Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly was one of the best contact hitters during his 14-year career with the New York Yankees. The former first baseman never struck out more than 43 times in a single season.
Now, as a manger on the bench, Mattingly decided he wanted to chime in on the whole debate about speeding up the game he loves so much. He had a somewhat interesting take, one that could also be seen as common sense.
“Analytically, a few years back, nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy is still valued in a big way,” Mattingly said, via FanRag Sports. “Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So, once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.”
Surely, teams should avoid drafting players that strike out too much. That’s not even analytics. That’s plain common sense when it comes to baseball.
But Mattingly’s overall point is much more interesting. MLB announced this past week that it will forgo the four balls pitchers have to throw in order to intentionally walk a batter. This is a way for the game to be sped up a tad. But it’s really not going to make that much of a difference. On average, an intentional walk occurs once every two-plus games around the MLB world. That’s not going to make a marked difference.
Now, if there were more contact hitters in the game, that surely would play a role in speeding baseball up. At-bats wouldn’t take as long, primarily because pitch counts themselves would decrease.
It’s a tremendous theory. And there’s no doubt that Mattingly is a thinking man when it comes to baseball. But the home run remains king. That’s why the likes of Chris Carter and his 700-plus strikeouts over the past four seasons continues to get jobs.