Most teams have played ten games by now, and while we still are unable to draw anything meaningful out of players’ performances, we can still have a little fun with them. I’ve always been a fan of high-contact guys, especially players with better than average walk and strikeout rates. Guys who walk more than they whiff over a full season are my personal favorites.
With that in mind, let’s look at some players who haven’t done either yet this season, draw a walk or strikeout. We’ll begin with the five players with the most plate appearances who have yet to see a ball four in 2012…
Jesus Montero and Gaby Sanchez are tied for sixth with 37 walk-less plate appearances each. It’s all worth noting that A.J. Pierzynski has just one walk in his 29 plate appearances this year, but it was intentional.
The presence of Johnson and Reddick shouldn’t be a surprise. Both guys are notorious hackers, both throughout their short big league careers and all throughout the minors. It’s pretty interesting that two of the three non-walkers are Texas Rangers, but the lack of walks hasn’t exactly hurt Hamilton’s or Young’s production in the early going. Texas has the second lowest walk rate (4.9 BB%) in the American League at the moment, just ahead of the Mariners (4.6 BB%).
Seeing Boesch on the list is somewhat interesting even though he’s never been much of a walker in the past — 7.3 BB% in 1,025 MLB PA and 6.0 BB% in 1,957 MiLB PA. Boesch has batted second ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in all but one of Detroit’s ten games this season, and although we know the impact of lineup protection is overstated, I do think it exists in the case of elite players. Cabrera and Fielder certainly qualify. Pitchers could be attacking Boesch just a little more than usual given the guys behind him, and when you throw strikes to a guy who likes to swing, it leads to a lot of balls in play.
Now let’s flip the coin and look at the players with the most plate appearances without a strikeout…
Ben Revere also has eleven strikeout-less plate appearances this season, but I left him out of the table since he was recently shipped to Triple-A. There’s a pretty substantial drop-off after Schierholtz, with a whole bunch of guys in that 5-10 PA range. There are a few pitchers in there as well, namely Barry Zito and Kyle Lohse with six each.
Scutaro shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s always been a contact freak. His career strikeout rate is 11.3 K%, but last year with the Red Sox it was just 8.1% in 445 PA. The guy excels at putting the ball in play, even when staring at a two-strike count. The other three guys — leaving out Komatsu and his measly 11 PA — are a bit more surprising.
LoMo has always worked the count extremely well, but he owns 17.8 K% in 842 MLB PA to go with his 15.2 K% in the minors. Denorfia (15.9 K% in MLB and 15.3 K% in MiLB) and Schierholtz (16.1 K% in MLBand 16.7 K% in MiLB) are in the same boat, though they don’t share Morrison’s reputation for plate discipline, especially Schierholtz. That said, all three guys strike out at a rate lower than the ~18% league average, so they have shown above average contact skills in their relatively short big league careers.
It’s been 25 years since a player last started a season with 100 strikeout-free plate appearances. Mickey Hatcher did it for the 1988 Dodgers, going 116 plate appearances before finally seeing his first strike three. It was part of a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play. Because he was a part-time player that year, Hatcher’s first strikeout didn’t come until August 16th, the team’s 119th game of the season. Carlos Baerga came close to that 100 PA threshold, not striking out until his 96th plate appearances with the 1995 Indians. Given how the game has shifted towards pitching — particularly power pitching — in recent years, I don’t think we’re going to see another guy do what Hatcher did in ’88 for quite some time.