Elvis Andrus, Jason Heyward, and Walks

To piggyback off Dave Cameron’s earlier post.

Jason Heyward and Elvis Andrus are two of the game’s youngest everyday players, known for their upside more than anything. Perhaps the most underrated aspect about either’s game is their affinity for the walk. Heyward (20-years-old) is walking the sixth most amongst all major leaguers and Andrus ranks just outside of the top 30 walk rates. The updated ZiPS projections have both finishing with 63 walks.

Surprisingly – or perhaps not – that total wouldn’t rank within the top 35 for most walks in a season by a player younger than 22-years-old.

Here’s a quick rundown of the top five:

T5. 103 BB by Jimmie Foxx – 1929 Philadelphia, 21-years-old, 638 plate appearances (16.1%)
T5. 103 BB by Mel Ott – 1930 New York, 21-years-old, 646 plate appearances (15.9 %)
3. 107 BB by Ted Williams – 1939 Boston, 20-years-old, 677 plate appearances (15.8%)
2. 113 BB by Mel Ott – 1929 New York, 20-years-old, 674 plate appearances (16.8%)
1. 117 BB by Rickey Henderson – 1980 Oakland, 21-years-old, 722 plate appearances (16.2%)

Two things noticeable: 1) Each of those players are in the Hall of Fame and 2) only one of those seasons came within the last 30 years, while three of them were within a span of two seasons. If the year range is shortened from the turn of the 20th century until 1950, then only one season with 100+ walks remains – that being Henderson’s, of course – with the only other players topping 90 walks being Eddie Matthews and Joe Morgan – two hall of famers as well.

If the scope is narrowed to view history from 1990 onwards, this is what the top 10 looks like:

1. Ken Griffey Jr. 71
2. Albert Pujols 69
3. Miguel Cabrera 68
4. Delino DeShields 66
5. Ken Griffey Jr. 63
6. Ryan Zimmerman 61
7. Adrian Beltre 61
8. Alex Rodriguez 59
9. Melky Cabrera 56
10. Adrian Beltre 56

Notice the quantity of walks dropping, but not only that, only 28 players aged 21 or younger had enough plate appearances to qualify. A smaller time frame between 1920 and 1930 registers 22 players. This should not be a shock, given the development and expansion of farm systems and free agency. Teams simply aren’t fielding that many 20- or 21-year-olds because they don’t have to and because disincentives exist for rushing a potentially elite player to the majors. At least if the plan is to keep that player through the years presumed to be his statistical prime.

Back to Heyward and Andrus though. If either (or both) can simply add, say, 10 walks to their projections, then whichever accomplishes that will be the new leader in the post-1990 clubhouse. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee a bust in Cooperstown, but it will ensure them a place in modern history.

As an aside, you can read more about Heyward (from me) at Wired’s Playbook blog. It’s mostly talk about his usage of Twitter, but there’s some quotes from smart people too.

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19 Responses to “Elvis Andrus, Jason Heyward, and Walks”

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  1. mowill says:

    What in the world happened to that Adrian Beltre, or were the walks because he was hitting eigth in the NL.

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    • Alireza says:

      Remember that, at that time, they still thought Beltre was 2 years older than he actually was. So he had 2 years of extra professional experience on a similarly aged player.

      Also, approximately half his games were hitting 7th in 1999, with another 1/3rd or so being 8th and the rest 6th. In 2000, it was mostly 6th, with a good chunk of starts in the 7th slot, and almost none in the 8th.

      Looking back, it is really too bad Beltre’s eye took a nosedive. He had a promising walk rate in both the minors and majors and a promising contact rate in the minors that really only showed itself in his ridiculous 2004 season. As good as his glove is, his bat really should be more special than it is.

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  2. Tom Doherty says:

    Elvis Andrus will be the best shortstop in the league soon.

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    • James says:

      I’ll still give the nod to Hanley and hope Jose Iglesias is close to the top

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      • Hank says:

        Jose Iglesias… really? Other than the hype and the reputation for a good glove, does anyone really know?

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      • Adam D says:

        I’m pretty sure Hanley is in the other league…

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      • Tom Doherty says:

        Jose Iglesias has yet to do anything in the MLB. I fully expect Hanley to leave the Mariners and I think he is better suited as a second baseman than shortstop and is only there because Dan Uggla is even worse defensively.

        If Hanley goes to the AL, he could/should be a DH. If he goes to a different NL team, he could/should be a second baseman.

        Defense is more important at the shortstop position than almost every other. Elvis Andrus is an excellent defensive shortstop. Hanley is not good at all.

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      • Tom Doherty says:

        Plus, I kinda said this without thinking, haha. I got a bit ahead of myself.

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      • James says:

        I did put hope if you didn’t realize haha. And I assumed by league you meant the entire majors, not just AL

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  3. Worry says:

    and the Braves could have had both of these guys…
    The Teixeira trade will go down in history as one of the best trades the Rangers have ever made.

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  4. Mike says:

    Aren’t the walks far less important in predicting future success than simply being an everyday player at an age younger than 22?

    Couldn’t you just look at who has the most doubles at age 21 or younger? Or hits? Or even plate appearances?

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  5. Bobby says:

    Elvis is looking good right now with the bat, but he does have a .380 BABIP and I’m not so sure he can maintain the walk rate (which doubled from last year). He also lacks any kind of pop. The kid is amazing defensively, but not on the verge of being the best SS with Hanley and Tulo out there.

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  6. Josh says:

    Yeah I think Elvis is another Jose Reyes, with less pop. Clearly talented enough to be in the top 3 SS in the league but, No way does he overtake Hanley and Tulo. At least not until they switch positions in a few years ha ha.

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  7. Pachoo says:

    Heyward is on pace for 96walks this yeAr so he looks like he will blow those projections out of the water and have easily the most walks in the 90s and subsequent era for a player under 22. He also never strikes out any ore either (I think 5 strikeouts in his last 21 games)! He is simply amazing.

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  8. Bronnt says:

    You wanna talk about the jinx factor-there’s two articles on Fangraphs today praising the virtues of Heyward (and his propensity for walking and not striking out). Derek Lowe and Behold, 2-4 today with no walks and two strikeouts (though he still had a 0.73 WPA).

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  9. psiogen says:

    Ike Davis is 23 so I guess he’s too old for your analysis, but he’s also debuted with a promisingly high walk rate (15.2%, tied with Heyward for the moment).

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  10. The Hit Dog says:

    This is just a semantic quibble, but I wouldn’t say Jason Heyward is best known for his “upside” anymore. I mean, the guy has a .429 wOBA… he’s tearing the cover off the ball. Unless you’re suggesting that he could be even better, or that he’s getting lucky, this *is* his upside.

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    • Kdog says:

      Heyward is on pace for a historical season for a 20 year old. Since the turn of the century only 7 players in their 20 year old season have obp over .380. all 7 are HOF except for Arod. Only 8 players slugged over .530 with the one non-HOF Bob horner. These include Mel Ott, a- rod, ted williams, mickey mantle, jimmy fox and al kaline on both lists. Ty cobb on the OBP list only and Frank Robinson and Horner on the slugging list.

      And it seems Heyward has been getting better by cutting down strike outs and seeing the most pitches per plate appearance in baseball.

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  11. John says:


    As a Mets fan, it pained me the other day to argue that Heyward has an excellent chance for the HOF simply based on the criterion that he is regular at 20.My guess was that 400 or 450 PA at this age regardless of performance gives him a 1/3 shot and even league average work raises it to 50%. From your comment it seems that you may have a list of all 20-year olds. If so, would you be willing to post it? Thanks.

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