How Hard Is It To Be Successful Without Drawing Walks?

Yasiel Puig has been in the news a lot lately. He’s had phenomenal start to his career, well aside from the Diamondbacks’ catcher Miguel Montero hating him. He’s also had most of his success without drawing many walks, which inevitably has sent him sliding down a mountain into inevitable comparison to known hacker Jeff Francouer. Francouer never tore up the minors the way Puig did, but it’s somewhat of a fair comparison due to how much fanfare Frenchy had after such a quick start to an otherwise poor career. As Jeff Sullivan from FanGraphs noted, the league is beginning to adjust to Puig, now he has prove he can counter those adjustments.

Fangraphs lists the BB% of 7% to be below average, 5.5% is poor, and 4% and lower is awful. Puig’s current BB% in the majors after 36 games is 4.5%. He did post a 9% walk rate in AA this year before his call up, so there’s a little reason to believe he is capable of being more patient than he is right now. I’ll take a look at some guys who had solid careers while also sustaining low walk rates. I took the leader-board at FanGraphs, sorted for year 2000-2013, removed everyone with a walk rate north of 8%, and removed everyone with an ISO (isolated power) below .175. The following players have compiled 15 fWAR since 2000 (players in bold are still active).

That isn’t very many names. Of the 202 position players that accumulated 15 fWAR from 2000-2013 only 58 or 28.7% had walk rates less than or equal to 8%. Adam Jones fell slightly below on a few parameters, but for comparison’s sake he felt pretty accurate. Here is Yasiel Puig at the moment. I included his AA stats and his projections for the rest of the season.

We’ve noticed you can be successful without walks, but it isn’t easy. All of the players from the first table were all good to phenomenal players in their own right. It’s unfair to say Yasiel Puig has to turn out to be as good of a hitter as Carlos Gonzalez or Adrian Beltre to be successful, but he’ll have to follow their lead if he can’t learn to draw walks as he gets experience. Personally I see Puig as a .270/30 homer/15+ steal guy in the future. If he can manage that he should be fine, but I’m sure he’ll never meet the expectations some people have for him at this point. Any player on that list would be a win (maybe aside from Vernon Wells because…ugh). Anything on top of the production these guys have managed is just gravy.

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Landon is a senior writer at The Fantasy Fix. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter (@joneslandon).

8 Responses to “How Hard Is It To Be Successful Without Drawing Walks?”

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  1. Matty Brown says:

    I find the Adam Jones comp apt, as I see him as Adam Jones with more power and a better arm. I also think he can raise his walk percentage, because why walk when you are 22 and demolishing everything.

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  2. JonesLandon says:

    I agree completely. It’s kind of like Dom Brown in June. There’s not much of a need to walk when you’re crushing. My point was just more to say over the long the walk rate will have to come up in order to increase his chances at sustained success, because he won’t hit near .400 forever. I too think he’ll raise his BB% over time, unless it’s dramatic change, though I see it being in the 6%-8% range for awhile. I just thought it was interesting at the few guys who have sustained success for the past few years with a low walk rate.

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  3. Vince says:

    And if you add in the condition of >20% K-rate (Puig is at 22%), you have a list of 4: Soriano, Kemp, Gonzalez, Hart. It’s not an easy road – obviously have to hit for power and be enough of an athlete to have some defensive value to make up for emphatically not controlling the strike zone. I don’t see either of those being a problem for him.

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  4. JonesLandon says:

    Yeah I think Puig’s talent should allow him to win out in the future. He’s very young and due to his defection from Cuba you can make the case he’s much more inexperienced than his counterparts (even in AA). I am interested in the defensive data over the next year or so though to see how much value he brings on that front.

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  5. EDogg1438 says:

    Looks like Puig’s closest comparable thus far has been Soriano. He even has the speed that Soriano had in his youth.

    Not sure if I’m happy or disappointed to learn this. Soriano had some pretty good years, even if he feels like a letdown overall for his career.

    And Puig seems to play with much more effort and enthusiasm than Soriano ever did.

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    • LikeaPizzaBoss says:

      How is the hell can you say Soriano was a letdown for his career?
      388 HR’s
      280 SB’s
      .273 avg

      come on dude

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  6. JonesLandon says:

    We expect a lot out of prospects, but the truth is most prospects would love to have the career Soriano has. Puig does play the game hard and with a lot of excitement. That is one of my favorite things about watching him play. I just hope he can slow down enough to take some pitches and allow his approach at the plate to grow with age.

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  7. Jeff says:

    Excellent stuff!

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