Mike Piazza can't believe strikeout rates in today's MLB: 'I would get physically sick if I struck out'

By , Audacy Sports

Mike Piazza's career is just a masterpiece of hitting, regardless of the fact that he also played at the position at which offense is often hard to come by. A .308 batter over the span of 16 years is a rarity — only 15 batters in the past 50 years have done better (min. 5,000 plate appearances):

Rk Player BA PA SO OPS
1Tony Gwynn.33810232434.847
2Rod Carew.3338993794.834
3Wade Boggs.32810740745.858
4Vladimir Guerrero.3189059985.931
5Kirby Puckett.3187831965.837
6Todd Helton.31694531175.953
7Nomar Garciaparra.3136116554.882
8Larry Walker.31380301231.965
9Manny Ramirez.31297741813.996
10Edgar Martinez.31286741202.933
11Ichiro Suzuki.311107341080.757
12Miguel Cabrera.310109931930.920
13Derek Jeter.310126021840.817
14Magglio Ordonez.3097745852.871
15Jose Altuve.3086346753.821
16Mike Piazza.30877451113.922
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 11/3/2021.

And though it's rarer and rarer to see batting average number like this in today's MLB — only nine players reached a .308 figure in this 2021 season alone — it's not the thing that Piazza is most stunned by when watching from the comfort of his home and observing statistics.

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Joining the latest episode of "The Bret Boone Podcast," Piazza discussed the aspect of today's game that is weirdest for him to watch, and it wasn't the .300 batting average threshold that Boone suggested.

"I don't want to sound like that old guy, that 'get off my lawn, back when we played' guy," Piazza said. "...I think since 2000, it's not the .300, because if you still hit .280, you're still hitting the ball pretty well, you're still spraying the ball and getting your hits and getting those things. But to strike out 180 times or 170 times is so bizarre to me."

"...And watching Tony Gwynn and the good hitters of our era, I just couldn't stand — It drove me crazy when I struck out. I would get physically sick if I struck out. I just didn't enjoy it.

"...It's not so much the guys not hitting .300, but, I mean, strike out 150 times? That, to me, is a little bizarre."

It's not a well-kept secret that strikeout totals are up from past years. In 2021, there were 42,145 strikeouts, or 8.68 strikeouts per game for one team, both of which are the second-highest we've ever seen. Only in 2019 were those two figures higher. Comparing them to 1992, when Piazza entered the league, reveals a stark difference: then, there were 23,538 strikeouts and only 5.59 strikeouts per game for one team. Those are not small differences.

Only two players had over 150 strikeouts in 1992 — Dean Palmer (154) and Cecil Fielder (151). In 2021, that list was just a tad larger:

Rk Player SO Year
1Joey Gallo2132021
2Matt Chapman2022021
3Adolis García1942021
4Shohei Ohtani1892021
5Javier Baez1842021
6Miguel Sano1832021
7Adam Duvall1742021
8Eugenio Suarez1712021
9Randy Arozarena1702021
10Salvador Perez1702021
11Mitch Haniger1692021
12Tyler O'Neill1682021
13Austin Riley1682021
14Brandon Lowe1672021
15Dansby Swanson1672021
16Chris Taylor1672021
17Nathaniel Lowe1622021
18Ryan Mountcastle1612021
19Kyle Seager1612021
20Aaron Judge1582021
21Yoan Moncada1572021
22Giancarlo Stanton1572021
23Willy Adames1562021
24Bobby Dalbec1562021
25Ian Happ1562021
26Robbie Grossman1552021
27Hunter Dozier1542021
28Fernando Tatis Jr.1532021
29Patrick Wisdom1532021
30Dylan Carlson1522021
31Jared Walsh1522021
32J.D. Martinez1502021
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 11/3/2021.

These 32 guys above — 16 times more than the list in 1992 — should just be thankful that they don't experience the same undesirable (and likely hyperbolic) "physically sick" sensation that Piazza described whenever he was a strikeout victim.

Again, this isn't a secret in baseball, and it's something that Theo Epstein called the "single biggest difference between" this generation and others. We'll see how they can potentially implement a fix — otherwise, Piazza should keep that barf bag ready whenever he plans on tuning in.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)