Here’s the thing about hitter strikeouts… They don’t matter so much in the context of production. The Phillies lead the NL in runs scored, but they strike out a lot — fourth in the league. The Braves are right behind them in fifth, but they’ve scored the third-most runs in the league. The Cubs, who have the worst offense in the league, have the second-fewest strikeouts. But the Mets, who have the second-best offense, are in the middle in strikeouts, and the Giants, who have the fewest strikeouts, are middling on offense. The Reds normally score a lot of runs with a lot of strikeouts, while the Brewers normally don’t score a lot of runs but strike out almost as much. There’s really no correlation between strikeouts and runs scored, positive or negative.
At the same time, on the individual level strikeouts may have a predictive value. Kelly Johnson, for example, struck out at basically an Adam Dunn rate last year — actually, not quite as much as Dunn per AB but as close as anyone. That’s a concern, because strikeouts can eat a player’s career if they get excessive. Dunn’s a fine player, but he’s a fine player with a career BA around .250 and it’s never going to get much higher than that, which limits his value no matter how much he walks or how many homers he hits. One piece I have planned but never written is about the McGriff trade; I’m pretty much convinced that the reason that the Braves valued Klesko over Nieves is that Klesko’s strikeout rate in the minors was much lower; strikeouts derailed Nieves’ career.
Jeff Francoeur… His strikeout rate isn’t that bad. He’s struck out 99 times, which puts him in sixteenth in the league, tied with David Wright and one behind Andruw, and remember he’s third in the league in ABs. His strikeout rate isn’t really worrisome to me in isolation. The problem is that most people who strike out that much also walk a lot. The walk/strikeout ratio of the other top 20 strikeout men ranges from .69 (Burrell) to .25 (Preston Wilson); next to Wilson, who sucks, it’s .34 (Bill Hall). Francoeur’s is an extreme outlier at .12. If I were more skilled at statistics, I’d know for sure, but I’m pretty sure he’s a standard deviation or more off.
The result is that even with comparable power statistics Francoeur’s one of the worst hitters in the group. The only one worse is Wilson, who was released. The next-worst is Geoff Jenkins, who has been benched. Most of the others are among the best hitters in the league.
So… strikeouts: Not all that bad, in isolation. Francoeur’s strikeouts: not that big a deal, compared to other problems.