Brandon Allen, Strikeouts, and Definitions

Sometimes baseball analysis is similar to semantics. Define Brandon Allen one way, and he’s got a bright future despite some early struggles. Define the 25-year-old first baseman from a different direction, and the odds are incredibly stacked against him.

Let’s de-emphasize Allen’s 209 plate appearances so far. Even if those plate appearances had all happened in one season — which they haven’t — we’d only barely be looking at a reliable sample for his in-season strikeout rate, and we’d know next to nothing about his power.

It’s obvious that his strikeout rate is the big ‘problem.’ So far in the major leagues, he’s had a 34.9% strikeout rate, which simply is not enough contact. But Allen’s minor league strikeout rate was only 23%. What happens if we define Allen as a minor leaguer with a 23% strikeout rate?

He looks a lot better.

Minor leaguers with at least 600 MiLB PAs and a 23-25% strikeout rate averaged 27.9% strikeout rates in the major leagues. A 27-28% strikeout rate in the major leagues is not great either, but Josh Willingham, Carlos Pena, Mike Stanton, Austin Jackson, Kelly Johnson, Mark Reynolds, Miguel Olivo and Drew Stubbs have all managed to provide positive value to their teams while showing similar rates this year. It’s no death knell, and a player with enough power and patience can make it work. Since Allen had a double-digit walk rate in both the majors and minors, and prodigious power in the minor leagues, this definition is friendly to Allen, especially since we included him in a bucket with players with worse minor league strikeout rates.

But say we do combine Allen’s partial seasons. And we do find a reliable sample for his strikeout rate therein. And we do define Brandon Allen as a slugger with a strikeout rate over 30%. What happens to his prognosis then?

He looks a lot worse.

Sort the career leaderboard by strikeout percentage with a minimum of 1000 PAs in order to find players that put up 30+% strikeout rates over their careers. Right away, you’ll notice that the sample is small: 29. Now take out the pitchers, and we’re down to 14. Take out the catchers. We’re down to 12. That’s right, over the history of baseball, only 12 non-catchers have managed to accrue 1000 PAs with a strikeout rate over 30%. It’s a small group. It’s hard to stick around with a strikeout rate that high.

Obviously, not all minor leaguers with 23-25% strikeout rates are created equal. Nelson Cruz had a 23% strikeout rate in the minors and has shown a 22.4% strikeout rate in the majors. Chris Davis had a 24.5% strikeout rate in the minors, in some of the same parks, and he’s closing in 1000 PAs with 31.5% strikeout rate in the majors.

But if you define Brandon Allen by his minor league brethren, he’s got a fighter’s chance. If you choose to define him by his major league work so far, he’s got quite the uphill battle. It’s a question of definition as much as it is a question of contact.

Thanks to Jeff Zimmerman for researching some of the numbers in this piece.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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A's fan
Guest
A's fan

Since 200 isn’t 1000, how about looking at people who had 30%+ K-rates over their first 200 PA?

Dave S
Guest
Dave S

Here’s the list of firstbasemen, +30% K-rate, 200 AB min.

Jake Stahl 50.0%
Hal O’Hagan 50.0%
Tim Jordan 40.0%
Brad Eldred 36.5%
Brandon Allen 34.9%
J.R. Phillips 33.0%
Russell Branyan 32.9%
Chris Davis 31.7%
Mike Hessman 31.6%
Andy Tracy 31.5%
Rusty Ryal 30.3%
Jeff Larish 30.1%

Dave S
Guest
Dave S

DH’s:

Jason Botts 33.1%
Jack Cust 31.7%
Alejandro Sanchez 30.7%
Andy Tomberlin 30.5%
Jeff Larish 30.1%

Dave S
Guest
Dave S

OF’s:

Myron Allen 42.9%
Jim Fuller 38.1%
Rooney Sweeney 36.4%
Jason Dubois 35.7%
Chris Latham 35.4%
Kyle Blanks 35.3%
Melvin Nieves 34.7%
Dave Nicholson 34.5%
Billy Ashley 34.3%
Bill Wise 33.3%
Jason Botts 33.1%
Phil Hiatt 32.2%
Bo Jackson 32.0%
Justin Maxwell 31.9%
Jack Cust 31.7%
Harry Wheeler 31.7%
Cliff Cook 31.3%
Rob Deer 31.2%
Chad Hermansen 31.1%
Alejandro Sanchez 30.7%
Rolando Roomes 30.5%
Andy Tomberlin 30.5%
Wily Mo Pena 30.4%
Rusty Ryal 30.3%
Hensley Meulens 30.1%
Nixey Callahan 30.0%
Edgard Clemente 30.0%
Kit Pellow 30.0%

RC
Guest
RC

Right, the problem is there could be hundreds of guys who struck out 30% of the time in their first 200 PA, and then didn’t keep that rate up for the next 800.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S

Those are all career #’s though… NOT just 1st 200 PA’s.

But looking at those names, Allen is not gonna last long if he can’t get the K-rate down.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S

Eno, I totally agree with you!

I gotta admit, I was surprised (in a bad way) when I looked at these lists of names.

A's fan
Guest
A's fan

Wow guys, thanks for doing the leg work on that. Is that from b-ref? I can’t make it do things like that: gotta take some lessons from you. So could we make a “success” list by looking for people with 30% k-rates in the first 200AB and then going on to post 2 or more seasons of 3 or more WAR? I was wondering if many other folks had had early bad stretches and had gone on to do better, but the career list sure looks grim. I’m an A’s fan but I live in Reno and I’ve sure enjoyed watching Allen poke pitch after pitch out of the park! I hope he can be the exception to this ugly trend, but I’m sure not holding my breath now.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S

@A’s fan:

No… got the stats right here at Fangraphs!

At the top of this page… mouse over “Leaders” box. Then in the drop down box that appears, click “career” in the “batters” section.

A page will open to sortable stats.

“Advanced” stats page has K% as the second column. (mine opens to this page)

On this page you can set minimum PAs, filter by position, etc… then click on a stat column to sort by that column. Click it again to reverse sort it.

The problem with the stats I posted here, is that they are all career stats. So, these guys all ended their careers with +30% Krates.

A much more interesting list would be all guys that had a +30% Krate in their first 200 PAs. Then, look at how many improved it, by how much, and then how those players performed.

I do NOT know how to find Krates for all players’ first 200PAs.