San Diego Padres: Welcome To The Nation’s Biggest Kmart

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 22: Manager Andy Green
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 22: Manager Andy Green /

After striking out 12 times Wednesday night against the Dodgers, the San Diego Padres are on pace to shatter the single-season strikeout record.

With attendance dropping and strikeouts at an all-time high, baseball itself is striking out in a big way. Coincidentally, the San Diego Padres lead Major League Baseball in strikeouts. The record of 1,571 punchouts was set by the Milwaukee Brewers, last season. With four games remaining until the all-star break, the Padres sit atop the strikeout leaderboard with 896 K’s, and are on pace for over 1,800 strikeouts in a single season.

The San Diego Padres are quite familiar with high strikeout numbers. The 2017 Padres ranked third in the majors in strikeouts with 1,499, while the 2016 Padres finished second with 1,500. To put things into perspective, the pennant-winning 1984 San Diego Padres struck out only 810 times throughout the entire season. Tony Gwynn struck out 23 times in 1984. Franmil Reyes already has 39 strikeouts in 92 at-bats (41%).

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Four hitters in the lineup have a strikeout rate higher than 30%. Eric Hosmer leads the team with 85 strikeouts, followed by Galvis and Villanueva (both with 81). Cory Spangenberg is casually striking out in over one-third of his plate appearances and Austin Hedges has 42 strikeouts in only 113 at-bats.

Baseball is simply not as entertaining without contact. According to Tom Verducci, the average time between balls put in play is 3 minutes, 45 seconds. That’s 41 seconds longer than in 1998. This is bizarre, and not enough action for today’s fans.

There is no definitive answer as to why teams are striking out at such an absurd rate, but launch angle is a good start. Players are simply modifying their swing to hit the ball at an upward angle, creating more home runs. This method has proven quite effective for many hitters, but not everyone. My favorite analysis of launch angle is from Joey Votto in Spring Training earlier this year.

The San Diego Padres rank dead last in National League OBP and currently have 161 more strikeouts than hits. The 2017 World Champion Houston Astros struck out less than anyone in MLB last year, after ranking fourth highest in 2016. It’s possible to make big jumps in production like the Astros did, and first-year hitting coach Matt Stairs was supposed to fix this issue. Unfortunately, instead of “‘wasting less at-bats,” the Padres struggling to even put the ball in play.

Next: Are The Red Sox And Padres A Trading Match?

The issue isn’t just a Padres issue, but the disease has a much tighter grip here in San Diego.