Dave Cameron recently posted a piece on Brock & Salk's blog concerning Greg Halman's strikeout rate. I know Dave is a self-admitted non-believer in Greg Halman and I know it was written for Brock and Salk's blog and so has a limit on how in depth it can be and still keep a reader's attention. Still, I felt there were an important two pieces missing from the comparison of Halman's strikeout rates to those of other noted whiffing sluggers.
First off, I care very little about career rates, especially in the Minors. I prefer to focus only on Double-A and above but will occasionally pay heed to High-A numbers when I think they say something interesting. Of course, looking only at Halman's numbers in West Tenn and Tacoma would seem to make the matter worse as his strikeout rate at those two levels has been higher than his overall career rate.
Which brings me to my first point. Parks matter and Halman has by and large played in parks that --according to my park factor figures-- increase strikeouts to right-handed hitters. West Tenn has a RHB K factor of 103 and Tacoma's in 108. Park adjusting Halman's strikeouts reduces them slightly. He still has horrible rates that track like this:
High-A 282 PAs, 28% Ks
Double-A 762 PAs, 32% Ks
Triple-A 465 PAs, 34% Ks
Counter to Halman's experiences, noted slugger Ryan Howard played in a more neutral and sometimes favorable (to reducing strikeouts) environments. When park adjusting his line, Howard's progression looks like:
High-A 533 PAs, 28% Ks
Double-A 433 PAs, 30% Ks
Triple-A 384 PAs, 27% Ks
The big divergence between the two being their performance in Triple-A. That leads into my second point. Howard was 23 in High-A, 24 in Double-A and mostly 25 in Triple-A. Halman on the other hand was 20 while batting in High-A, 21 while at West Tenn and 22 for most of this season at Tacoma. He just two weeks ago turned 23.
This is not a disproving of Dave's skepticism by any means. I agree that Halman has a big problem with strikeouts. I agree that very few players in the historical record have managed such high strikeouts in the minor leagues and gone on to have big league success. However, I think the gap is a little closer than might be perceived and I think we have to keep in mind Halman's young age as a reason to hope that he can improve upon his current rates in the future.