The phrase that every young hitter hears from Little League all the way to the majors.
Be patient, a walk is as good as a hit.
There are merits to that phrase, but one must contextualize it, before applying it, here is what I mean, a Home Run is better than a Walk correct, and a HR is a hit, therefore a BB is not as good as a hit, the more accurate saying would be a Walk is as good as a single with no RISP, producing the same outcome, except for a possible 1rst to 3rd, but who’s gonna say that, it doesn’t sound good, it’s weird, when a manager, hitting coach, whoever, says that to a hitter, their goal is getting the player to be more patient, take the free base when there’s nothing to hit, take what the pitcher gives you and go with it.
As you all probably know by now, I’m a big believer in BB, high OBP players, today I want to explain my thought behimd this belief, I always like to start by stating that baseball has no clock, it’s a game of outs, whoever scores the most runs by the 27th out, wins the game, and how do teams score runs, by getting on base, it’s the only way, there are tons of ways to get on base, but walking is a good, easy one that has little to no interference with your other ways of getting on base, when considering it highly benefits power hitters, and for the high AVG hitters as I said, a walk is as good as a single with no RISP, which is the situation for these guys most of the time.
How many times does Dee Gordon come up with 2nd and 3rd occupied, rarely, so there’s really no excuse for bad plate discipline unless you`re peak, Ichiro Suzuki.
My second point and here is where i dig deep into the stats, i decided to look back at the last 50 years, which to me is a good number, the game before then in the dead ball era and in the Williams/DiMaggio years was so different that i decided to leave them out, plus 50 years is a good sample sizer right, anyway, take a look at this.
(Min. 3500 PA)
There are 305 hitters since 1967 with a 10.0 BB%, such mark is the lowest standard for above average walk percentage, among those 305, guess how many have a career wRC+ below 100, only 38, that’s a little under 12.5 percent, the vast majority of them, had low career averages and power who barely scraped the .100 ISO, think Robbie Grossman with a much longer career and slightly less power, to name a few, Wayne Garrett, Mark McLemore, Walt Weiss, Jose Offerman, Luis Alicea and etc.
Looking at it from a different angle, during the same time span, 79 hitters had a career wRC+ of 130 or higher, a really great mark, left for the best of the best, guess how many of them had BB% below 10.0, just 7, them being:
Mike Piazza 9.8, 140
Ryan Braun 8.2, 139
Vladimir Guerrero 8.1, 136
Buster Posey 9.5, 135
George Brett 9.4, 132
Rod Carew 9.6, 132
Tony Gwynn 7.7, 132
And among those Braun’s K% at 18.4, Piazza at 14.4 and Posey at 12.0 are the only 3 above 10, while factoring in the league average K% when Piazza played and right now for the other two those numbers are very low. The other 4, all unquestionable Hall of Famers also among the best pure hitters in the history of the game, with ridiculous BB/K %.
What does all of this screams at you, the certainty that great hitters walk, simple as that, it’s so important, and the better hitter you are, the easier it is, the walks are there you just have to take it, can you imagine how great Manny Machado would be if he had some plate discipline, my closing point, consider this, Votto and Cabrera have very similar career numbers, right,
AVG, Votto .313 Miggy .317
SLG, Votto .541. Miggy .553
K%, Votto 17.7 Miggy 17.1
ISO, Votto .227. Miggy .236
wRC+ Votto 158 Miggy 149
Not the best example but i’m a big Votto fan and wanted to do something realistic, none of the statistics above are cumulative stats, but rather career averages, so how can Cabrera possess the higher average, better power numbers and still fall 9 percentage points behind Joey in wRC+, basically because Votto gets on base quite more,
.426 to .395.
Walks are almost solely responsible for Votto being ahead of Cabrera as the better career hitter. Joey also better in wOBA .412 to .400.
My main goal in this article was to empathize the importance of BB, I’m positive, that such goal was accomplished.