So ... Wednesday morning I post about Denard Span's decline this season in hitting with two strikes. Wednesday evening Span came up with two on and doubled on a 3-2 pitch, leading a blog-reading colleague to tease me. I can't hit with two strikes? In your face, Edward Thoma!
Which is fine. If Mr. Span goes 10-for-10 in two-strike at-bats, it won't change reality. The reality is that the average American League hitter is worse with two strikes than Nick Punto in a bad season. That doesn't predetermine the result of any specific at-bat.
The verbal jabs turned to a more serious chat about two-strikes. And in passing, I suggested that perhaps a hitter who can consistently hit .250 with two strikes is Hall of Fame material.
So I turned to that marvelous resource, Baseball Reference, and cherry-picked some recent HoFers, some guys who are destined for the Hall, and some who aren't. I couldn't go too far back; BR doesn't have the data for Rod Carew.
Anyway, here's what I found (career split lines first, two-strike split lines second):
Albert Pujols: .333/.428/.629; .271/.336/.490
A.J. Pierzynski: .283/.323/.423; .208/.244/.290
Joe Mauer: .327/.409/.489; .259/.310/.367
Derek Jeter: .315/385/.455; .232/.323/.325
Alex Rodriguez: .303/.387/.571; .222/.310/.389
Barry Bonds: .298/.444/.607; .210/.353/.426
Wade Boggs: .328/.415/.443; .261/.330/.335
Delmon Young: .294/.325/.432; .211/.237/.286
Michael Cuddyer: .270/.343/.452; .215/.271/.336
Josh Hamilton: .309/.369/.543; .209/.288/.357
See a trend there? Everybody declines sharply with two strikes, but the really great players can still do SOMETHING. Boggs hit .261; Bonds drew enough walks to have a .353 OPB; Pujols still slugs almost .500. Your run-of-the mill regulars are .200 singles hitters.
Oh, yeah. The photo is of Tony Gwynn, and I've held his stats back. His astounding stats.
Tony Gwynn: .338/.388/.459; .302/.341/.401.
Even with two strikes, the man still was a .300 hitter.