Since the Detroit Tigers joined the American League as a charter franchise in 1901, just 179 players in franchise history have logged at least 1,000 plate appearances. Center fielder JaCoby Jones is just 18 trips to the plate shy of that milestone. That’s the good news.
On the not-so-bright side, Jones is on track to have a higher strikeout percentage than any other Tigers player with at least 1,000 career plate appearances with the team — spanning 119 seasons of Tigers baseball. Through his 982 career plate appearances at the major league level, Jones is striking out 31.9 percent of the time. Former Tigers slugger Rob Deer is the only other player in this category to surpass the 30 percent mark, at 31.5 percent in 1,354 career plate appearances.
Niko Goodrum is not far behind Jones in both categories, with a 28.0 percent strikeout rate in 964 plate appearances, the fourth-highest among players in this category. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario has struck out 24.9 percent of the time in 1,111 plate appearances with the club, which ranks seventh — soon to be ninth, once Jones and Goodrum play a few more games — among those in the Tigers millennium club. That’s one-third of the Tigers’ projected lineup for the 2020 season, whiffing at a historic pace.
A thousand plate appearances doesn’t seem like much. Just two seasons qualifying for the batting title would do it [Ed.: I’m still blown away that only 179 Tigers players have ever hit this mark]. But the trio of young Tigers are about to become members of the club.
Highest strikeout rate in Tigers history (min. 950 PA)
Players have reached the 1,000 plate appearance milestone at about the same pace over the history of the franchise, with 88 of the 179 players reaching the mark since 1961, but the highest strikeout rates have almost all been recorded in the most recent years.
With few exceptions, the players who played during the first sixty years of the Tigers’ existence recorded lower strikeout rates than those who have played since. There are a few pitchers who hit often enough to make the list, but very few players who played primarily in the past 60 years have struck out under 10 percent of the time. Placido Polanco stands out among recent Tigers players with a very low strikeout ratio, at just 5.6 percent. Victor Martinez squeaks into the top half of the list at 10.4 percent.
The Tigers led the major leagues with a strikeout rate of 26.4 percent in 2019. That’s more than all 15 National League teams, who still have pitchers batting on a regular basis. Detroit’s lineup was also dead last in the majors with just 582 runs scored. That could improve if they would put the ball in play more often. It’s harder to score runs when your team has so many plate appearances where there is no chance to advance a runner, even while recording an out.