Originally created 06/13/06

Sultans of swing



MIAMI - A Toronto baseball writer this past weekend wrote, in a cheeky and somewhat corny manner, that the "Detroit Tigers struck out more times Saturday than a nerd at a beauty pageant" in their game against the Blue Jays.

The Tigers struck out 12 times. What, then, does that say about the Atlanta Braves?

Atlanta struck out 12 times Friday against Houston, 13 times Thursday and 41 times in a four-game series against the Astros that included three losses. Friday's result was the 15th time they've struck out more than 10 times.

Astros rookie starters Fernando Nieve and Taylor Buchholz both set new highs for strikeouts with the Braves wailing away.

Atlanta is averaging 7.69 strikeouts per game through 63 games for a grand total of 485 strikeouts. That's third in the majors - the Florida Marlins have 495.

And the Marlins, who begin a three-game series today against Atlanta in Miami, have already employed 18 rookies this season. Atlanta, 30-34 and a loser of 11 of 14, hasn't used any rookies in its order all season.

"We're getting more strikeouts than hits," manager Bobby Cox said after Saturday's 7-2 loss that featured six Braves hits and a dozen strikeouts.

The Braves have veterans, such as Chipper Jones and Edgar Renteria, who are fanning more than their annual average. Even usual strikeout suspects Andruw Jones, Adam LaRoche and Marcus Giles are on track to pass their career average.

So, what gives?

With the team down 10 games in the division race for the first time since 1993, second-year outfielder Ryan Langerhans said he thinks pressing at the plate is an issue.

"I think guys are trying to help out and putting too much on their shoulders in trying to jump-start the offense," Langerhans said. "It gets them in the mind-set of trying to do more than they can."

Langerhans has struck out 52 times. Jeff Francoeur has struck out 53 times, as has Andruw Jones. LaRoche has 50 strikeouts. Marcus Giles has 46. Chipper Jones has 39 in fewer at-bats, because of a knee injury.

"Yeah, I'm not happy with the whole strikeout thing," Francoeur said, more referring to himself than the team.

But a couple of Braves pointed out that batting styles and objectives sometimes dictate that strikeouts are a superfluous stat.

LaRoche said he considers himself more of a power hitter, someone who loses his purpose of driving the ball to the gaps and over the wall if he starts thinking about on-base percentage.

"My goal is to get to second base," he said. "I'm no good to anyone at first."

The same goes for Giles. The caveat with the team's second baseman, though, is that he has moved to the leadoff slot this season.

"The more I fight it, the worse it's going to get," said Giles, who averages nearly 100 strikeouts a year. "I don't look at numbers, to be honest with you. None of them matter until the end of the year."

Reach R. Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.

FANNING FACTS


Some numbers on striking out in the National League:


- Milwaukee outfielder Geoff Jenkins leads the National League with 73 strikeouts; the leading Braves are Jeff Francouer and Andruw Jones, who have 53 apiece.


- The Florida Marlins lead the National League in strikeouts as a team, with 495. Milwaukee has 486; Atlanta is third at 485.


- In the NL, 35 players have struck out at least 45 times. Five of them are Braves - Francoeur, Jones, Ryan Langerhans, Adam LaRoche and Marcus Giles - which is the most of any team in the league.


Source: www.mlb.com