If Jonathan Lucroy Never Struck Out Again

Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy has distinguished himself in recent years as one of the major leagues’ best players. Not only, for example, did he rank among the top-ten hitters by WAR last year, but also added the third-most runs by way of catcher framing according to the methodology used by Matthew Carruth at StatCorner — which metric isn’t included in the WAR figures here at the site. Overall, he produced the fifth-best season in the majors last year, according to our writers.

This spring, Lucroy is pursuing another means by which to improve his already impressive skill set — namely, by never striking out. No batter this spring has recorded as many plate appearances as Lucroy (33) while also recording a strikeout rate of 0%.

Insofar as literally zero qualified batters since 1913 (since which year the relevant data exists) have produced a 0% strikeout rate — and also insofar as league-wide strikeout rates are currently at an all-time high — it’s unlikely that Lucroy will be able to parlay this particular brand of success into a full major-league season.

“What if he did, though?” is the sort of idle question one fortunate enough to have been born and raised in a middle-class family is able both to ask and attempt to answer in exchange for even more money. The results of that inquiry are below.

What I did was to start with Lucroy’s Depth Chart projection and then convert every strikeout into a batted ball, assuming that those batted balls would be distributed as singles and doubles and triples and home runs at the same rate at which Lucroy’s actual hits are projected to occur. I made no adjustments to walk rate or BABIP or, like, sacrifice flies — all of which would also certainly change if the actual Jonathan Lucroy were never to strike out. Attempting to account for all those numbers, however, would require even more and weirder assumptions, so I’ve opted just for this simpler version.

Below are the results of those math tricks. Proj denotes Lucroy’s Depth Chart projection. 0 Ks denotes his projection with strikeouts converted into batted balls. Diff is the result of the first line subtracted from the second.

Type PA AB BB% K% BABIP H 1B 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Bat WAR
Proj 559 503 8.4% 12.0% .306 144 96 31 3 14 .287 .349 .444 .349 120 12.5 4.0
0 Ks 559 503 8.4% 0.0% .306 164 110 35 3 16 .326 .384 .503 .390 148 30.1 5.9
Diff 0 0 0.0% -12.0% .000 +20 +14 +4 0 +2 +.039 +.035 +.059 +.041 +28 +17.6 +1.9

If Lucroy were never to strike out, he’d produce nearly 18 runs over the course of a season — or, roughly two wins. A considerable improvement, that. And yet, if that number seems perhaps underwhelming, it’s because Lucroy is already projected to record just a 12.0% strikeout rate this year — already greater than a standard deviation better than league average.

To find the largest possible gain provided by a zero-strikeout projections, it’s necessary to identify a player who both (a) strikes out frequently and also (b) produced considerable damage on contact. Houston’s Chris Carter is that precise sort of player.

What would happen, in this hypotethetical world, if Chris Carter never struck out. Here are thes results using the same methodology as with Lucroy:

Type PA AB BB% K% BABIP H 1B 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Bat WAR
Proj 616 539 10.8% 32.7% .285 121 63 24 1 33 .225 .313 .459 .338 118 11.9 1.9
0 Ks 616 539 10.8% 0.0% .285 183 95 36 2 50 .340 .414 .692 .474 213 76.3 9.0
Diff 0 0 0.0% -32.7% .000 +62 +32 +12 +1 +17 +.115 +.101 +.233 +.136 +95 +64.4 +7.1

Seven wins! Chris Carter would become more or less Mike Trout’s equal in this particular case. The contingency is unlikely, of course.





Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

19 Comments
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Matt
8 years ago

So logical next step? What if Mike Trout never struck out? What if Joey Votto never walked? What if Adam Dunn couldn’t hit home runs? The possibilities are endless and intriguing!

jruby
8 years ago
Reply to  Matt

What if Barry Bonds never did steroids? What if David Eckstein never didn’t do steroids? What if Grant Balfour never swore? What if Chase Utley never had a left arm? What if Delmon Young never had the Will to Win?

The possibilities are literally endless.

Javier Baez
8 years ago
Reply to  jruby

What if I never looked bad striking out?

Larry Bernandez
8 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Fangraphs did an analysis of what it would take in order to have an MLB equivalent of LeBron, and part of that was Mike Trout’s K’s being replaced by singles. It still was only worth like 2-3 additional WAR.

Matt
8 years ago

Only….