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Sano Sets Strikeout Record


On Saturday, Miguel Sano struck out twice. You may read that sentence and think, what's unusual about that?

Nothing. The answer is nothing, and with it, he crushed an MLB record. Find out more below. 

The Star-Tribune's Phil Miller gets credit for this one. Following Miguel Sano's second strikeout of the game, and 1,000th of his MLB career, Miller tweeted: 

 So, not only did Sano break the record, he broke it by a huge margin. Again, that isn't going to surprise a lot of Twins fans.

It is also important to note that the above list of players includes some very productive baseball players who remained in the big leagues for a long time. There are a lot of home run champions on this list. There are a few MVP awards. 

It may surprise many Twins fans that Miguel Sano has the lowest strikeout rate of his career in 2021. 

2015: 35.5%
2016: 36.0%
2017: 35.8%
2018: 38.5%
2019: 36.2%
2020: 43.9%
2021: 34.5%

So yeah, it isn't the lowest rate by a big amount, but it is, in fact, the lowest. 

After a very slow start to his 2021 season, Sano has really come on. Since May 18, Sano has played in 97 games and hit .240/.313/.526 (.839) with 20 doubles and 26 home runs. 

Overall this season, Sano has played in a career-high 122 games and hit .221/.309/.476 (.786) with 20 doubles and 29 home runs. His OPS is 14% above average. 

In 660 career games since his MLB debut during the 2015 season (parts of 7 seasons), Sano has hit .237/.328/.493 (.821) with 119 doubles and 160 homers. His OPS over that period is 19% higher than average. 

Thirty years ago, this type of strikeout record would have been deemed a big deal in baseball. Strikeouts are no longer considered a terrible event for a hitter. That said, when Sano makes contact, a lot of good things happen, so I for one would certainly love to see him make more contact. 

How do you feel about Sano and this strikeout record? What does it mean, big picture (if anything)? 


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At first I was guessing this was purely an artifact of his era.  If so, expect the record to be broken within a few short years, by someone already well on his way.

Perfect use for baseball-reference.com's Stathead tool.  So I asked for a list of active players with 1000 or fewer SO, to see who might be a candidate. Everyone near the top of that sorted list already had more than the 660 games Sano has.  So then I asked it to show me such candidates who also had fewer than that number of games.  Joey Gallo has 868 SO in 613 games - he's not going to make it at that rate.  Aaron Judge has 772 in 558 - slightly better rate but that's not going to cut it.  Yoan Moncada with 671/525 - nope.

The tool doesn't (to my knowledge) let me sort by a ratio, but a quick scan of the list sorted by SO doesn't reveal a viable candidate with any kind of track record.

As with any negative milestone of counting stats (e.g. 20 losses by a starting pitcher) you have to be pretty good to achieve it.  The truly bad never make it that far.

Congratulations, Miguel. Your record may stand a while.

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"That said, when Sano makes contact, a lot of good things happen, so I for one would certainly love to see him make more contact."

And therein lies the problem. Contact. To me the saddest? thing about watching him hit is that when he gets 2 strikes, the only thing keeping him from striking out is whether the pitcher can locate that breaking ball just off the bottom corner of the strike zone "box" off the outside corner. 
 

I know it’s coming, he knows it’s coming, and by now my wife knows it’s coming. And he still swings at it, while pulling away, over and over and, well you get the picture. 
 

Yup, he can ruin an opposing pitchers day. But while he does that, there are few that wouldn’t want to face him in close RBI situations. Few runs are driven in with a K. But lots are with a deep fly ball, or even a GB. 

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13 minutes ago, Platoon said:

Yup, he can ruin an opposing pitchers day. But while he does that, there are few that wouldn’t want to face him in close RBI situations. Few runs are driven in with a K. But lots are with a deep fly ball, or even a GB. 

Still, he’s 2nd on the team in RBI. A few more than Donaldson, in the same number of PA, and with 60+ more K’s.

The thing with all guys with ridiculous power…they are ALWAYS in an RBI situation.

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It's not that nobody on the list is productive, it's just that Sano is 12% worse than the next player on the list. Eventually, it gets so far out of proportion that a strikeout rate can't be overcome in terms of value.

