Strikeouts and Home Runs
Of Ferraris and Fieros
Who knew that Major League Baseball wanted the Dave Kingman model, and not, say, the Willie Mays model? Don’t be mistaken, Kingman, during his career, was a sports car, a Fiero say, but Willie Mays was a Ferrari. Nobody seems to remember Fieros unless your dad owned one, but everyone still turns their head when a Ferrari zips by. Both are fast and look fancy, but one is better constructed and more well rounded. If you had to choose, you’d pick the Ferrari 10 times out of 10, no question.
The Dave Kingman Model
For starters, Dave Kingman was not a bad ballplayer. He did manage 442 home runs and 1575 hits over a sixteen-year career. Not too shabby.
Now for the shabby stuff. Kingman struck out quite often (1,816 times). He struck out so frequently that when his career ended he was number four on the all-time strikeout list for batters. He also had a lifetime .236 batting average and a .302 on-base percentage (OBP). Kingman became the first player with over 400 home runs to not make the Hall of Fame. Poor, Dave, imagine if he had cut his strikeouts in half. Maybe he could have had numbers closer to Willie Mays.
The Willie Mays Model
If you don’t know who Willie Mays is then there is a good possibility you were born in a cave. After your birth, you were not allowed to leave the cave until recently and this is the first thing you have read (this is based on the premise that the people or animals who raised you taught you how to read). So, here’s a little background on Willie.
Willie Mays is considered a god by most baseball fans and those who don’t subscribe to this thinking are probably just jealous. He finished his career with a .302 batting average, 3,283 hits, 660 home runs, and a .384 OBP. Sure, Willie did strikeout 1,526 times, which is only 290 less than Kingman’s total, but he did play six more seasons than Kingman. Shave off those six seasons and there would be a tremendous difference.
The Willie Mays Model is the perfect example of a well-rounded power hitter. The power hitter tends to strike out more frequently than the contact hitter. If you are a contact hitter and you are not making contact, well, you know the answer to that…no job. But if you are a power hitter and you are swinging and missing frequently, but still hitting home runs say, every 15 at-bats, you are employed. The contact hitter is trying to get on base any way they can. The power hitter is just trying to hit home runs. At least, that is seemingly all the modern-day power hitter is trying to do. The Willie Mays Model is trying to hit home runs and trying getting on base any way they can (and also stealing a base, but that is a different article). The Mays Model sounds like the best of both hitters.
The Dave Kingman Line
As stated earlier, when Kingman hung up his spikes he was number four on the all-time strikeout list for batters. That was in 1986. Since then the strikeout frequency has increased so much that he is now 20th on the all-time list.
When was it decided to go with the Dave Kingman Model over the Willie Mays Model? Who proclaimed that home runs are paramount to singles, doubles, and triples (the most exciting hit in baseball). Since Kingman’s retirement, the game has increasingly become about home runs and strikeouts. Sure, a soaring home run is enjoyable, and a strikeout to close the game is exciting, but these are only two things in a game with many possible outcomes. The increased frequency of these two acts is taking away from a well-rounded, exciting game. The accelerating amount of strikeouts and home runs is making baseball two dimensional.
Ferrari No Question
The game of baseball is in peril. Sure, people say this a lot in varying forms:
“The game is not the same as it used to be.”
“These young kids with their backward hats.”
“In my day a pitcher went nine innings.”
And so on.
But, those are trivial opinions and don’t actually take away from the game. What does minimize the game is keeping the ball from the defense, and thusly taking away the various athletic feats that occur when a ball is in play. If the fan is just watching the ball soar over the fence, or the dirt expelled from the catcher’s mitt after every strikeout, they are bound to get bored. What was once extraordinary, the strikeout and the home run, has become commonplace. The well-rounded power hitter, the Willie Mays Model, has been slowly tucked away behind the Dave Kingman Model. Who decided this? The Mays Model makes for a more exciting game. The Kingman Model polarizes baseball and will eventually change it and not for the good. I’ll take the Ferrari, no question. No offense to the Fiero.
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