Yoan Moncada’s 12 K’s in 19 ABs

December 15, 2016

Yoan Moncada’s perceived value as a prospect took a bit of a hit last year when he struck out 12 times in 19 at-bats during his September call-up with the Red Sox. Obviously, if he hit .350 with 2-3 homers in those 19 at-bats, people would be more excited. But is it rare for a player to strike out 12 times in 19 at-bats?

The answer turns out to be no, it happens quite often. In the last 10 years, non-pitchers have done it 1,248 times. Here are the five players that have done it the most in that period:

Most Streaks of 12 K's in 19 AB's, 2007-16
Batter Total Streaks
Mark Reynolds 57
Chris Carter 39
Alex Avila 38
Adam Dunn 35
Jack Cust 34


Those leaders are not universally exceptional players, although Adam Dunn in particular had a lengthy and productive career in which he counterbalanced a lot of those strikeouts with home runs and walks. However, beyond even Dunn, there are a number of truly extraordinary hitters who have had streaks of 12 strikeouts in 19 at-bats. For example, Giancarlo Stanton has done it 16 times since 2007. Freddie Freeman has done it seven times. David Ortiz has done it five times.

I’m sure it made it easier for the Red Sox to trade Moncada after his strikeout streak, but this one small sample-size performance is not out of the ordinary even for some of the best players in baseball.



Methodology: There is more than one way to account for the number of times batters recorded 12 strikeouts in 19 at-bats. We opted to count each unique instance of 12 strikeouts in up to 19 at-bats as unique streaks. That means that some strikeouts become a part of more than one streak for hitters, but the exact sequence of 12 strikeouts is not counted more than once even if it occurs in fewer than 19 at-bats.

This is probably best illustrated with an example. Take the following 19 at-bat stretch for a hypothetical hitter:


Where K represents a strikeout and O represents a non-strikeout. We counted each of these as separate streaks:





However, we did not count any of the "more than 12-strikeout" streaks that occur in that 19 at-bat sequence as separate streaks.


COMMENTS (4 Comments, most recent shown first)

Has anyone investigated whether there's any relationship between a player's debut and the length or quality of their career? It seems like this comes up anecdotally at the end of a successful career but I've never seen any research to confirm it.
11:24 PM Jan 11th
Weddell made the best point - or I'm about to. Many people think (or thought) Moncada was/is the best prospect in the game. After striking out 12 times in 19 atbats, he's not.

What? Why would we drop him from the top of the prospects lists for 19 atbats?

Because it's evidence that he is capable of abject failure. It's not unique evidence - Mister Dewan demonstrates this - but it's evidence. Two lines of reasoning:

1) Lots of other top prospects did not strikeout 12 times in 19 major league atbats. Lots of other top prospects were not traded away. Lots of other top prospects hit better last year, a few of them significantly better.

2) Byron Buxton. Lots of great athletes have been touted as top prospects due to their exceptional athleticism. Nobody "learns" how to hit later. The ability to hit is still the the central skill on the offensive side of the game.

I still like Domingo Santana as a prospect, though he needs to show that his body can handle the load. Moncada is a couple of years younger than Santana, and youth always comes with an extra jolt of hope. I see no reason why Moncada can't be an effective major league player in time. He's probably not ready yet, evidence the 12 k's.

That said, though, he's not the top prospect in the game, or a grade A prospect. He has limiting factors, among them some evidence that he is capable of failure. He hit .277 in AA last year. His power may or may not be limited. He is a young second baseman who has already been moved around to other positions.

None of those things mean he sucks, or that he won't be a good, or even a great player. An A-3 off suit can turn into a royal flush, and Moncada is far better than an A-3 off. At the moment, though, he ain't pocket aces.
11:10 AM Dec 16th
The problem with this article’s comparison is that Moncada recorded 12 strikeouts in 19 at bats in his first (and so far only) 19 at bat streak in the majors, which is not the same as the other players listed in the article.

Taking a different tack, I used the play index feature to find players with 15-25 at bats in the first season in the majors and strikeouts greater than 50% x AB. Before 2016 (when both Moncada and Patrick Kivlehan) “accomplished” this, there were 16 players. 12 of them had major league careers of less than 200 at bats. The other four are Domingo Santana, Mark Trumbo, Wily Mo Pena and Dean Palmer.

Interesting (to me at least), but that of course also tells us little about Yoan Moncada’s future: Unlike that group of 16 comparison players, Moncada is regarded as perhaps the top prospect in the game and has so much invested in him that he is nearly guaranteed to get multiple additional attempts to crack the majors. Unlike the four named players above, Moncada is likely to have more defensive value and probably is simply more athletic. Also, strikeouts are more prevalent today and I’ve not normalized the strikeouts data to adjust for this. I'd guess that Moncada's minor league track record and age of debut were more impressive than most of the 16 player comparison group too.
8:30 AM Dec 16th
I was thinking about writing about Moncada's streak. I watched some of it, and while he did strike out a lot, it seemed that he wasn't chasing bad pitches, and was pretty selective when the count got higher. That's what it 'seemed' like, and I was curious if the pitch-by-pitch numbers back that up. ​
2:45 PM Dec 15th
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