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Vladimir Guerrero Is No Mariano Duncan

It’s May 3rd and Vladimir Guerrero still has not drawn a walk. He’s come to the plate 113 times and refused to take a free pass in any of them, a pretty remarkable accomplishment. Well, it seems like a remarkable accomplishment anyway, but then you run a query and see what Mariano Duncan accomplished and then you just think Guerrero is slacking.

On June 19th, 1994, the Phillies beat the Expos 13-0. In the process, Mariano Duncan started at third base and contributed a single, a double, and a pair of walks. They would be the last two walks of his Phillies career, which wouldn’t be so notable except that he wasn’t claimed off waivers by Cincinnati until August 8th, 1995. He then spent another three weeks with his new franchise before drawing his first walk as a member of the Reds, and the first walk he’d taken in 14 months.

Because of the work stoppage in 1994, Duncan’s streak “only” covers 86 games, but in those games, Duncan came to the plate 314 times, and he hit .268/.269/.382. He was hit by two pitches during the streak, if you’re curious as to why his BA and OBP aren’t equal. That is some incredible hacking, even for a guy with a career walk rate of just 4.0%.

Guerrero is only 36% of the way to matching Duncan’s mark, by the way. At his current rate of 4.2 at-bats per game, he’d need to play another 49 games to approach Duncan’s walkless streak. That would make his target date June 26th in a home game against the Reds, though I’d imagine the Orioles would prefer if he did not go into that game with a chance to tie Duncan’s mark for impatience.

How incredible was Duncan’s streak? Using binomial distribution, and assuming that Duncan had a 1 in 25 chance of walking each time he came to the plate, the odds of him drawing zero walks in a sample of 314 plate appearances were .000003. These seem like impossibly long odds, but remember, we’re dealing with millions of different combinations of plate appearances from thousands of batters over the last 30 years — just by sheer quantity of opportunity, extraordinarily improbable things are going to happen. While using selective endpoints can be fun, this is nothing like a random trial — we were using the actual results to determine the parameters, after all.

Still, it’s incredible that Duncan could not only go more than a year without a walk, but that he could convince two teams to keep penciling him into the lineup while he was doing it. However, given that the Orioles are paying Guerrero for his bat and nothing else, I’m pretty sure they were hoping to not have him compared to Mariano Duncan at any point this season.

Vlad, take a walk. It will be good for you.