Walk it Out…Or Not

It’s amazing to consider, but some major league regulars are yet to take ball four and their free base. Okay, I lied, it’s not “some” as much as “a pair”. Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and Giants backstop Bengie Molina have appeared at the plate a collective 100 times entering Wednesday’s games, and combined had zero walks. Zero intentional walks, zero hit by pitches, etc.

Neither of them are all too fond of OBP boosting. Molina’s career BB% is 4.1% and Betancourt’s is 3%.

In fact, Betancourt’s career high in walks in a single season is 17, the same number that current walk champion Adam Dunn had entering Wednesday’s games. Yeah, he really is that impatient.

Given Betancourt’s distaste for the walk, it’s no surprise that he’s only seen four counts go to three balls, with only one of those being a non-full count. Heck, this isn’t even Betancourt’s longest dry spell in the past calendar year. Last season, from April 29th until May 28th Betancourt went 103 plate appearances in between walks.
Remember, this is a hitter with a career batting average of .283, slugging percentage of .401, and .301 batting average on balls in play. This is not Ichiro Suzuki or Vladimir Guerrero, this is a below average hitter refusing to take a free base. When combined with poor defense, it’s easy to see why most Mariner fans would enjoy seeing Ronny Cedeno starting at shortstop.

Players can be offensive contributors without walking like Dunn or Pat Burrell, but not walking at all makes it nearly impossible. Of the 33 players with 5% or less walks this season, 24 have negative wrAA. Here’s a look at how the two are correlating thus far:

bbandwraa

And there you see our pals Molina and Betancourt, both spared too much ridicule, thanks to decent slugging percentages thus far.




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21 Responses to “Walk it Out…Or Not”

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  1. Snapper says:

    Good post. Anyway to see who’s who on the scatter?

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    • I didn’t think about this while making it, but the far right one is Ian Kinsler, and the rest would just have to be matched through looking at the BB% and wRAA leaderboards.

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  2. george says:

    2 “problems” with this article

    first, last year molina had a -0.1 wRAA, even though he led all catches in RBI, batted .292, had the 10th highest OPS among catchers with 250 ABs, so to me, the wRAA stat needs some work still.

    second, walking all the time isnt always a good thing. putting the ball in play consistently can be better than walking, not always, not never, just saying….

    to give an example, teams probably wouldnt hit an run with a pat burrell up (not bc he can hit HRs, but bc he doesnt make consistent enough contact), but could with molina up bc he has a career 87% contact rate.

    sometimes there are things that happen in the game of baseball (or other sports for that matter) that cant be statistically quantified.

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    • You make me hate people.

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    • Sky says:

      Molina was an average hitter last year. For a catcher, that’s good. There’s no conflict between the information presented in your post.

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    • Teej says:

      1. If a guy swings at everything, as Molina does, of course you’re going to see a few more RBIs. Using RBIs to evaluate a hitter is going to lead you to bad conclusions.

      2. OPS overrates SLG by pretending that it’s just as important as OBP. It isn’t, so that’s why wRAA rankings are going to look different from OPS rankings. If you order the catchers by OBP, Molina is 19th. Not making an out is the single most important thing a hitter can do, and Molina makes more outs than the average catcher. That’s why you’re seeing a slightly below-average wRAA score, even though the power brings him back up to about average. His ability to make contact isn’t all that important, because he’s using it to make outs.

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      • george says:

        a couple of questions

        i dont know how wOBA or wRAA are calculated, but am i wrong to assume all of the “above replacement player” stats are by position, thus a replacement 1B is not the same as a replacement C? and do these replacement stats only take into account offense? (NOTE FOR EDITORS, this info needs to be in the glossary)

        if the replacement players are different for each position, how can molina have been worse than a replacement catcher last season? just doesnt make sense. what type of numbers is a replacement catcher theoretically putting up?

        in response to the bold portion of the comment, thats not always the case. hitting sac flies, laying sac bunts, hitting to the right side with runner at 2nd or 3rd, putting the ball in play with a runner at 3rd and infield playing back, are just some examples of “productive outs” that cant really be quantified by stats.

        to give a specific example bc i can hear most ppl on here say walking is better than making an out. bottom 9, runner on 3rd, 1 out, down by 1 run, the batter needs to drive in that run. walking is not better than hitting a sac fly bc the next batter can hit into a DP thus ending the game.

        finally, i know most ppl on here dont like the RBI stat, and true it does depend on where you hit in the order, and to a lesser extent who hits before you, but at the end of the day, RBIs is the most important stat for #4/#5 hitters.

