The Walk-Don’t Walk Sign Is Flashing in Oakland

Even before Billy Beane and Scott Hatteberg and Moneyball, the Oakland A’s were a team that took a lot of walks. Over the 50 years of the Expansion Era (1961-2011), the A’s ended the season with a walk rate below the league average only eight times. Of those eight seasons, in only one did the A’s have a walk rate more than one percentage point lower than the league average. In 1978, the league average walk rate was 8.5 percent and the A’s walk rate was 7.3 percent.

On the flip side, Oakland has three of  the top fifteen walk-rate seasons in the last fifty years. The 1999 A’s share the record with the 2000 Mariners for highest team walk rate in the Expansion Era at 12 percent.  The 2000 A’s came in at 11.7 percent and the 1992 A’s at 11.3 percent. The league average in those seasons was 8.5 percent (1992), 9.5 percent (1999) and 9.6 percent (2000).

After Monday’s action, the A’s team walk rate is 7.9 percent, below the league average of 8.3 percent. That fact isn’t particularly interesting. But the way the A’s get to their 7.9 percent team walk rate is.

The A’s have three players in the top thirty in walk rate for batters with more than 50 plate appearances so far this season. Seth Smith leads the team with a 17.6 percent walk rate (15 in 67 plate appearances), followed by Jonny Gomes at 14.5 percent (9 in 51 plate appearances) and Daric Barton at 13.4 percent (9 in 57 plate appearances). The Indians also have three players in the top 30 (Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner and Shelley Duncan). No team has more than three players in the top 30. Ten teams have no players in the top 30.

The player with the lowest current walk rate in the majors for hitters with more than 50 plate appearances also plays for the A’s. Catcher Kurt Suzuki has one walk in 98 plate appearances, giving him a walk rate of 1 percent. Teammates Josh Reddick and Cliff Pennington also make the top 50 in lowest current walk rate. Reddick is at 4.1 percent (five walks in 121 plate appearances) and Pennington is at 4.4 (5 walks in 114 plate appearances).

If Smith, Gomes and Barton continue on their path and Suzuki, Reddick and Pennington continue on theirs, the A’s could match some interesting records for teams in the Expansion Era.

Since 1961 (and not counting the strike years of 1981 and 1994), only one team has had three players draw 20 walks or less in a season, among players qualifying for the batting title. On the 2007 Seattle Mariners, Jose Lopez drew only twenty walks, while Yuniesky Betancourt and Kenji Johjima drew fifteen each.

Only eight other teams over the last fifty years had two players end the season with twenty or fewer walks among players qualifying for the batting title (again, not counting the strike years).

The 1977 Cardinals were one of those teams. Ken Reitz drew nineteen walks that season. Garry Templeton drew only fifteen. But that Cardinals team also boasted two players who ended the season with more than 75 walks. Keith Hernandez and Ted Simmons each drew 79 walks. The 1977 Cardinals are the only team in the Expansion Era to have two players with twenty or fewer walks and two players with 75 or more walks in the same season.

Will the A’s match the 2007 Mariners for most qualifying players with twenty or fewer walks in a season? Will they match the 1977 Cardinals with two qualifying players with twenty walks or fewer and two players with 75 walks or more in the same season? Will they match both Expansion Era records?

We’ll have to watch and be patient. As patient as Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Daric Barton.



Print This Post



Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Nick
Guest
Nick
4 years 2 months ago

I just fell a sleepppppppppp…………..

wendy sucks
Guest
wendy sucks
4 years 2 months ago

Holy cow what an uninteresting article. terrible hack stuff

Bobzilla
Guest
Bobzilla
4 years 2 months ago

Thanks for this. Always enjoy seeing random tidbits.

Steve the Pirate
Guest
Steve the Pirate
4 years 2 months ago

I like that Wendy tried to add some context to the numbers, but numbers she chose add little value here and were difficult to read. Why are 20 and 75 walks important? Were the 2007 Mariners and/or 1977 Cardinals anything special? The A’s have guys at the extremes for walk rates. While I appreciate the work, I’m still left thinking, “So what?”

Slartibartfast
Guest
Slartibartfast
4 years 2 months ago

I certainly liked the intro about the A’s historically being a high walk team. Didn’t know that. Not every article has to be flashy or revolutionary.

I didn’t get the title though. What am I missing?

Slartibartfast
Guest
Slartibartfast
4 years 2 months ago

Ohh obviously. Got it. Was thinking about it way too hard

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 2 months ago

The 2007 Mariners had some offensive force

I am a Red Sux Fan
Guest
I am a Red Sux Fan
4 years 2 months ago

The 2010-2011 Mariners were BEGGING for offensive production like that 2007 team had.

Nick O
Guest
Nick O
4 years 2 months ago

I think this article would be interesting if these trends were due to something more than statistical noise. But they’re not. Gomes hasn’t had a BB% above 10 since 2006, which is pretty bad for someone who strikes out as much and hits for as much power as he does. Smith typically has a slightly above average walk rate, which is what ZIPS projects for the rest of the year. Barton will walk a ton til he gets hurt or loses his job.

On the other side, Zook and Reddick are both hackers, but Pennington’s not, and Reddick’s not nearly so bad that he’ll end up with 20 walks. Last year he had 19 in a third of a season, and this year ZIPS projects him for 36.

sprot
Guest
sprot
4 years 2 months ago

lol, GREAT STUFF!

sc2gg
Guest
sc2gg
4 years 2 months ago

Perhaps the A’s have deduced that alternating walk/no walk hitters is confusing to pitchers like alternating left and right handed batters. Get them thinking, “Oh man should I throw this one in the dirt, or not? Will he swing at it if it’s coming at his forehead?” So. Much. Confusion.

Think of the crazy matrix that develops if you combine left handed no walkers with righthanded walkers and vice versa. If you alternate sluggers and slap hitters too, it’s just going to be CALAMITY.

jon
Guest
jon
4 years 2 months ago

I’ve always thought this might be odd for the pitchers if the manager when back and forth in the lineup on the “hack” and “patient” scale. It would certainly make the pitcher think. My dream in the mid-1990s was for the M’s to acquire Vlad Guerrero and place him before Edgar Martinez in the lineup, forcing the pitcher to go from “can’t throw anything close” to “can only throw a strike” in rapid succession.

Of course, those 2 guys worried the pitcher anyway…but it was my little mid-1990s dream. That and Jennifer Aniston.

wpDiscuz