Before we get to today’s topic of the strikeout, the chaos known as the Washington Nationals got a bit crazier with the resignation of GM Jim Bowden. And just for good measure he took a shot at free agent Manny Ramirez on his way out saying, “I have become a distraction. Unless you are Manny Ramirez, there is no place for distractions in baseball.” Well, at least the white elephant is out in the middle of the room now.
Now on to the business of the strikeout. Sometimes the strikeout can be overrated as a statistic but for pitchers, the K is their only way of controlling the game. Getting a punch out guarantees that the hitter will not reach base (except in the odd case of a dropped 3rd strike, which happens about once a month). Even pitchers who induce weak contact are often victimized by bloopers, “Texas Leaguers” or errors from the fielders that cause a negative result for a hurler even though he did his job quite well.
I bring this up because of a signing over the weekend by our parent club, the Royals. They added power RH Juan Cruz to the bullpen with a 2-year deal, and Cruz is the real deal when it comes to getting swings and misses. He was 2nd in all of MLB last year in that rare but fairly useful statistic.
But it’s not just Cruz for the Royals anymore with the capability to get Ks. As the great writer Joe Posnanski chronicles in the Kansas City Star, (with a headline I wish I had thought of) the boys in blue now have multiple starters and a handful of options in the bullpen who could all be considered strikeout pitchers.
Having starters such as Meche and Grienke who account for strikeouts is nice but having power, strikeout pitchers in the bullpen is almost a necessity. Now, anytime from the 6th inning on when the opposition is threatening, Trey Hillman can bring in any number of pitchers depending on the match-up who is a legitimate threat to get a strikeout. That is a huge advantage for the KC skipper that cannot be understated.
The Royals pitching was good last year and will be hard pressed to improve this season. Yet if they can raise the strikeout totals, the pitching staff could be that much better this summer.