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Keep Striking People Out, Stephen Strasburg

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Thomas Boswell has forgotten more about baseball than I'll ever know, so I rarely have an issue with any of his work. But his column today, which analyzes whether it's a good thing that Stephen Strasburg has become a "strikeout king," is kind of off base.

I say "kind of" because it's more of an analysis on how the Nationals were hoping Strasburg wouldn't strike many batters out than Boswell injecting his own opinion. Still, the subtext is obvious, based on this line:

Because nobody in the Nats organization, including Strasburg, ever wants to see the number "400" mentioned beside his name -- or probably even "300" -- a method will probably be sought to avoid it. Try to be more like Jim Palmer, who only went for strikeouts when the game situation dictated.    

Oy. So we're seriously suggesting that Strasburg should stop trying to go for the best kind of out in baseball? The kind where he doesn't have to trust anyone else to get the job done? I may not be the smartest baseball fan in the world, but this much I know: strikeouts are good, and it makes sense to try to do good things on the field.

Thankfully, Dave Nichols at Nationals News Network  provides the more enlightened perspective here to disprove Boswell's point. 

Boswell seems to be espousing a popular theme in baseball that strikeouts = higher pitch counts = bad for starting pitchers.  If he is, he's wrong.  It's always better to record an out when the ball is not put in play.  There are so many factors to recording an out after a ball is put into play, not the least of which is team defense.    

Oh, by the way, the Nats lead the league in errors and are high on the list of unearned runs.    

That really should be enough to disprove Boswell's (and the Nationals') premise, but Dave also goes the extra mile, citing studies that show it's walks that increase a pitcher's pitch count, not strikeouts. The two really don't have anything to do with each other: you can be a great strikeout pitcher while maintaining good enough control to avoid walking batters. Just ask the Pirates. 

So yes, Stephen, keep going for strikeouts. Not only is it more fun to watch, but it's better for your team.