Sano is going to be on the Twins next year. His salary, remaining option buyout, inability to add defensive value in the field and status as an easy out when teams need that out (negative WPA) make him a liability. Sano is prone to hot/cold so a really rough month isn't unexpected, it's just part of Sano's game.

I think he is working diligently on his strikeout rate, and I think he got a taste that his career in MLB is in its twilight if he doesn't make some changes hit him this year when he was benched. Time will tell. He's got a year left to prove he can overcome all the liabilities and stop the decline. He won't manage a single WAR this year and his WPA will finish in the negatives. It'd be great for the Twins, and Sano, if he can make the adjustments necessary.

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Sometimes his uppercut swing is so severe and patently off that one wonders where the hot streaks come from with Sano. He could be a really good DH and become more consistent. 1B is not a good deal for the team when Miguel is over there, despite his decent ability to scoop errant throws. What to do, what to do .... with Sano. There will be some real interest in the Big Man if the NL uses the DH. 

It has always seemed possible  for Miguel Sano to be more productive and reduce his K-rate and increase his batting average substantially. The number of strikeouts are too numerous and his approach hinders him against the better pitchers.

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2 hours ago, Rosterman said:

Hey, here it comes. Low and outside!

...they said over and over and over again to Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer, shortly before both players waived at it yet again. If they got lucky, they'd accidentally hit one to deep second base/short right field.

At least when Sano connects, it's not some loopy little fly ball to short right field. I'll take his light tower power and the strikeouts that come along with it over the two most frustrating Twins legends' approaches every time.

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29 minutes ago, waltomeal said:

Don't believe the hype.  I hit 1000 strikeouts at the Fall social my Junior year of college, when I was much younger than Sano.  Watch me build on the real record at the tavern this weekend. 

Seriously though, nice write-up Seth.

We're talking about baseball 3rd strikes, not the pick up lines you were using in college. With gems like "Hey, do you like the internet?" or "Your three friends turned me down already so I'll settle for your number, I guess" or "I know we just met, but do you want to meet my parents over there? They're my ride home!" it's no wonder you whiffed so frequently...

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1 hour ago, bean5302 said:

We're talking about baseball 3rd strikes, not the pick up lines you were using in college. With gems like "Hey, do you like the internet?" or "Your three friends turned me down already so I'll settle for your number, I guess" or "I know we just met, but do you want to meet my parents over there? They're my ride home!" it's no wonder you whiffed so frequently...

Yes, that was the joke.  For the record, my pick up lines were much worse.  But thanks for playing along.

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While it is worth noting that Sanó has struck out a bit less this year (per PA), it is equally important to point out that there has been no overall improvement in his numbers. Apparently, he is what he is—an inconsistent slugger prone to slumps and strikeouts. When he came into the league, I thought he had a chance to be another Frank Thomas, but his profile looks much more like Mark Reynolds or Chris Davis. 

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A homerun is a homerun whether it lands in the first row or leaves the park.  Yes Sano can hit them at times.  But his strikeouts have been legendary.  Basically a strikeout is a nothing at bat.  A wasted opportunity to advance or score any potential runners.  Sano leaves them out there a lot.  My question is why would any pitcher throw him a fastball For a strike?  Anything low and on the outside proves he has no chance.

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Thanks. I'd given up on him setting any kind of record let alone a major league historical kind. I will take a 6/7 place hitter with 40 homers and 100 rbi's if we can get it, nobody else on the team has that kind of ability. 

I'm not going to say he just needs to (fill in the blank). He knows it, he just has to do it more.

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Interesting, thanks Seth.

Not certain that 'games' is the best stat to use in this case.  We don't know if some of those guys played a lot of games where they merely pinch hit for the pitcher in the National League?  Wouldn't at bats, or even better plate appearances be a better judge?  Expect the results would be the same, but the variances may be different...or not!

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1 hour ago, gman said:

Thanks. I'd given up on him setting any kind of record let alone a major league historical kind. I will take a 6/7 place hitter with 40 homers and 100 rbi's if we can get it, nobody else on the team has that kind of ability. 

I'm not going to say he just needs to (fill in the blank). He knows it, he just has to do it more.

Sano has never hit 40 in his career. He'll likely just baaaaaarely get to 30 for the second time this year and I'd say he has an pretty outside shot at 40 once in his career. Kepler has a higher career best home run total than Sano at 36 vs 34.

