Do strikeouts really matter with a big time slugger? Many fans groan and complain about the strikeout rates. Players like Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn, Dan Uggla and Mark Reynolds have made this statistic very visible year after year. It appears Mark Reynolds can out do himself for the single season strikeout record on an annual basis.
This article is going to focus on Dunn and Pena in specific. The main reason for this is to remove the variable of stolen bases and speed. The fact that Reynolds can steal 20 bases a season varies the results. The assumption of this article is that Dunn and Pena will rely on others to knock them in from first base.
I took a look at the benefits of these sluggers taking a walk versus striking out. In 648 plate appearances, Dunn walked 77 times. In 582 plate appearances Pena walked 87 times. How beneficial were these walks to the team? I went through the game logs and highlighted any games where one run made a difference in either a loss or a win. It turns out in 23 games won or loss by a run, Pena drew a walk which resulted in a run only four times. Two of these were wins. Out of 71 games where Pena drew a walk, only two wins were decided by the resulting run. On the other hand, Dunn scored after walking in eight of 18 games decided by one run. Only three of those eight games were victories. So Dunn drawing a walk only helped his team win three times. These figures show that walks do not make a significant impact on their team by the slugger.
Couple these figures with the fact that the two players likely to hit behind Pena this year combined to hit into 22 double plays. This year Dunn will have two players who combined to hit into 37 double plays, hitting behind him.
This article obviously does not adjust for the variable effects of players keeping a rally alive or killing it.
After everything is said and done, these statistics tell me walks don't win games for these two slow moving sluggers. So the next time you feel like groaning about another strikeout, don't. The free pass probably wouldn't have mattered anyways.