Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
the st. louis cardinals put together one of the best offensive performances in the league last year, and one key to that success was not striking out a lot.
according to statcorner.com, the average K rate for a major league ballplayer in 2012 was 20.5%; major leaguers struck out swinging 15.5% of the time and struck out looking 5.0% of the time.
despite putting up good power numbers, the cardinals did not sacrifice whiffs for power. only a few players on the team who got any meaningful number of PAs and who weren't starting pitchers struck out at above average rates, most of them secondary players.
adron chambers got 62 PAs and struck out 29% of the time. that's way outside his typical K rate in the minors, so it may be a sample size issue, or it may be a sign that he won't adapt to major league pitching. too soon to say.
matt adams, who has been criticized for a poor walk rate in the minors, struck out 26.4% of the time in the majors in 2012. at the same time, he was striking out at an above-average rate in AAA in 2012. he needs another full season of PAs between AAA and MLB before we make any pronouncements, but there's at least some reason to be concerned about how smoothly he transitions to upper-level pitching. his walk rate dropped in 2012 at both the major and minor league level, adding a little suggestive fuel to that fire.
the late, not-much-lamented-until-we-signed-ty-wigginton tyler greene also showed off his weakness, with a 28.4% K rate in 197 PAs for the cardinals. this was perfectly in line with his long trend of poor K rates and should have surprised no one.
pete kozma, boy wonder, also put up a 23.2% K rate in 82 PAs. he was probably more often over league average in strikeouts at the minor league level, but usually not by too much. anyone looking for hope that kozma figured something out in the big leagues won't find it in his K rate, however.
still, these guys are mostly secondary players. only tyler greene got more than 150 PAs (which is roughly the point at which a hitter's K rate becomes significant).
the only regular player who posted an above average K rate was david freese, and he barely did so. relative to the league average 20.5%, his 21.5% K rate hardly ranks. still, he's consistently struck out more than average, usually in the 20-22% region.
every other cardinal position player with a meaningful amount of PAs struck out less than league average. yadier molina leads the crew at the other end, with a 9.8% K rate, 9th best among all qualified MLB players.
anyone hoping for a rafael furcal resurgence might be heartened by the fact that he only struck out 10.7% of the time, following similarly good numbers in 2011.
similarly, anyone looking for evidence that jon jay can keep up his offensive performance should appreciate the 14.1% K rate he brought to the plate in 2012.
the cardinals overall were not in the top tier of teams in terms of striking out. the cardinals' 18.8% team K rate in 2012 was only good for ninth place in the league.
it was a remarkable step down from the great numbers posted last year; in 2011, the cardinals put up a team K rate of 15.7%, second only to the rangers. of course, the twins and the royals had the best strikeout numbers in 2012, so not striking out is not enough to make you a great hitter by itself.
the departure of albert pujols (8.9%), (surprise) ryan theriot (8.5%), and diminished PAs from lance berkman (15.7% in 587 2011 PAs) were the culprits for the jump in K rate as a team in 2012. see comment above about not striking out not being enough to make you a good hitter.
the team should mostly be unchanged from 2012 to 2013. the new faces we may see should fit right into the culture. last year, in the texas league (average K rate: 19.9%), oscar taveras struck out at a 10.5% rate, while kolten wong followed with a 12.8% rate. the team's characteristic aversion to strikeouts should carry on.