FanPost

Is an out just an out?

I have participated in several verbal sparring sessions involving the importance of strikeouts in assessing the offensive contribution of a player. Strikeouts are a subset of outs that fail to advance runners, if there are any. These are termed unproductive outs as opposed to outs that do advance runners, termed productive outs. This discussion has been prompted recently by the Espinosa situation. When his slash numbers are posted, I have asserted that these do not account for his high strikeout rate, so they are exaggerating his offensive contribution. The response to my assertion ranges from "all outs are equal", implying that the strikeout rate is unimportant, to mainly dismissing the importance of the concept of productive outs in general.

I have copied below a table giving the probabilities of a team scoring one run for all combinations of men on base and number of outs. The right half of the table is for the National League, where there is no designated hitter rule, and the left half is for the American League where there is a designated hitter. The data is somewhat dated, but covers 16 years, which is sufficient for the crude analysis that follows. The web source is: http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2006/07/empirical_analy_1.php

One Run Probability Table (1977-1992)

AL          0            1              2           NL            0             1             2
---      .276         .161         .067         ---         .261         .148         .061
x--      .432         .277         .129         x--         .424         .268         .124
-x-      .634         .414         .226         -x-         .609         .400         .216
xx-      .637         .430         .236         xx-         .622         .413         .220
--x      .839         .670         .279         --x         .814         .648         .267
x-x      .870         .656         .289         x-x         .847         .650         .275
-xx      .867         .689         .275         -xx         .838         .664         .267
xxx      .875         .679         .331         xxx         .860         .668         .315

From this table I retrieved the following probabilities of the team scoring a single run in the inning:

Batter has no outs, man on first: 42 %

Batter A has no outs, man on first, and makes an unproductive out, leaving man on first and one out: 27 %

Batter B has no outs, man on first, and makes a productive out, leaving man on second and one out: 40 %

Let's assume Batter A and Batter B have equal offensive numbers. For this singular situation, when an out is made, the batter making the productive out has improved his teams chance of scoring by 13 %. Player B has improved his teams chance of scoring for the sample of outs made, which can be added to that contributed by his getting on base. The strikeout practically eliminates the chance for a productive out, so it stands to reason that a player with a low strikeout rate has a better total offensive contribution than the player with a higher strikeout rate, assuming similar offensive statistics and similar in-play productive out rate.

To further illustrate this:

For the following I assume that each batter has a .300 on-base percentage, 500 plate appearances,

has 50 % of outs in play as unproductive outs (i.e., NOT striking out), and there is a runner on first base.

Prob. of batter advancing runner via hit, BB, HBP, error 30 %

Prob. of batter not advancing runner via hit, BB, HBP, error 70 %

Prob. of out being productive for high strikeout batter (40% SO rate) 15 %

Prob. of out being productive for moderate strikeout batter (20% SO rate) 25 %

Prob. of out being productive for low strikeout batter (10% SO rate) 30 %

Prob. of batter advancing runner via hit, etc. plus productive out for

high SO batter 45 %

Prob. of batter advancing runner via hit, etc. plus productive out for

moderate SO batter 55 %

Prob. of batter advancing runner via hit, etc. plus productive out for

low SO batter 60 %

Are so called productive outs important and is a low strikeout rate a further indication of offensive contribution?

You make the call.


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