Thursday, August 26, 2010

One, two strikes yer out

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.


  1. Excellent post, and Gwynn's numbers are outstanding with two strikes ... although notice how much is OBP falls. Not that .341 is horrid by any means; in fact, there are a few Twins I would like to see have an OBP like that WITHOUT two strikes.

  2. Gwynn's OBP decline is 47 points; everybody else is down more. Mauer's drops almost 100 points.

    Gwynn held more of his ability with two strikes than anybody else in this very small sample.

  3. I'd wager that the same holds for pitchers: the great ones manage to maintain a bit of success when they fall behind 2-0.