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The Royals’ Low Strikeout Rate

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December 01, 2015

Much of the attention paid to the 2015 Royals was given to their excellent pitching and defense, but their offense was compelling as well. Despite being in the bottom third of the league in home runs and walk rate, the Royals were seventh in runs out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball. As has been mentioned in the media, they were quite special in one area: making contact. The Royals struck out just 973 times this season. No other team struck out fewer than 1,100 times. The Royals struck out on just 15.9 percent of their plate appearances; no other team was close, with the Oakland A’s a distant second at 18.1 percent.

Lowest Strikeout Rate, 2015
Team Strikeouts PA Strikeout Rate
Royals 973 6116 15.9%
Athletics 1119 6171 18.1%
Braves 1107 6034 18.3%
Red Sox 1148 6237 18.4%
Blue Jays 1151 6232 18.5%
Average - - 20.4%


Perhaps the most interesting thing about that leaderboard is the differences in the teams’ final records. The Royals and Blue Jays were two of the final four teams in the playoffs. The Athletics and Red Sox were last-place teams, and the Braves lost 95 games. Meanwhile, the teams with the highest strikeout rates showed a similar variance of team success.

Highest Strikeout Rate, 2015
Team Strikeouts PA Strikeout Rate
Cubs 1518 6200 24.5%
Astros 1392 6073 22.9%
Orioles 1331 6007 22.2%
Padres 1327 6019 22.0%
Nationals 1344 6117 22.0%
Average - - 20.4%


The Cubs and Astros were both playoff teams, but the Padres lost 88 games. As bad as strikeouts are for offenses, they do not fully characterize them. For example, the Cubs and Nationals were in the top five in walk rate, and the Astros and Orioles were top five in home runs. It’s increasingly common for players with power and plate discipline to also strike out a lot; you cannot judge the latter in isolation from the former. The strikeout-averse Royals, Red Sox, and Blue Jays were in the top 10 in run scoring this season, but so too were the strikeout-prone Astros, Orioles, and Nationals.

Most Runs per Game, 2015
Team Runs per Game
Blue Jays 5.50
Yankees 4.72
Rangers 4.64
Red Sox 4.62
Rockies 4.55
Astros 4.50
Royals 4.47
Diamondbacks 4.44
Orioles 4.40
Nationals 4.34


The Royals may not have found the only formula for success, but their formula helped them to become one of the top offenses in baseball. By eschewing power and plate discipline for contact ability, they are a throwback to a previous generation.

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