is facing most often. American League West foes Houston and Anaheim are Nos. 1 and 7 in strikeouts. Seattle is 10th.

Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo saw the Houston Astros use four outfielders against him Thursday, prompting whether he should bunt more.

The Rangers, of course, face those teams 19 times in a season. It also doesn't help that Texas has three of the league's most proficient strikeout culprits. Joey Gallo leads the majors with 58. Robinson Chirinos has 49 and Drew Robinson, who has been on the disabled list with left hip soreness since May 5, has 45 strikeouts. Shin-Soo Choo, who struck out six times in the three-game series against the Astros, now has 42. Even Nomar Mazara, the team's best hitter, has 38 strikeouts. The Rangers have struck out 10 or more times in 24 of 42 games this season, including all three games against the Astros when they whiffed 39 times. Texas' .229 team batting average is the lowest in the A.L.

"We're facing some pretty good pitchers in this stretch," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "You go back and look at the names of the guys we've faced the last week and a half, they're quality pitchers. They're strikeout pitchers."

In nine of 12 games in May, the Rangers have struck out 10 or more times.

Across the league, balls put in play are at an all-time low, notes Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci. Singles are at an all-time low and hits haven't been this hard to come by since 1972. There are also more pitches per game and per at-bat (3.91) than ever. And, as you'd expect, there are more pitchers used per game than ever before (4.32 in 2018 compared to 3.46 in 1998).

The Rangers are the most glaring example of how the game has changed over the past 10 years as bullpens have become ultra-specific and dominating, and hitters have trended towards all or nothing power swings. The Rangers' strikeout rate has also increased because rookies, including Ronald Guzman, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Carlos Tocci have been forced into the lineup because of injuries to veterans.

According to the Washington Post, hitters were retired on strikes a record 21.6 percent of the time in 2017. This year that rate is over 22 percent and would be the 11th consecutive season the strikeout rate increased.

"We do have some young guys inside that lineup who are seeing these [pitchers] for the first time," Banister said. "Yeah, we'd like to cut the strikeouts down. It's not what we want as our identity. We have to get to work on figuring out how we can slow that pace down. We've got work to do."

Striking development

Strikeouts have increase every year since 2006. A look at the league's strikeout average per game and league batting average over the years:

Year

K/Game

BA

2018

8.71

.246

2008

6.77

.264

1998

6.56

.266

1988

5.56

.254

1978

4.77

.258

1968

5.89

.237

1958

4.95

.258

1948

3.64

.263

1938

3.41

.274

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