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A key question: how many strikeouts is too many?

I have a strong dislike for the strikeout by a position player even if he has considerable power numbers. This is why I believed the leaving of Dunn was ‘addition by subtraction' for the Nationals as I posted using this title sometime in 2010. A question for my sabermetric friends at this site: how many HRs does a player need to hit in order to compensate for a given number of strikeouts. The question of the offensive value of players such as Adam Dunn and Danny Espinosa hinges on the answer to this question, in my opinion. First, do metrics such as WAR really account for the negative side of the strikeout as compared to hitting the ball into play that can result in a runner on base advancing?

I have my own rule of thumb, that is not based on any rigorous statistical analysis at all, but I believe it is a reasonable approach. Here is how it goes: a HR compensates for 3 strikeouts, a triple compensates for 2 strikeouts, a double compensates for 1 strikeout, and a single compensates for ½ strikeout (or 2 singles for 1 strikeout).

Applying this to Danny Espinosa, who, as of this writing, has 16 HRs, 2 triples, 34 doubles, and 84 singles giving a strikeout compensation value of 128. If his 40 walks are treated as a singles, then add 20 to get a strikeout compensation value of 148. Compare this to his league leading strikeout number of 174. To me, using this very inelegant approach, raises a red flag as to his offensive value year to date.

Compare this to Lombo, basically a singles hitter, but who makes contact at a high rate. His strikeout compensation value based on hits only is 68, and 86 if walks are treated as singles. Both of these easily exceed his strikeout total of 44.

Granted this calculation is very simplistic, so I welcome a more sophisticated analysis by anyone. Until I see a perceived better analysis of this question I welcome Lombo playing instead of Espy. Of course defensive skills matter also, but to me this is more or less a wash when comparing these two. Using speed and bunting ability I give the edge to Lombo.


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