Last week Toaster-mate Will Carroll posed to the group the musical question:
"I was thinking ... they showed the all-time K leaders on tonight's game and all of them were modern era, all playing into the 80s. There's probably a simple answer to this. In context and era-adjusted, how much are Clemens and Johnson's K stats 'inflated', like most think modern home run stats are.
"Better, is there any connect between climbing K rates and HR rates?"
Never one to back down from a challenge, when it doesn't require me to get up off my duff and turn off the TV, I investigated.
Sure enough, there are more than two times as many strikeouts per plate appearance today than in 1920 (actually 2.15 times in the AL and 2.23 in the NL). Also, homers per plate appearance correlate to many strikeouts per plate appearance surprisingly well when compared to other statistics (with a coefficient of .779).
Here it is compared to other ratios (based on per-league data) correlated to strikeouts per plate appearance. The higher the correlation, the better. A correlation of 1.000 (like BA) would be perfect. A negative correlation means that the statistic correlates inversely, i.e., goes up when strikeouts go down and vice versa:
I guess it's not much of a surprise that batting average and on-base percentage are negatively impacted by high strikeout totals. However, it might be surprising that walks though not correlated to K's all that well, do increase as strikeouts increase. Also, though homers correlate the best to K's, slugging percentage does not, indicating that the other components of slugging are not affected positively by the big swing that might lead to a K.
One other correlation of note, home runs and walks (per plate appearance) have a coefficient of .577. Yes, it's better than the ratios, but not by much (especially when one considers that most of them top out at around 1.000). However, it does indicate that even though there might be years with big swings for the fences, it doesn't mean that it leads to fewer walks.
For you completists in the crowdyou know who you arehere is a table for all seasons all-time: