Caring About Walks and Production

Moments ago, Ruben Amaro, Jr. said something to this effect (I paraphrase, but only gently): I don’t care about walks, I care about production.

He said this in reference to everyone’s favorite acquisition, Delmon Young, against accusations that Young could be a poor fit due to his lack of base-on-ballness. And it’s a fair chance for us naysayers to say j’accuse, because Young doesn’t walk. He was unintentionally walked 19 times in 608 plate appearances in 2012. He’s only topped 30 walks once in a season (35 in 2008). His highest single-season OBP is .336, and his BB% of 3.3% was the second-lowest among all qualified hitters last year (Alexei Ramirez, 2.6%), which is crucial because, as we all appear to grasp and understand, OBP is the elemental root of baseball: not making outs.

The guy doesn’t walk.

Amaro’s counter is that, for whatever reason, walks =/= “production.” That’s the essence of what he’s saying. Thinking generously, he considers walking ability and plate discipline little more than a capillary in a hitter’s bloodstream.

Well, in a surprising turn of events, he’s wrong.

Walks are not the end-all, be-all of a hitter’s existence, but their presence tells us a lot about a hitter. Take the inverse of that BB% leaderboard from 2012; who were the names at the top of the list, rather than the bottom? We find Adam Dunn, Carlos Santana, Dan Uggla, Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena as the top five in that category, respectively.

Dunn is renowned for his patience, but also his incredible power. Even if he doesn’t draw a walk by being exceptionally selective, he can force a pitcher to nibble or peck away at the outside for fear of leaving a meatball, even in the face of Dunn’s impressive strikeout numbers. Adam Dunn hit .159 in 2011, and that’s not good, but because he walked 75 times – none of those intentional, despite his known power commodity – he was able to salvage a .292 OBP. Delmon Young posted a .296 OBP in 2012.

Santana has walked more than 90 times in each of the past two seasons, despite not having overwhelming power (35 doubles/27 homers in 2011; 27 doubles/18 homers in 2012). His OBPs those seasons of .351 and .365 represent a +.015 and +.029 difference between themselves and Young’s career-best which, again, was posted almost five seasons ago.

Uggla had a down year in 2012, but still had 25 points of OPS on Young. Uggla’s 94 walks led the National League. That’s 74 more walks than Young, or about an extra 12% of a 600-PA season that’s devoted to getting on base and not making an out.

Zobrist is one of the most productive, still barely-heralded players in the game, due in part to drawing more than 90 walks in three of the past four seasons. Since 2009, Young has made 146 fewer outs than Zobrist, but Zobrist has had 456 more PA. To match Zobrist’s OBP, Young would need to reach base in 285 of those 456 excess PA. That’s a .625 OBP.

Pena has always been a high-strikeout guy, but his patience and past power have enabled him to draw a bevy of walks on his own. Pena has only been within nearly 40 points of Young in AVG in any given year since 2009 – and often, the crevasse is wider – but Carlos wins the OBP battle handily in three of those four seasons thanks to, you guessed it, walking.

It would be one thing if Young were an unholy power threat, like Dunn was, or possessed exceptional contact ability, like Juan Pierre, in place of the void that is his nonexistant walking prowess. He possesses neither, and is thusly not productive.

I’m still waiting for you to prove you do actually care about production in this case, Ruben.

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31 comments

  1. MattWinks

    January 23, 2013 05:24 PM

    This must be why he doesn’t like Brown, Brown drew more walks than Young in almost 400 less plate appearances

  2. LTG

    January 23, 2013 05:26 PM

    Smuggy is back!

  3. 3-Putt Territory

    January 23, 2013 07:07 PM

    You aren’t paraphrasing. That was the exact quote. Heard it myself. Then went babbling on about RBI and sabermetricians.

  4. Bill

    January 23, 2013 06:19 PM

    I read that Young had more GIDP’s(20) last year than unintentional walks(19).

  5. Bill

    January 23, 2013 06:21 PM

    127 unintentional walks to 114 GIDP’s for his career.

  6. LarryM

    January 23, 2013 07:57 PM

    A trained monkey would be a better GM. Not a chimp (technically an ape), who would be vastly better, but your garden variety spider monkey.

    But his disdain for the walk has been apparent for years. It’s a revealed preference (in terms of his signings/trades). People thought otherwise because he was quoted as criticizing the team’s approach at the plate. People interpreted that to mean that he thought that the hitters lacked patience, when clearly what he meant was “these guys need to swing away more.”

  7. BobSmith77

    January 23, 2013 09:34 PM

    Ribbies and Taters! (Ruben Amaro’s autobiography title)

  8. Phillie697

    January 24, 2013 01:04 AM

    Can someone explain to me just exactly what about Delmon Young’s .267/.299/.411 (ISO of .145), -4.2 UZR rating (-2.8 the year before, -10.0 the year before that, for a 3-year grand total of -17.0, for those of you who hate one-year UZRs), and ZERO SB was productive by sabermetric OR traditional evaluations of statistics? Is RAJ just talking out of his ass now? He clearly doesn’t value walks OR production.

    Or maybe by productive he meant that Delmon Young will be better than Michael Martinez. Which is actually, sadly, true.

  9. Phillie697

    January 24, 2013 01:28 AM

    Hey Paul, just for fun, I extrapolated Dom Brown’s numbers to 608 PAs, the same as DY last year.

    .235/.316/.396 (ISO of .160), 14 HR, 75 RBI.

    vs. DY’s actual numbers:

    .267/.296/.411 (ISO of .145), 18 HR, 74 RBI.

    This was with Dom being slightly unlucky with a .260 BABIP vs. DY’s ordinary .299 BABIP.

    So what RAJ is saying… Young is productive, but Dom Brown is what? CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN HIS LOGIC TO ME BEFORE MY CIRCUITS BURN OUT LIKE BAER’S (his was obviously destroyed in a blinding flash of light by RAJ’s antics since he hasn’t posted anything in 5 days)?

  10. EricL

    January 24, 2013 01:33 AM

    For anyone who wants to torture themselves by listening to the interview that spawned this post it’s here: www.975thefanatic.com/teams/phillies/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10494211

    In addition to the Delmon Young-related distaste for walks you’ll hear such gems as, “[D. Young] a much more accomplished player than Dom Brown” and “I like the makeup and the energy and the leadership that Michael Young can bring.”

  11. Phan analysis

    January 24, 2013 09:49 AM

    I listened to the interview live, and was absolutely flabbergasted. I always knew his logic was flawed, but I just didnt know he had absolutely none to speak of at all…

    Walks get people on base, and as these articles have laid out LOGICALLY, we won a World Series when we were able to get on base. It’s not a coincidence that our playoffs runs got shorter and shorter until we were finally kicked out all together when our OBP dipped below .320.

    Against good pitching, which is what you see in the playoffs, you have to e able to work a count in order to get decent pitches to hit. It’s common baseball knowledge, or at least I thought it was. If a GM of a major market team that has won a World Series title in the last half decade can’t see the writing on the wall, then wow. I don’t even know what to say, just…wow.

  12. Phillie697

    January 24, 2013 10:34 AM

    Adding insult to injury, the Braves now have Justin Upton. We literally might finish 4th in the division only because the Marlins are a bigger joke than us. At least they don’t try to hide it.

  13. TomG

    January 24, 2013 10:39 AM

    Tangentially related: Whilst sick over the Xmas holiday, I took out from the library the DVDs of the ’08 WS and, long story short, was reminded how absolutely great and valuable Jayson Werth was for us. In 24 plate appearances, he got on base 14 times – six times via walking. And it seemed as though every walk he got was after running a deep could, fouling off & spoiling a few pitches before wearing the pitcher out and earning the walk.

    So he was always on base and hence a lot of the Rays’ pitchers’ pitches had to be made in high or relatively-high pressure situations. The Phillies were pretty bad at getting hits with runners in scoring position in that series but, as we all know, they won it anyway. I think some of the credit for that goes to Werth and how many times he got on base and put the pressure on the Rays’ pitchers. Eventually, the Phils started driving enough guys in.

    Werth’s .444 BA was impressive enough, but his .583 OBP was phenomenal. (There may be better examples out there of a guy’s OBP performance making a difference in a series but I was just struck by this particular one after watching JW’s performance again after 4 years. I may not have even noticed the first time.)

    I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be able to recognize that and see what a difference it made in “production”, however defined.

  14. TomG

    January 24, 2013 10:40 AM

    deep *count* ^^

  15. Paul Boye

    January 24, 2013 11:05 AM

    The Werth pickup was one of the very best moves the team has made in years and years and years. It’s really a shame he was priced out of affordability.

  16. Ryan

    January 24, 2013 12:12 PM

    I’m not going to argue that RAJ’s philosphy is wrong in many ways, but DY is only a $750k signing. If he is able to play to the potential that he showed in 2010–albeit a long shot–(numbers that are pretty close to JU’s career numbers), it’ll be a steal. If he had his 2010 numbers consistently throughout his career, he would cost closer to 15 million per season. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can bounce back after foot surgery and weight loss in his age 28 season. I think that this was more Darin Ruf/JMJ insurance than anything. Dom Brown will still probably get most of the playing time in one of the outfield spots.

  17. EricL

    January 24, 2013 12:20 PM

    Ryan, even in his career-best 2010, he only posted 1.7 fWAR/ 1.5 bWAR because he’s awful at every aspect of the game outside of batting (and he’s only good at that occasionally).

    So, if he’s posting those kind of numbers it means he’s playing every day and providing below-average ability while using a lineup spot that could be used by someone with more upside than Delmon Young. That’s the mistake. It’s not that Delmon Young is costing the Phillies too much cash, it’s that the opportunity cost is too high.

  18. Pencilfish

    January 24, 2013 12:28 PM

    Phillie697,

    Your reaction to the report on the Upton trade to the Braves and then saying the Phillies might literally finish 4th in the NL East this year reminds of that Dec. 13, 2010 evening when I heard of the Lee signing by the Phillies on ESPN radio. Callers were predicting the Phillies were going to win multiple WS titles with Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels in the rotation. I recall an ESPN commentator saying the Phillies had a shot at the Braves’ record of consecutive NL East titles. None of those rosy predictions have come to pass, and I am still waiting for another WS title.

  19. Phillie697

    January 24, 2013 01:26 PM

    @Pencilfish,

    1. I’m pretty sure you won’t have to wait as long to see us finish 4th as us winning multiple WS.

    2. I didn’t make any such predictions about winning multiple WS.

    3. I said we might, not we will. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did, that’s for sure. I was already predicting us finishing around .500, on the belief that our pitching will rebound, but hitting will probably decline again. That was before RAJ professed his love for DY and hatred for Dom, followed by me realizing that our esteemed GM is gonna cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of about 30 runs by insisting on playing DY full-time. A .500 club that is going to be run-challenged, and you take away another 30 runs? Yeah, like I said, would not even surprise me one bit if we finish behind even the Mets.

  20. Ryan

    January 24, 2013 03:02 PM

    Did it ever occur to you that BOTH Dom and Delmon Young can both play full time in the same outfield? This move was more of a reaction to Ruf and JMJ. If it acts as motivation for Dom to play better then all the better. We could cut DY in spring training if necessary. RAJ said that, in a perfect world, DY would start in right field. A perfect world would have DY playing better than in 2010. If he’s a lazy ass that is completely unproductive which has certainly been a part of his past, he will most likely be cut. Providing competition and hoping that the best case scenario occurs is far from professing love and making someone your unchallenged right fielder.

  21. Ryan

    January 24, 2013 03:03 PM

    His contract clearly dangles a carrot…errr…doughnut in front of DY. If he plays well, he gets paid more. If not…it will hardly cost anything to cut him.

  22. EricL

    January 24, 2013 03:58 PM

    Ryan,

    That’s fine except John Mayberry Jr is better than Delmon Young at baseball. Sitting JMJ to play Delmon Young is not a good idea.

    I also don’t think you can say his contact is an incentive for him to play well. It’s an incentive to play, period. His bonuses are for (1) not getting fat, (2) occupying a roster spot, and (3) getting ABs. Those aren’t performance bonuses, they’re attendance bonuses.

  23. Phillie697

    January 24, 2013 04:00 PM

    @Ryan,

    Again, I refer you back to this comment by RAJ: “”[D. Young] a much more accomplished player than Dom Brown” Does that sound to you like someone who wants to play DY and DB together?

  24. LTG

    January 24, 2013 04:13 PM

    “Those aren’t performance bonuses, they’re attendance bonuses.”

    My favorite line in this thread.

  25. TomG

    April 07, 2013 07:46 AM

    I was at last night’s game against the Royals and, having witnessed the ending first hand, I have to say I have come to see Amaro’s point on this issue. This game proved him right. I mean, Frandsen’s double produced 3 runs and Brown’s and Mayberry’s strike outs produced two outs, so that was good production by those guys; but what did Utley’s, Howard’s and Young’s walks produce? Since I like answering my own rhetorical questions, I’ll tell you what: Nothing.

    And so while it was great being there to witness that great walk-off comeback , the feeling of euphoria was vitiated somewhat by having to witness those terrible, useless and unnecessary walks. Why couldn’t those guys just have produced 3 more useful outs? Now that would have been a ninth to savor!

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