Over the last two seasons, the Phils have shed perceptions of a team burdened by too many strikeouts, thanks to better contact by non-power hitters, and by comparison, more whiffs by their peers.
Something about this series with league strikeout leader Mark Reynolds and the free-swinging Diamondbacks got the wheels spinning about strikeouts and how it hasn’t monopolized conversation like it used to. For years, WIP's Howard Eskin would bring exactly one topic to the table when it came to the Phillies: that the lineup was dysfunctional and was hurt by too many strikeouts. Occasionally, he'll still yammer on about it, but by and large, perceptions have changed. Obviously, winning a championship curbs criticism, but people have also recognized that the lineup is built for power, and because they play in a homer-friendly park, score a ton of runs and win most of the time, their lack of a station-to-station approach isn’t a big deal.
Statistically, they’re striking out in 18.2 percent of their plate appearances (SO%). That’s a tick higher than the National League average, but only the 10th highest in the league. In 2008, it was even less: 17.8 percent, a shade under league average. Compare that to 2007, when they whiffed at a 18.4 percent clip, third highest in the league. In other words, the league has gotten worse when it comes to making contact, with Arizona, Florida, Milwaukee and Chicago being the worst offenders.
One reason why the strikeouts have stabilized is that, while the big boppers like Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, and to a lesser extent, Chase Utley, continue to take hacks, the Phils are making good contact at the top and bottom of the lineup. Among strikeout percentage leaders, Shane Victorino ranks 8th, Jimmy Rollins 11th, Pedro Feliz 12th, and if he had just a few more at bats to qualify, Carlos Ruiz would rank 13th.