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The Problem With The Pirates' Offseason, Summarized In Two Sentences

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Ken Rosenthal:

A warning to Pirates fans who are excited by the acquisitions of first baseman Sean Casey, third baseman Joe Randa and right fielder Jeromy Burnitz: Casey ranked 37th in on-base/slugging percentage last season among the 67 N.L. players who had enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, while Randa was 40th and Burnitz 50th.

The good news: Casey was the sixth-toughest N.L. player to strike out and Randa the 24th. Their high percentage of contact made it easier for the Pirates to take on Burnitz, a perennial 100-strikeout man ...

The problem being, of course, that on base and slugging percentages correlate strongly with run scoring, while the avoidance of strikeouts does not. The notion that the Pirates can field a passable offense by acquiring low-OPS players with low strikeout rates is pure nonsense.

Don't believe me? Here are the ten best teams in baseball at avoiding strikeouts last year, and their rank in runs scored:

  1. Oakland (9)
  2. L.A./Anaheim (11)
  3. San Francisco (29)
  4. Baltimore (15)
  5. Florida (19)
  6. Chicago Cubs (20)
  7. St. Louis (6)
  8. Toronto (8)
  9. San Diego (27)
  10. Minnesota (25)
Five of these teams were better than the median at scoring runs; five were below, and three of those were among the worst in baseball. None of the top strikeout-avoiding teams were among the best five offenses in baseball.

Contrast that with the top OPS teams in baseball, with their rank in run scoring:

  1. Boston (1)
  2. N.Y. Yankees (2)
  3. Texas (3)
  4. Cleveland (7)
  5. Cincinnati (4)
  6. Philadelphia (5)
  7. Atlanta (10)
  8. Chicago Cubs (20)
  9. St. Louis (6)
  10. Baltimore (15)
With the exception of the Cubs and Orioles, these are the best offensive teams in baseball. There is nothing wrong with players who don't strike out, of course, but intentionally acquiring players who don't get on base or hit the ball hard because they don't strike out is like trying to fuel your car with orange juice. The two things have nothing to do with one another. Rosenthal's "good news" isn't good news at all.