Written By Brandon Warne
Watching Byron Buxton hit with two strikes on Sunday led me to wonder what the rest of the team is doing with their two-strike opportunities. Not just what kind of batting line they’re putting together — generally bad — but how often are they striking out when the count reaches two strikes?
For a little bit of context, the average American League batter is hitting .179/.247/.274 with two strikes, and has struck out 39.5 percent of the time coming into Monday’s action. It’s not terribly surprising to see that hitters are completely at the mercy of pitchers with two strikes, but it’s nice to have some sort of grasp of what we’re working with here.
So, here’s what each Twins player with somewhat regular playing time has done this season in two-strike counts (in order of most to fewest plate appearances):
Brian Dozier – .180/.260/.302 with 57 strikeouts in 154 opportunities (37 percent whiff rate)
Joe Mauer – .208/.266/.292 with 45 strikeouts in 143 opportunities (31.5 percent whiff rate)
Trevor Plouffe – .205/.280/.362 with 55 strikeouts in 143 opportunities (38.5 percent whiff rate)
Torii Hunter – .205/.274/.279 with 42 strikeouts in 135 opportunities (31.1 percent whiff rate)
Kurt Suzuki – .156/.226/.234 with 23 strikeouts in 84 opportunities (27.4 percent whiff rate)
Eduardo Escobar – .214/.250/.337 with 45 strikeouts in 104 opportunities (43.3 percent whiff rate)
Danny Santana – .133/.122/.134 with 49 strikeouts in 98 opportunities (50 percent whiff rate)
Kennys Vargas – .158/.210/.211 with 43 strikeouts in 81 opportunities (53.1 percent whiff rate)
Eddie Rosario – .210/.234/.323 with 32 strikeouts in 64 opportunities (50 percent whiff rate)
Shane Robinson – .170/.235/.213 with 16 strikeouts in 51 opportunities (31.4 percent whiff rate)
Aaron Hicks – .175/.250/.175 with 17 strikeouts in 44 opportunities (38.6 percent whiff rate)
Eduardo Nunez – .226/.273/.419 with 12 strikeouts in 33 opportunities (36.4 percent whiff rate)
Oswaldo Arcia – .172/.194/.379 with 15 strikeouts in 31 opportunities (48.4 percent whiff rate)
Chris Herrmann – .067/.176/.167 with 15 strikeouts in 34 opportunities (44.1 percent whiff rate)
Now these may not be terribly statistically significant because they represent a pretty small sampling, but I do think there’s some value in seeing which guys have been easier or more difficult for pitchers to put away with two strikes.
With that said, any surprises in the figures? There’s some interesting dissonance with Suzuki, who is very difficult to strike out but still hasn’t done much with the two-strike pitches he’s put in play. Would you have pegged Nunez as the Twins’ best two-strike hitter? I’m not sure I’d have. It’s not terribly surprising — or fair — to see that Buxton has probably struggled the most in two-strike counts, but he can be added to a mounting list of young players who have struggled badly when in the hole at the plate. It is also not terribly surprising that Santana struggled with two strikes, but these numbers really drive home just how big of a hole he was in when he’d reach a two-strike count.
If nothing else, this is a fun little exercise to see if your brain sees (a very little part of) the game the way the numbers do.