Monday night White Sox 3B Dayan Viciedo went 0-3. He now has 74 PA without a walk, the most by any player this year. Since 1901, the record for most PA without a walk is held by Hall of Fame pitcher Ed Walsh, who went 156 PA without a single base on balls. If we limit it to non-pitchers, the record is 148, set by the immortal Craig Robinson, who was a middle infielder for the Phillies in 1973.
Robinson is one of eight non-pitchers to amass over 100 PA in a season without drawing a walk, the most recent being Alejandro Sanchez, who accumulated 133 PA in 1985. Sanchez was actually the best hitter of this group, with a .707 OPS. The next highest mark was the .500 one posted by Robinson.
If the season ended Monday, Viciedo would rank 34th on the list of most PA without a walk (non-pitcher division). But while the vast majority of these players brought very little to the plate, Viciedo has a .297/.297/.500 line. Among players with a minimum of 50 PA, his .797 OPS ranks as the fourth-best mark.
In fact only five players since 1901 have completed a season with no walks and an OPS of .750 or greater. Here are some numbers on those guys:
It is certainly nice for a young player to be on a list with Murphy and May. Even Mueller had a 12-year career and a lifetime .296 AVG.
But while this list is interesting, there are at least two immediate problems trying to use it to forecast the future for Viciedo. First, 2010 is not over and there is still plenty of time for Viciedo to draw a walk. Second, since it has proven impossible to go even 200 PA and not draw a walk, our sample sizes are necessarily small.
So, let’s up the minimum PA level to 400 and instead of zero walks, let’s use a BB% of under 5 percent. Last year in the minors, Viciedo had a 4.3 BB% in Double-A and this year in Triple-A it was 3.1 percent. In the past three seasons, 64 players met these requirements and 22 had an OPS of .750 or above.
The vast majority of these are middle infielders, with 12 of our 22 listed above being either 2B or SS. Five more are catchers. Only five played at a non-premium defensive position and none of those were a 3B like Viciedo. Still, let’s look at those five players.
Guerrero – Known as a free swinger, Guerrero has a lifetime 8.6 BB% and 2009 is the only time in his career that his rate slipped under 5 percent.
Ichiro – Similar to Guerrero, Ichiro is consistently above a 5.0 BB%. Last year was the first time since his debut season in this country that Ichiro failed to reach that plateau. Lifetime he has a 6.3 percent mark.
Hart – Lifetime BB% of 6.7 and 2008 was a career low and the only time he fell below our 5.0 threshold. Hart’s OPS was 55 points below his lifetime mark this season.
Anderson – His 2008 BB% was right around his 4.7 percent career average. Six other times in his career, Anderson had at least 400 PA, a BB% less than 5 and an OPS greater than .749. His best year was 2003 when he had a 4.6 BB% and a wOBA of .371 and his best fantasy season was 2000 when he hit .286 with 35 HR and 117 RBIs.
Nady – A lifetime 5.9 BB%, Nady enjoyed one of the two best seasons of his career in a year where he had his lowest walk rate in seven seasons with at least 50 PA. Generally, he walked a little more and was less productive overall than he was in 2007.
The complete lack of walks we are witnessing from Viciedo this year is unusual but not unprecedented. Given the lack of walks, his overall production is quite impressive. Recent history shows Anderson as the best-case scenario for Viciedo. But even Anderson had better walk rates than Viciedo. In his last full season in the minors, Anderson had a 5.2 BB% and in 2,259 PA in the minors, Anderson had a 5.1 BB%. Viciedo has a 3.9 BB% in 795 PA in the minors to go along with his 0.0 mark in the majors.