The all-strikeout team

My “Currently historic” column has spent much of the season tracking players with a serious tendency toward the strikeout. All this whiffing got me wondering what a team would look like if you took the highest strikeout season from a position and put those players in a lineup. I wondered if this team would be any good or would most of the players have crossed the threshold over which they are simply not making contact often enough to be productive?

I’ve done my best to also place them in some sort of logical batting order based on their various abilities. So, here you go. The all strikeout team.

1. RF, Bobby Bonds, 1970, 189 Ks, 26 HRs, 5.5 WAR: Bonds’ speed makes him our leadoff man. Many of the players in our lineup get on base at a fair clip, but Bonds has that little something extra. His 5.5 WAR also make him easily the team MVP, as you’ll soon see.

2. LF, Jack Cust, 2008, 197 Ks, 33 HRs, 1.8 WAR: Cust was a good hitter and seems like a fair choice for the two-slot. He did spend a lot of 2008 at DH, but a slim majority of his time was in the outfield.

3. 1B, Ryan Howard, 2007, 199 Ks, 47 HR, 3.2 WAR: Either Howard or Bonds qualifies as the best hitter on the team (it’s close). We’ve already used Bonds, so we’ll give Howard the coveted third spot in the order.

4. 3B, Mark Reynolds, 2009, 223 Ks, 44 HR, 3.2 WAR: To this point in his career, Reynolds has had four truly full seasons and in them, he has posted the four highest strikeout totals for a third baseman. His 2009 season represents the all-time record for all players. It his also his best season to date; his 3.2 WAR nearly doubles his output in his next best season.

5. SS, Jose Hernandez, 2002, 188 Ks, 24 HR, 4.7 WAR: Hernandez gives Bonds the only real competition for team MVP as he provided some defensive skills to go along with his very solid offensive season that is aided y a career high .404 BABIP.

6. DH, Adam Dunn, 2012, 222 Ks, 41 HR, 1.8 WAR: Dunn made a run at the all-time record last year, and he would have had it if not for a late season injury that cost him a few games. For much of the season he was on pace to crush the record, but he fell just short.

7. C, Gary Alexander, 1978, 166 Ks, 27 HR, 1.8 WAR: Color me surprised. I had never heard of Gary Alexander until I started researching this little piece. He split his career between San Francisco and Cleveland (with a 21-game stint with Pittsburgh at the end) and this was the year he was traded from one to the other. It was also his only year as a full time player. In 1978, Alexander played in 147 games, 67 at catcher. He also saw time at first, in the outfield, and at DH. He had a brief career and finished with only 0.8 WAR total.

8. 2B, Danny Espinosa, 2012, 189 Ks, 17 HR, 3.4 WAR: One of the better players on our team, much of Espinosa’s value comes from his glove.

9. CF, Drew Stubbs, 2011, 205 Ks, 15 HR, 2.1 WAR: Defense saved Stubbs in what was a dismal offensive season. Since a real breakout in 2010, his career has gone quickly down hill.

So what do you think? My team has 1,778 strikeouts, which is an average of 197.5. Given than none of these players played every game, I’m sure the bench could bring us up to an even 1,800 at least. There are also, obviously, a ton of home runs on this team, and some very good seasons from good players. I think this lineup would go .500 with an average pitching staff, but who knows, really. Mostly, it was sun just to look.

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  1. Todd said...

    I agree with aweb, with an average pitching staff this team is very much in the hunt. Your 3 worst players, all at 1.8 WAR, are a hair below league average, so there’s no replacement level dreck bringing them down. Per fangraphs, the 27.5 hitting WAR would have them ranked 5th in baseball last year, 11th in 2011, 5th in 2010, 5th in 2009, etc.

    An average pitching staff, by my calculations, has 14.3 WAR (again per fangraphs), giving the team just under 42 total WAR. Replacement level is about 47 WAR, so altogether that’s 89 projected wins.

  2. Ian R. said...

    @Todd – This is also assuming that the bench consists entirely of replacement-level players. If this team can scrape together another few wins from its backup hackers, we’re looking at a win total in the low 90s.

  3. aweb said...

    With an average pitching staff, this team is a contender. That’s a lot of WAR, with no sinkholes anywhere and every position being average (~2 WAR) or better. I’d guess they’d be around 89-92 wins with the average pitching staff. This team likely sets the all-time HR team record (274 listed above), and there are a few decent OBPs in there.

    No obvious way to give them a pitching staff with the “most strikeouts” that isn’t either a list of good/great pitching years (Ryan, Johnson, Koufax, etc). A pitcher “strikeout as batter” list might be fun, although it excludes the past 40 years of the AL.

    Also had never heard of Gary Alexander…nice find.

  4. MikeS said...

    This team averages about 11 strikeouts/game.  It shouldn’t be hard to figure out what the spread would be and what are the odds some opposing pitcher gets to break the 20 K record against them.

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