We’ve all heard about the three true outcomes: walk, strikeout, and home run. This week I looked at players who only have two of the three true outcomes, specifically those that strikeout and homer often but do not walk at a relatively high level. My parameters were guys that have had at least 200 plate appearances this season, strikeout at least 25% of the time, walk no more than 10% of the time, and have a home run to fly ball rate of at least 20%. For reference, some guys who strikeout and homer at that level, but walk more than 10% of the time, include who you’d expect, such as Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson, Mike Napoli, and Mark Reynolds. The following players are listed from highest to lowest strikeout rate.
Ryan Howard – It’s obviously no surprise that Howard strikes out a ton and hits a lot of home runs, but it is somewhat surprising to see him on this list because he used to have a walk rate well above 10%. As his skills have declined, his walk rate is no longer where it once was and his strikeout rate is a career-high at 34.2%. If he is able to reduce his strikeouts at all, then he should continue to be an .800 OPS player going forward. However, as with all the guys on this list, Howard is an example of how striking out too much can harm your results, especially when you aren’t walking at a high enough level to help offset the reduction in OBP.
Brandon Moss – His 18 home runs in 221 plate appearances is insane. As you might guess, he is currently in possession of a home run to fly ball rate that is much higher than he’s ever shown he might produce. Still, I’m reluctant to say that his power will completely disappear, considering that it seems like every player on the A’s is launching home runs at will. Maybe the current market inefficiency is removing your ballpark’s humidor… I think Moss is definitely worth playing, but since he isn’t in the lineup every day he may only worth a look in leagues with daily changes.
Justin Maxwell – What do you get when you take a 28-year-old hitter with limited experience in the majors and put him on the Astros? A cleanup hitter. Maxwell has demonstrated solid pop, with 14 homers in 282 plate appearances, an ability he’s always shown in the minors. Unfortunately, I believe that he will regress considerably because, while his power is legit, he has never been able to get his strikeouts under control.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – He’s easily surpassed his previous career high in home runs this season, but it’s worth noting that his isolated slugging was at a similar level last year. It’s amazing that he’s second in home runs among catchers, trailing only A.J. Pierzynski… what a weird year. It looks like he should be able to continue slugging over .400 while struggling to reach a .300 OBP.
Chris Davis – At 30.2%, his strikeout rate in 2012 is actually below his career average. That fact, along with his power being real is all you really need to know about this guy. He’s had a nice year, with 25 homers so far. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be able to produce similar numbers in future years as long as he receives consistent at bats.
Giancarlo Stanton – Don’t worry, his appearance on this list won’t bring him to mediocrity. I expect his walk rate to improve and him to maintain his all-around goodness forever. His strikeout rate shouldn’t hold him back, but I would rather it stay below 30%. Not much else to say about him.
Jason Kubel – He already has a career high in home runs, with 29. The main difference from previous years is what appears to be a more aggressive approach. This is illustrated by his spike in home runs that has come with the tradeoff of him striking out much more due to a decreased contact rate. As long as he keeps this up, he may be able to continue to display an improved slugging. The downside is that he has been very streaky all year long, likely partially due to his increase in strikeouts.
Mark Trumbo – Hello, Trumbo. I wrote about him several months ago and said that his fantastic performance would disappear. He then proceeded to tear it up for the following months, and now lately he’s been struggling. What a year. The power is real and it’s spectacular. He is certainly capable of approaching a .500 slugging next year. On the other hand, he doesn’t walk much and he probably won’t have a batting average above .260, resulting in an OBP not much above .300.
As you can see, guys who fit this profile tend to be hit or miss, literally. They all feel like they’re very streaky, which can be frustrating, although they can carry your fantasy team at times. By having a relatively low walk rate, they may be undervalued in some OPS leagues. However, although they generally leave room for improvement in their on base skills, their home runs preserve their slugging to an extent and allow them to retain decent production in OPS leagues.