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13 hours ago, RonCoomersOPS said:

...they said over and over and over again to Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer, shortly before both players waived at it yet again. If they got lucky, they'd accidentally hit one to deep second base/short right field.

At least when Sano connects, it's not some loopy little fly ball to short right field. I'll take his light tower power and the strikeouts that come along with it over the two most frustrating Twins legends' approaches every time.

It was a running joke around our house, how do you get Hunter or Cuddyer out? 
 

Intentionally walk the bases full, and throw them 3 breaking balls off the outside corner. The more men on base, the harder they tried to hit that big HR, and usually the less they succeeded. Both good ball players, but the tendency to chase on "clutch" situations kept them no more than that.

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With that kind of start, one has to look at where he might end up on the career list. The current leader is Reggie Jackson at 2597, prompting two questions — can Sano get there and can anyone beat him to the mark. 

To the first, with 1,000 strikeouts in 661 games, he’s essentially striking out 1.5 times per game. Continuing at that rate, he’d need to play about 1065 more games. How reasonable is that? 

On its simplest terms, we have a concern about health, thinking he’s missed a lot of games. However, last year he played 53 of 60. Over a full season, that’s pace for 143 games. This year he’s on pace for about 133. If he averages 133 games per season going forward, he ends up with 200 whiffs. That would mean being able to play eight more seasons to get the roughly 1,600 he needs. That’s to age 36. 

In the baseball-reference.com “Similarity Scores,” six of the 10 players most like him through age 28 are still active. The other four are Carlos Quentin, Rob Deer, Jay Buhner, and Bo Jackson. Quentin had his last productive year at age 30 and retired at 31. Jackson’s career ended at 31 due to injury. Deer’s last year as a regular (I hesitate to call it “productive,” based on his stats) was at 32, followed by a handful of games a few years later. (I don’t remember that gap — was he hurt?) Buhner’s last year with more than 120 games was at age 32, though he had several part-time years after that. 

Of the guys whose career stats are similar to Sano, you can add Adam Duvall, Joey Gallo, and Marcus Thames. Duvall is playing somewhat regularly at age 32, Gallo is only 27, and Thames never played more than 120 games on the way to playing 36 games at age 34.

The common thread in those is not being a regular past the early 30s. In Buhner’s case, he also relied on his defense for playing time. Those comps don’t paint a rosy picture for Sano playing another eight years. 

There are two other interesting cases near the top of the list. Adam Dunn is third. He actually played 131 games in his final season at age 34 and had an OPS+ of 115, He well may have had enough in the tank to get the 218 he needed, particularly given that he had 159 whiffs in that age 34 season.

The other is Jim Thome, who is second only to Reggie, falling 49 short. Thome played regularly until age 38 and then semi-regularly for two more years and part-time for one. His OPS+ was still above 100 at the end, so it’s conceivable he could have played the remaining games he needed. 

The difference here, of course, is that Thome was much more effective as an overall hitter than Sano has ever bend. Thome got a slight head start by making it to the majors as a 20 year-old, but he had “only” 882 whiffs by age 28. Thome appeared washed up at age 34, when he appeared in only 59 games and had an OPS+ of 85. Had he retired then, he would have ended with just 1762 strikeouts. 

However, it was at age 35 that he transitioned to becoming a full time DH. From then on, he played another 805 games, striking out 786 times. Throughout his career, his strikeout rate was much lower than Sano’s, as he struck out only five more times than games played. Bottom line is that he was so productive that he stayed around a long time. 

Barring Sano turning into Thome, I can’t see him making it to Reggieland. But even if he did, would that be enough?

Perhaps not, 

In my mind, one particular player seems positioned to make a run at Reggie — Giancarlo Stanton. Already fifth among active players with 1543 through age 31, he has whiffed 1.18 times per game. Continuing at that rate, he needs less than 900 more games. He’s on pace to play 137 games this year with an OPS+ of 134, just below his career average. With his overall hitting, he has a much better likelihood of having a Thome-like end to his career. If Thome can play 800 games after age 34, Stanton can easily play 900 after age 31. 

