Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Swinging And Rarely Missing

It was recently brought to my attention that Arky Vaughan struck out only 276 times in his 6,662 career at-bats. For a little perspective, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs led all of Major League Baseball in strikeouts in 2011 with 205. Back when Vaughan was playing, it was rare for a hitter to record more than 100 strikeouts in a single season. Still, Vaughan's ability over his career to put balls in play and get on base puts him in some exclusive company. Somewhat surprisingly, that company is littered with other greats who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here's a lovely table of all-time leaders in strikeout percentage compiled by Baseball-Almanac.

1. Joe Sewell - 1.6
2. Lloyd Waner - 2.2
3. Nellie Fox - 2.3
4. Tommy Holmes - 2.4
5. Andy High - 3.0
6. Sam Rice - 3.0
7. Frankie Frisch - 3.0
8. Dale Mitchell - 3.0
9. Johnny Cooney - 3.2
10. Frank McCormick - 3.3
11. Don Mueller - 3.3
12. Billy Southworth - 3.4
13. Rip Radcliff - 3.5
14. Edd Roush - 3.5
15. Pie Traynor - 3.7
16. Doc Cramer - 3.8
17. Carson Bigbee - 3.8
18. George Sisler - 4.0
19. Paul Waner - 4.0
20. Sparky Adams - 4.0
21. Lou Finney - 4.0
22. Irish Meusel - 4.1
23. Red Schoendienst - 4.1
24. Vic Power - 4.1
25. Arky Vaughan - 4.2

Out of the 25 players on this list, 5 played a majority of their career with the Pittsburgh Pirates - Lloyd Waner, Pie Traynor, Carson Bigbee, Paul Waner and Vaughan. There's a virtual tie when it comes to the career of Billy Southworth, between the Pirates and the Boston Braves.

That's 6 Pirates on this list of some of the all-time toughest hitters to strike out. The tie for distant second place is shared by four franchises, with three players each - the Boston Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and Philadelphia Athletics.

What's interesting about the former Pirates on this list other than Vaughan is the fact that their careers all intersected as the franchise was building up the team that won the World Series in 1925 and the National League pennant in 1927.

There were a lot of interesting things that happened as the Pittsburgh Pirates roster evolved during the 1920's. I'm finishing up a full post on that which should be published in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the fact that a bunch of Pirates hitters during the 1920's were historically difficult to strike out.