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      • Teej says:

        i dont know how wOBA or wRAA are calculated, but am i wrong to assume all of the “above replacement player” stats are by position, thus a replacement 1B is not the same as a replacement C?

        wOBA and wRAA are not position-adjusted. So a wOBA of .330 from a catcher is more valuable than a wOBA from a 1B, because of position scarcity, but the raw numbers aren’t adjusted.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/wrc-and-wraa/

        if the replacement players are different for each position, how can molina have been worse than a replacement catcher last season?

        wRAA is runs above AVERAGE, not replacement level. And also, as mentioned above, it’s not position-adjusted. No one said Molina is worse than replacement level.

        hitting sac flies, laying sac bunts, hitting to the right side with runner at 2nd or 3rd, putting the ball in play with a runner at 3rd and infield playing back, are just some examples of “productive outs” that cant really be quantified by stats.

        These things have been studied to death, and giving up an out to move a baserunner is usually a bad idea. Not always, of course (late in the game, playing for one run is sometimes wise). But using the rare occasion where grounding out is a good thing to justify Molina’s poor OBP is quite a stretch.

        at the end of the day, RBIs is the most important stat for #4/#5 hitters.

        This is just demonstrably false.

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      • george says:

        Teej,

        I appreciate the response and explanations. Like I said earlier, the definitions of some of these stats arent in the glossary and part of the problem for me was i thought wRAA was position dependent, thus i mistakenly thought molina was being called worse than replacement. I can see how he is considered worse than average hitter (most catchers probably are)

        not to change the tune of the comments/article even more than already has been done, but the problem i have with a lot of the stat people, is they like to live in “theoretical land” and not in “reality”. whether you want to admit it or not, driving in runs is a skill. manny rameriz is one of the best RBI men of all time, in 2005, david eckstein led MLB in BA/RISP, no one will ever say eckstein is a RBI man.

        sure having high OBP, OPS, wOBA, whatever wierd stat you want to throw out there is good, but putting runs on the board is the only stat that matters in real life, thus RBIs, IMO, is the only stat that matters for #4/#5 hitters. Some guys like manny are great at driving in runs, some guys like eckstein are not.

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  3. joser says:

    When combined with poor defense, it’s easy to see why most Mariner fans would enjoy seeing Ronny Cedeno starting at shortstop.

    And yet Betancourt is signed for a total of $11M through ’12 (that number includes a $2M buyout in ’12, since I don’t think the team is going to pay $6M for his services that year). Bill Bavasi: the gift that keeps on giving!
    (Let’s not even mention Carlos Silva’s facepalming deal).

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  4. Jeff Nye says:

    Way to rub it in about Betancourt, R.J. :(

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  5. ThundaPC says:

    Yuni’s plate discipline is what it is. Always been that way. What makes it massively worse is that his defense went down the crapper and he couldn’t care less.

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  6. Jacob Jackson says:

    “This is a below average hitter refusing to take a free base.”

    I agree with the thrust of your article and understand your point R.J. I also think its worth noting that bad hitters – I’m talking about skill, not plate discipline – should never have high walk totals. It defies logic.

    Yuni is getting a higher percentage of very hittable pitches thrown his way than Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell ever have or ever will. Pitchers know that they can’t throw to certain locations against those guys without being burned. I doubt Yuni has one of those zones, so pitchers probably throw him far more strikes than they throw good hitters.

    If pitchers are pounding the strike zone against him, it doesn’t make sense to just sit there and watch three fastballs go down the cock. Even if he can’t do much with them, he stands a better chance of reaching by putting them in play.

    You can only punish a guy so much for being a bad hitter.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      What you’ve described is Brett Gardneritis, where a batter’s patient approach and selective eye is nullified by his wiffle-ball power. Pitchers will throw that batter strikes, because they know they can’t be burned too badly. For a player like Yuni, the pitcher has the option of pounding the zone and getting a weak grounder to the left side or throwing in the dirt and having the hitter chase.

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  7. Teej says:

    Pitchers know that they can’t throw to certain locations against those guys without being burned. I doubt Yuni has one of those zones, so pitchers probably throw him far more strikes than they throw good hitters.

    On the flip side, you could say that pitchers have zero incentive to throw Yuni strikes because they know he’ll swing at much less hittable pitches. Yuni swings at more than 30% of pitches that are out of the zone, while Dunn and Burrell are at about half that.

    But it appears that you’re right about the strikes. 53.7% of the pitches Yuni has seen in his career have been in the strike zone. For Dunn, 48%. Burrell, 49.4%.

    Still, the problem with Yuni is much more his terrible approach than it is his inability to crush a ball 400 feet.

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