The strikeout has become an epidemic in major-league baseball, and the Braves are one of the clubs most affected by the outbreak. Atlanta’s hitters entered Saturday’s game striking out 9.2 times a game, which put them on a pace to become the second team to strike out more than 1,400 times in a season.
So what? They entered Saturday with a 2½-game lead in the National League East. But their strikeout rate is seen as the main reason for the Braves’ having lost 11 out of 16 games. including a 7-5 loss against the New York Mets in 10 innings on Friday night.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about strikeouts,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said recently as he slouched in the chair in front of his locker. “An out’s an out.”
The Braves say they are not careless free swingers taking hacks at pitches from their shoelaces to their shoulders. They are merely a collection of power hitters who take three full cuts without fear of embarrassment.
“It does no good when you have two strikes on you, nobody on, to choke up and put it in play,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “What good does it do if you put the ball in play weak? It’s not going to do any good for guys 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 in the lineup to do that. That doesn’t get a lot done.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, strikeouts in baseball have risen for eight consecutive months. In April, major-league teams recorded 5,992 strikeouts, or 15.29 a game, the second-highest average ever for a month.
The Braves started the season 12-1 with splendid pitching and a home run barrage. Entering Saturday, they led in the NL in strikeouts (266) as well as home runs (40). The six-time All-Star Brian McCann has not played since off-season shoulder surgery; Heyward is on the disabled list after an appendectomy; and second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder B.J. Upton were not hitting their weight.
Atlanta had six consecutive games with double-digit strikeout totals, including a three-game stretch in Detroit in which they had 39. But they draw their share of walks, ranking fourth in the NL, so it is not easy to cast them as undisciplined.
A’s put Young on 15-day DL
The Oakland Athletics placed Chris Young on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quadriceps and recalled fellow outfielder Michael Taylor from Triple-A Sacramento. Young was injured during Monday night’s 19-inning victory over the Angels and was placed on the DL retroactive to April 30. He is batting .172 with four homers and 15 RBI in his first season with Oakland.
Taylor, 27, was hitting .329 with five homers and 16 RBI in 18 games with the River Cats. He went 0-for-6 with the A’s last month.
Dodgers lose Ramirez
The Los Angeles Dodgers put shortstop Hanley Ramirez on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left hamstring.
He hurt himself running the bases Friday night. Infielder Dee Gordon was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque. The 25-year-old Gordon was hitting .314 and led the Pacific Coast League with 14 stolen bases.