MODESTO - With a surge of solid contact hitting this homestand, the Modesto Nuts have fallen off the pace that would make them the first full-season team in professional baseball history to average striking out 10 or more times over an entire season.
It took a few phone calls and some digging, but a friend from New Jersey put me in touch with Lloyd Johnson of St. Louis, editor of The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, who came through with the definitive numbers.
(As an aside, I’m of an age where I can’t spell “encyclopedia” without hearing the voice of Jiminy Cricket.)
The all-time whiff record for a full-season minor league team was set in 2004, when the Dayton Dragons of the Low-A Midwest League struck out 1,382 times in 140 games for an average of 9.87 per game.
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The California League record, as we’ve written about before, was set by High Desert two seasons ago at 1,344, or 9.6 per game.
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Nuts had struck out 1,247 times in 125 games for an average of 9.98. While still on a record pace, Modesto has fallen below the pace that would see them achieve the dubious double-digit mark. The Nuts need to average fewer than 6.5 strikeouts over the final 15 games to avoid surpassing the Mavs’ mark.
Three short-season teams have averaged 10+ whiffs per game, with the record of 10.87 strikeouts (761 in 70 games) held by the 1965 Johnson City Cardinals of the Appalachian (rookie) League.
The interesting aspect of all these k-happy teams is the records they posted in those seasons. Johnson City went 27-43 in 1965, High Desert was 59-81 in 2011 and Dayton was a miserable 48-92 in 2004.
But Modesto, remarkably, is over .500 and leads the second-half North Division race.