Finally, I’ll note that if Stanton DOESN’T reach Reggie, it could well be because of the significant time he missed the past two years, with only 18 games in 2019 and 23 in the shortened 2020. In those two years, he probably lost about 200 games. Another 236 strikeouts would put him close to 1800 by the end of his age 31 year, meaning he’d only have to play 675 games going forward at his current whiff rate. That would be five seasons at 135 games, which seems eminently doable. 

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5 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Sano has never hit 40 in his career. He'll likely just baaaaaarely get to 30 for the second time this year and I'd say he has an pretty outside shot at 40 once in his career. Kepler has a higher career best home run total than Sano at 36 vs 34.

I didn't know this was a compare Sano to Kepler article. I did say Sano had the ABILITY to hit 40. You probably missed that part.

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18 hours ago, gman said:

I didn't know this was a compare Sano to Kepler article. I did say Sano had the ABILITY to hit 40. You probably missed that part.

I didn't miss that part. My point is Sano had years and years to get close to 40, but he hasn't, and I compared Sano to Kepler so as to reinforce Sano not having legitimate 40 HR potential. He just doesn't make enough contact to get there. It's not a strength thing, it's a injury/health and 50% strikeout/walk thing reducing his potential at bats to hit home runs. Sano will likely become a qualified hitter for the first time in his career this year playing in 132-135 games or so with 31 home runs. In 150 games, that's still only a 35 home run pace with a career low strikeout rate and a lower than average walk rate (more contact) and an average career HR/FB rate. He just doesn't have that 40 HR season in him and that's been pretty solidified for several years now. He's not the Sano Twins fans were excited about in the mid 2010s with the theoretical 80+ game power and excellent plate discipline. If we were to re-grade Sano and compare him to who we hoped he was back in his prospect years...

  • 2015 Hit 55, Power 75, Run 40, Arm 70, Field 40, Overall 65
  • 2021 Hit 40, Power 60, Run 35, Arm 70, Field 30, Overall 45
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22 hours ago, IndianaTwin said:

With that kind of start, one has to look at where he might end up on the career list. The current leader is Reggie Jackson at 2597, prompting two questions — can Sano get there and can anyone beat him to the mark. 

 

I gave this a like cause, well, that's a lot of thought and data, haha. You sound a bit disappointed Sano doesn't have a great chance at becoming the all time the poster boy for plate futility, lol!

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Quote

That said, when Sano makes contact, a lot of good things happen, so I for one would certainly love to see him make more contact. 

Surely he is making contact at least once in most of his strikeouts?

I have nothing against Sano, but everything about him is predictable.  I wish the Twins would have traded him years ago.  And no, I don't believe that trading him is impossible today, it just would not be the blockbuster trade the Twins are hoping for.  If the Twins want to compete in the future, they have to be willing to swallow that jagged little pill once in a while.

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9 hours ago, bean5302 said:

I gave this a like cause, well, that's a lot of thought and data, haha. You sound a bit disappointed Sano doesn't have a great chance at becoming the all time the poster boy for plate futility, lol!

Mostly tongue-in-cheek and having fun with numbers. Bit in one sense I do hope he makes a run at it, because that would mean he upped his overall production, potentially including his defense, enough to have continued earning playing time rather than following the regression pattern of most of the guys I mentioned. 

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Miguel Sano hits the ball really hard and is a very controversial player because of his wild swings (pun intended) between strikeouts and hits. He should have value to another team, particularly if the NL adds the DH. Hopefully, MLB will get its act together on this by November. Regretfully, Sano may help the Twins in a trade to a team looking for power and a change may help him too. I would be sad to see Sano go but a shift in employment is often a beneficial course within life. for many people and may push Miguel Sano to a better place professionally.

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12 hours ago, tony&rodney said:

Miguel Sano hits the ball really hard and is a very controversial player because of his wild swings (pun intended) between strikeouts and hits. He should have value to another team, particularly if the NL adds the DH. Hopefully, MLB will get its act together on this by November. Regretfully, Sano may help the Twins in a trade to a team looking for power and a change may help him too. I would be sad to see Sano go but a shift in employment is often a beneficial course within life. for many people and may push Miguel Sano to a better place professionally.

He'd definitely have value if it weren't for the $12MM a team has to pay him next year ($9.25MM salary and $2.75MM buyout)

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