While facing the Cardinals at St. Louis in 2008, Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks became the first big-league player to strike out 200 times in a season.
A free agent who played for the 2014 Brewers, Reynolds signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cardinals on Dec. 11, 2014. The Cardinals hope Reynolds will provide right-handed power. They know, though, he also will strike out a lot.
Starting in 2006, total strikeouts in the majors have increased each season, according to The Sporting News. Reynolds is the model for that trend.
Poor plate discipline
On Sept. 25, 2008, Reynolds struck out in the second inning against Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro. It was Reynolds’ 200th strikeout that season. He struck out again in the seventh. Boxscore
After the game, Reynolds told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “It’s obviously something I have to work on for next year. It’s not the greatest of records to have. It’s a matter of pitch recognition and being more patient and more selective. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten to 3-and-2 and swung at ball four.”
Reynolds finished the 2008 season with 204 strikeouts, breaking the big-league record of 195 set by Adam Dunn of the 2004 Reds. The record had been 189 strikeouts by Bobby Bonds of the 1970 Giants until Dunn topped the mark 34 years later.
“Records are made to be broken. Maybe somebody will come along and break my record,” Reynolds told Hummel.
Instead, Reynolds broke his own record the next season.
Whiffs pile up
In 2009, Reynolds struck out 223 times. That remains the big-league record.
“Deep down inside, I’m sure it bothers him more than he likes to portray,” said 2009 Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch.
Reynolds has reached 200 strikeouts in a season three times: 204 in 2008, 223 in 2009 and 211 in 2010. He was with the Diamondbacks all three seasons.
Since Reynolds broke the barrier, three others have struck out 200 times in a season: Dunn (222 with 2012 White Sox), Chris Carter (212 with 2013 Astros) and Drew Stubbs (205 with 2011 Reds).
Jim Edmonds holds the Cardinals club record for striking out the most times in a season. Edmonds fanned 167 times in 2000, breaking the franchise mark of 162 set by Ron Gant in 1997.
The reason Reynolds remains in the majors is he hits home runs. Reynolds has hit 20 home runs or more in each of his last seven seasons. He has 224 home runs in his eight-year career in the majors, ranking him ahead of contemporaries such as Nelson Cruz (197), Josh Hamilton (192) and Jayson Werth (186)
Reynolds hit 22 home runs in 378 at-bats for the 2014 Brewers. In 2009, when he established the strikeout record of 223, Reynolds produced 44 home runs and 102 RBI for the Diamondbacks.
“When that production is coming with the strikeouts,” Hinch said, “it (the record) is almost a moot point.”
In 1,118 career games, Reynolds has 871 hits and has struck out 1,398 times. He ranks 10th among active players in striking out. The leader among active players is the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez at 2,075.
“Guys that are good hitters and hit for a high average should probably be striking out 10 percent of the time,” Twins manager Paul Molitor told The Sporting News in 2014.
In a 21-year big-league playing career, Molitor produced 3,319 hits and never struck out 100 times in a season. In 2,683 games, he struck out 1,244 times, or 154 fewer times than Reynolds has fanned.
“I don’t know if it’s the mentality of the players,” said Molitor, “but they’re definitely not concerned about it.”
Previously: The 19-year-old who struck out 12 Cardinals