Bill Ladson Strikes Out
Given that a roving mob of Nats bloggers have recently completed a beat-down of MLB.com Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson, it's probably safe for me to sneak up to his gurgling carcass and give it a few more swift kicks. Ladson likes to justify the Soriano trade by whining about Brad Wilkerson's strikeouts, as on display here in a response to a shadowy "Chris N., Alexandria" back in December:
Why are you so down on strikeouts? They're frustrating to watch, but they're not all that different from a ground out.-- Chris N., Alexandria, Va.
I'm not down on strikeouts, and I know where you are coming from here. You are miffed by the way I've talked about Brad Wilkerson and his strikeouts the last two months. If Wilkerson was a clutch hitter like Reggie Jackson (he is the all-time strikeout king), I wouldn't dwell on Wilkerson's whiffs. The truth is, Wilkerson was killing the team with his strikeouts. I can't tell you how many times he looked at strike three and walked back to the dugout. Wilkerson hit .248 with 11 home runs, 57 RBIs and 147 strikeouts. Let's see how long the Rangers tolerate the strikeouts. If Wilkerson hit .330 with 50 homeruns and 130 RBIs, the strikeouts would be less of a concern.
He takes another shot at Wilk in the most recent mailbag, "Acquiring [Cubs' Corey] Patterson to be a leadoff hitter would be a mistake. While Brad Wilkerson struck out a ton, he at least drew walks."
Capitol Punishment has been a staunch defender of Wilkerson's strikeouts with this theory: if you want a guy to try to hit homeruns, he's gonna have to strikeout a fair amount. And while Wilkerson was the Nats leadoff hitter, he was expected also to be a source of power for the team last year.
Today, that theory gets a boost of support, and Ladson's lame-brained view gets a swift kick in the jimmies, with a great article by Dave Studeman at the Hardball Times. Using some neat graphs, Studes explains that outfield fly balls come in very different types, and some are much more productive than others. The second graph in the article also shows that there is a high correlation between productive OFs and strikeout rate, confirming the thesis that producing high-value flyballs has a price of more strikeouts -- except for a handful of players like Bonds, Pujols and Vlad Guerrero who manage to produce without a lot of Ks.
So, in essence, Ladson's beef with Wilkerson boils down to this: Wilkerson was a problem because he's not Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols. Even Little DM can opine on that.