Chicago Cubs rookie Javier Baez has 72 strikeouts this season (through Monday), the most for a player in his first 40 games — and it’s not even close. Prior to this season, no player had whiffed more than 55 times in his first 40 games, although Jon Singleton briefly claimed the “record” with 59 before Baez was promoted in August.
Baez has had more plate appearances than anyone else in the top 10, so he’s less of an outlier on a rate basis; he and Jacksons Brett and Bo each struck out in about 48% of their trips to the plate. Still, the strikeouts raise questions about Baez, a consensus top-10 prospect entering the season. (Z.W. Martin broke down Baez’s out-of-control swing today on Deadspin.)
It’s no coincidence that seven of the top 10 whiffers have come in the last five seasons (including three in 2014) — MLB’s strikeout rate has risen dramatically over time, a trend that has continued this season. Apparently, Bo Jackson was ahead of his time.