Mariners Double-A center fielder Greg Halman combines prodigious raw power with an undisciplined batting approach that has resulted in both frequent home runs and strikeouts as he has climbed the ladder. Last season, he slugged 29 homers and whiffed 142 times in 128 games. The year before, it was 20 and 162 in just 114 games.
Through 58 games with West Tenn this season, Halman has balanced 14 home runs with 108 strikeouts, giving him a homer-to-whiff ratio that would make Rob Deer proud. The 21-year-old native of the Netherlands—Halman, not Deer—leads the minors with those 108 whiffs, despite recently missing nearly two weeks with a heel injury that sent him to the disabled list.
At the pace he's going, Halman will strike out 230 times over the course of 500 at-bats. This revelation led us to wonder: What, exactly, is the record for strikeouts by a Southern League batter? And how close would 230 whiffs be to the minor league record?
With the help of the most recent Minor League Encyclopedia (the third edition runs through the ’06 season) and a little research to cover the interim, we begin to formulate an answer. The table below includes the single-season record for batter strikeouts in each of the 16 minor leagues still extant. The categories ought to be self-explanatory, but note that the games played column pertains to games played by the batter in question, and not the number of scheduled league games.
|MINOR LEAGUE RECORDS FOR BATTER STRIKEOUTS|
|Pacific Coast||AAA||183||Charlton Jimerson||Round Rock||2006||123||38.9%|
|California||HiA||220||Wes Kent||San Jose||1984||137||43.7%|
|Florida State||HiA||200||Jerry Lyscio||Cocoa||1965||128||47.5%|
|South Atlantic||LoA||208||Darryl Landrum||Florence||1985||130||45.9%|
|208||Al Shirley||Capital City||1994||127||47.6%|
|New York-Penn||SS||117||Dave Cochrane||Little Falls||1982||70||43.5%|
|Northwest||SS||106||Lee Tinsley||S. Oregon||1988||72||41.4%|
|Gulf Coast||R||83||Tim McMillan||Pirates||1984||60||37.6%|
So if he gets those 500 at-bats, Halman is on pace to shatter the 22-year-old record held by Birmingham's Rondal Rollin. And now that Baseball Reference has integrated its site with data from SABR's minor leauge database, we have a clearer picture of Rollin's career than we did previously.
What we can't discern from the above is the overall single-season strikeout record. In all likelihood, some player, somewhere, has accumulated more than the 220 whiffs that Wes Kent did in the ’84 Cal League—it's just that Kent stuck around in one league long enough for his total to register here.
A few other notes about the data . . .
• Strikeout records in the Arizona, Florida State, Northwest and Pacific Coast leagues have been matched or exceeded six times just in the past three seasons. Charlton Jimerson, the PCL's record holder, has a résumé to match any batter here. Four times he accumulated more than 150 whiffs in a minor league season, with totals of 168 in ’02, 163 in ’04, 152 in ’05 and his record-setting 183 in ’06. He appeared in just 97 games in ’03.
• The new records established in ’08 (Florida State, Pioneer) met with little fanfare, but in Jeramy Laster's case, he probably should be viewed as the FSL standard bearer. Though he technically tied Jerry Lyscio's 43-year-old record, Laster did so strictly while serving as a position player. According to Baseball Reference, Lylscio spent the majority of his six-year minor league career as a righthanded pitcher, never batting more than 91 times in any other season.
The Tigers selected Laster from Nashville's Hunters Lane High in the 12th round of the ’03 draft.
In the case of converted righthander Brock Kjeldgaard, a Brewers' 34th-round draft-and-follow from ’05, his is a record of opportunity. The previous Pioneer League leader, Willie Darkis, played in just 69 games, fanning 109 times. Kjeldgaard received an extra six games in which to pad his total.
• Diamondbacks outfielder Wagner Mateo blew past the Arizona League's record for single-season whiffs in 2011, breaking a three-way tie of 69 strikeouts previously held by Welington Dotel (’06 Mariners), Seth Loman (’07 Angels) and Maximo Mendez (’07 Mariners).
The records above are accurate to the best of our knowledge. Leave a comment below if you have documented proof of a misrepresentation.
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