Play in a linear weights league in ottoneu (or Pick Six), and walks become that little sliver of an edge that you might be able to get over your competitors. But play in any league that values OBP and you might find yourself wondering which players take the most free passes – and most importantly, which players might be taking more free passes in the future based on their past numbers.
At the same time, a star that walks is still a star. How about some players that might be under the radar in a 12-team mixer that still add value with their walk rate? Let’s get them up in this piece. Did you know Jack Cust, who is currently batting fifth for the Seattle Mariners, is second in qualified batters in walk rate? He’s walking in nearly one-fifth of his at-bats. That’s right in line with his 17.4% career walk rate, and he’s well-known as a three-true-outcome guy.
Unfortunately, Cust’s .360+ OBP comes with a sub-.100 ISO. If you’d like a little power with your walks, maybe you could take a look at a more surprising heavy walker, Chase Headley. He’s walking about 16% of the time and has a sub-10% career walk rate. There are reasons to believe his step forward in the category, however. Headley is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone than ever. He’s even swinging less than ever overall. Both of these numbers are probably reliable given his number of plate appearances so far this year, too. A little bit of power, a little bit of speed, and a lot of walks – at a tough position no less.
If the other side of the corner infield is more your bag, Adam LaRoche is putting forth similar plate discipline statistics and a career-high walk rate of his own. What’s particularly nice about LaRoches’ work, despite looking so mediocre overall, is that he’s swinging less than ever and making more contact than ever (measured by both contact % and swinging strike rate). His contact is even about as ‘good’ as ever if line drive rate can be believed. It seems to suggest that he’s getting choosier in his old age. We know that power stabilizes last, so if he can get his ISO back over .200 again, he might be able to pair it with one of his best OBPs. He’ll have to hit a few more fly balls to do that.
A few newcomers deserve some love. Jonathan Herrera doesn’t have a ton skills but can take a walk. Jonny Gomes is pushing his three-true-outcome work to a new level. Ben Francisco is one of those guys that is mediocre all-around, but he’s got a double-digit walk rate. Jack Hannahan is a flawed player, but he’s had those double-digit walk rates his whole career. Luke Scott comes to mind.
One last note about some players that might be walking more in the future. Chipper Jones has a decent OBP, and is walking about 10% of the time, but he’s walked much more than that in his career, and his plate discipline stats tell us that he’s playing just about the same. Expect a few more free passes in the future as he shows an OBP more like the .409 OBP he’s had since 2008. Nick Markakis may not have Jason Catania’s vote when it comes to standard leagues, but he will be useful in OBP leagues shortly. He has a career walk rate right at 10% but hasn’t managed an average walk rate this year. This despite a reach rate under his career number and a first-strike and zone percentage under his career rates as well. Once you add a double-digit walk rate to his overall strong play, he makes a good acquisition in linear weights and OBP leagues alike.