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Does New Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers Hate Strikeouts? | October
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When Kevin Towers was hired as GM of the Diamondbacks last month, one particular comment in his press conference attracted a great deal of attention.  "There's some nice hitters on this ballclub, but the strikeouts are somewhat alarming," Towers said. "That's something we certainly need to cut back." In another interview, Towers added to this point, saying "Personally, I like contact hitters. I like guys that have good pitch recognition. Strikeouts are part of the game, but if you have four or five or six guys in your lineup, it's hard to sustain any sort of rally."

These reports immediately led to speculation among the team's fans that players like Mark Reynolds are likely to be traded, and even worse, that Towers would like to fill the lineup with "contact" hitters like Juan Pierre or David Eckstein. But should we really be worried about these comments? Well, one important statement that Towers added in his comments was " I'd like to see breaking records for walks more than strikeouts," a statement that virtually all of the team's fans would support. Can we learn anything from Towers' track record as GM of the Padres?


The table below shows the Padres' ranks in the categories of OPS+, Walks, and Strikeouts during the Kevin Towers era.

 

Year Wins OPS+ Rank BB Rank SO Rank
2009 75 9 8 7
2008 63 8 13 3
2007 89 7 3 2
2006 88* 3 6 9
2005 82* 6 4 11
2004 87 3 7 15
2003 64 8 5 6
2002 66 8 10 9
2001 79 6 1 2
2000 76 9 9 4
1999 74 13 5 4
1998 98* 5 5 8
1997 76 1 4 4
1996 91* 2 3 15
AVG 79.1 6.3 5.9 7.1

Towers' teams in San Diego were not particularly notable in terms of not striking out. Twice they finished 2nd in the NL in strikeouts, including the 89 win team in 2007, which had three players (Mike Cameron, Adrian Gonzalez, Khalil Greene) combine for 428 strikeouts. The 2008 team finished 3rd in strikeouts, with four players over 100 Ks individually. Still, these teams totaled strikeouts in the 1200s, much less than the Diamondbacks' 2010 total of 1529. Only two of Towers' teams were particularly low in strikeouts (1996, 2004), when they finished 15th out of 16 NL teams. But in general, Towers' clubs averaged in the upper half of the league in walks, strikeouts, and OPS+.

The 2010 Diamondbacks team struck out more than any team in history, so it is natural for team officials to say they want to cut down on the number of strikeouts. One area that should be improved is the bench, where the team had several hitters with terrible K/BB ratios, despite hitting for little power. The worst offenders in 2010 were probably Rusty Ryal (67K, 8 BB, 3 HR) and Tony Abreu (47K, 4 BB, 1 HR). But Kevin Towers' record shows that he's not in love with "contact hitters" - his teams were usually in the top half of the league in strikeouts, and finished in the Top 4 in the league 6 out of his 14 seasons. So while Towers may try to reduce the team's strikeout totals a little, fans shouldn't be too surprised to see the Diamondbacks near the top of the NL strikeout leaders again in 2011.