You know what's the most frustrating thing a batter can do? No, it's not "hit into a double play," so please stop saying that -- it's upsetting to the children. That might be one of the most frustrating outcomes, but once a bat makes contact with the ball, it's usually up to the baseball gods and Lady Luck what happens next. At least the batter hit the ball.
No, the most frustrating thing a batter can do at the plate is fail to hit the ball at all. A strikeout serves absolutely zero value. At least a double play ball has a shot at advancing a runner (assuming less than one out, and assuming more than one runner on base). When the batter strikes out, there's nothing left to do but say bad words and accept that your team is one out closer to ending the inning.
I don't mean to harsh anyone's buzz, but we're going to see a fair bit of whiffing this year from Tigers batters. Let's just set those expectations now so we can be all the more grateful when it doesn't happen.
To give you an idea of what lies ahead, let's very, very briefly revisit 2013, when #AustinJacksonStrikesOut became a trending Twitter topic on a regular basis. You remember how often Jackson struck out, right? No? Maybe this will remind you: K-Jax.
Ah, see, now you remember. There was a time in 2013 when it felt like Austin Jackson striking out was a foregone conclusion, and thanks to the miracle of advanced metrics, we can actually quantify the frequency of that particular annoyance -- in 2013, Austin Jackson struck out in 21 percent of his plate appearances. That's roughly one strikeout every five trips to the plate.
Using "K-Jax" as a baseline, let's make an honest assessment of the 2016 projected lineup and see how many bad words we can expect to say this season.
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His strikeout rate has been incrementally climbing since 2013, winding up at 11.9 percent last season. Still, that's only one strikeout per eight plate appearances, so there will be entire games where Kinsler doesn't whiff it up. We'll give him a PG rating.
Let's be clear about this: Justin Upton is going hit some dingers. He's also going to rack up strikeouts like they're going out of style. His MLB career average is 24 percent, but over the last three years, that average is closer to 26 percent. Expect slightly more than a strikeout per game, and expect a solid PG-13 rating.
Yeah right, as if.
V-Mart whiffed in over 10 percent of his plate appearances during an injury-plagued 2015 campaign, and that was the first time he'd gone over 10 percent since 2009. He may struggle with wonky legs and weak contact from time to time, but his strikeout rating should be closer to G than PG. (Personally, I favor the expletive-laden, "Oh, fiddlesticks, he struck out, for corn's sake!")
He used to strike out a lot less before he re-tooled his swing and found his power stroke. As the Spiderman movies taught us, "with great power comes a lot of [expletive] strikeouts," and J.D.'s 2014 and 2015 numbers average out to a 27 percent strikeout rate. Like Upton, J.D. should hit enough dingers to make us forget the whiffs, but he's still going back to the bench with the Scarlet K more than once per game. Let's just say PG-13 and leave it at that.
We've only got a couple of years of big league data to go on, but for now, Nick sits around the 25 percent mark. For a kid who's still finding his plate discipline, you can deal with one big whiff per game. I think a PG rating is appropriate here.
The McCannon has one full year of MLB service so far, and he clocked in at a 21 percent strikeout rate in 2015. He's the Austin Jackson of catchers, I guess? If he could hit for a bit more power, that would help a lot, but for now we'll say he gets a PG rating.
I'm trying to be fair here, but "Salty" has been at or above 30 percent for the past five years. Granted, he should be getting most of his at-bats from the left side of the plate, where he's far more of a power threat, but even facing righties his career strikeout rate is 31 percent.
From the other side of the plate, he's closer to 28 percent, so let's call it a wash. He's going to strike out at least once per game, and frequently twice per game. For reference, he's pretty much a statistical match with Alex Avila. If he doesn't show some decent power in 2016, he's going to get a hard R rating.
He got a partial season in 2013, and missed all of 2014. For 2015, he struck out less than 10 percent of the time. His defensive wizardry will help offset any regression in strikeouts, so I think a G rating is appropriate.
Three partial seasons from 2012-214 and a full season with the Tigers in 2015 gives Gose a career average 27 percent strikeout rate. That's almost as high as Jarrod Saltalamacchia (or Alex Avila), but without a lot of power to offset the frustration. If you thought Austin Jackson's 21 percent rate was worth a nasty hashtag ... Gose might just be an NC-17 rating.
He's got nine years of stats, but only about three years of uninterrupted playing time. His career average 21.9 percent strikeout rate is a bit inflated by really bad 2007 and 2010 numbers, so let's go ahead and take his three years of 2011, 2012, and 2015 (where he got more than 500 plate appearances) as a baseline -- he sits at about 20 percent. We've found our Austin Jackson doppelgänger, for a PG rating.
He's not going to play enough for this to even matter. NEXT!
Expect to see Aviles in the occasional "someone needs to rest" game, and subbing in as a defensive replacement. He's not going to get a ton of plate appearances (he averages about 370 per year), so his 13 percent career strikeout rate probably won't come into play very often. I don't know, maybe PG?
Add it all up
The Tigers went from a team strikeout rate of 18.5 percent in 2014 to 20.4 percent in 2015, and both of those numbers were up from 2013, when they struck out 16.8 percent of the time. With the addition of Upton and Saltalamacchia, that rate may climb a bit in 2016, which means you may want to reconsider the whole "Swear Jar" policy in your home.
The upside is that you'll probably have enough money in that jar by season's end to afford a nice dinner to celebrate their 2016 division championship.
Of course they're going to win the AL Central. Where did you think I was going with all of this?