Productive Hitting Without The Walks

Felix Pie recently set a Baltimore Orioles record, going 63 straight plate appearances putting the ball in play (no strike-outs, no walks, no HBP). Since the streak was snapped though, Felix has K'ed 9 times and only walked twice, batting just .264/.286/.340. Overall this season, Pie is striking out in just 12.8% of his at bats (almost half of last year's 23%) and walking in a tiny 3.3% of his plate appearances (closer to a third of 2009's 8.5%). Despite the lack of free passes, he's still been a relatively productive hitter - .286/.311/.434, and a perfectly average .323 wOBA (100 wRC+). That's right about the level he was at last year as well (.326 wOBA, 98 wRC+), which got me to thinking about how successful a hitter could be if he never walked.

The assumption is that this hypothetical player's batting average is equal to his on-base percentage, and his at bats are equal to his plate appearances.

The average batter strikes out about 20.5% of the time, has a BABIP around .300, and a .147 ISO. So over the course of 600 AB/PA, we'd get a line of about .258/.258/.405 with 31 doubles, 3 triples, and 17 home runs. If an average hitter stopped walking and everything else stayed the same, he wouldn't be very productive at all - that's only a .285 wOBA or so.

Here's how things would change by altering the player's strike-out rate (the bold row is our starting point):

AB/PA

H

2B

3B

HR

K

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K%

wOBA

ISO

600

135

27

3

15

185

.225

.353

.300

30.8%

.249

.128

600

139

28

3

15

172

.232

.363

.300

28.7%

.255

.132

600

143

29

3

16

160

.238

.374

.300

26.7%

.264

.135

600

147

29

3

16

148

.245

.384

.300

24.6%

.270

.139

600

151

30

3

17

135

.252

.395

.300

22.6%

.278

.143

600

155

31

3

17

123

.258

.405

.300

20.5%

.285

.147

600

159

32

3

17

111

.265

.415

.300

18.5%

.291

.150

600

163

33

3

18

98

.272

.426

.300

16.4%

.299

.154

600

167

33

3

18

86

.278

.436

.300

14.4%

.305

.158

600

171

34

3

19

74

.285

.447

.300

12.3%

.314

.162

600

175

35

3

19

62

.292

.457

.300

10.3%

.320

.166

600

179

36

3

20

49

.298

.468

.300

8.2%

.329

.169

600

183

37

4

20

37

.305

.478

.300

6.2%

.337

.173

600

187

37

4

21

25

.312

.489

.300

4.1%

.344

.177

600

191

38

4

21

12

.318

.499

.300

2.1%

.351

.181

600

195

39

4

21

0

.325

.509

.300

0.0%

.357

.184

So a strike-out rate below 9% would make one about a league average hitter. Being one of the most difficult players in the majors to K (David Eckstein's 5.8% is lowest amongst players with at least 200 PA) would make the batter a small plus offensively.

What about keeping the strike-out rate at 20.5% and changing the power output?

AB/PA

H

2B

3B

HR

K

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K%

wOBA

ISO

600

148

24

2

7

123

.246

.327

.300

20.5%

.250

.081

600

150

25

2

9

123

.249

.347

.300

20.5%

.257

.097

600

151

27

3

12

123

.252

.366

.300

20.5%

.267

.114

600

153

29

3

14

123

.255

.386

.300

20.5%

.275

.130

600

155

31

3

17

123

.258

.405

.300

20.5%

.285

.147

600

157

33

3

20

123

.261

.425

.300

20.5%

.294

.163

600

159

35

3

22

123

.264

.444

.300

20.5%

.302

.180

600

160

37

4

25

123

.267

.464

.300

20.5%

.312

.197

600

162

39

4

27

123

.270

.484

.300

20.5%

.320

.213

600

164

41

4

30

123

.273

.503

.300

20.5%

.330

.230

600

166

43

4

32

123

.276

.523

.300

20.5%

.338

.247

600

167

45

4

35

123

.279

.543

.300

20.5%

.346

.264

600

169

47

5

37

123

.282

.563

.300

20.5%

.355

.281

600

171

50

5

40

123

.285

.584

.300

20.5%

.366

.298

600

173

52

5

43

123

.288

.604

.300

20.5%

.375

.316

An ISO in the .220s would result in average overall production. The better power hitters in the majors could get away with never walking, thought it would be hard to be truly elite.

Changing the BABIP while keeping the K's constant and only adjusting the ISO as the double and triples move.

AB/PA

H

2B

3B

HR

K

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K%

wOBA

ISO

600

134

27

3

17

123

.224

.362

.255

20.5%

.251

.138

600

138

28

3

17

123

.231

.371

.264

20.5%

.257

.140

600

143

29

3

17

123

.238

.379

.273

20.5%

.265

.142

600

147

29

3

17

123

.245

.388

.282

20.5%

.271

.143

600

151

30

3

17

123

.251

.396

.291

20.5%

.278

.145

600

155

31

3

17

123

.258

.405

.300

20.5%

.285

.147

600

159

32

3

17

123

.265

.414

.309

20.5%

.291

.148

600

163

33

3

17

123

.272

.422

.318

20.5%

.298

.150

600

167

33

3

17

123

.279

.431

.327

20.5%

.304

.152

600

172

34

3

17

123

.286

.439

.336

20.5%

.312

.153

600

176

35

3

17

123

.293

.448

.345

20.5%

.318

.155

600

180

36

3

17

123

.300

.456

.354

20.5%

.325

.157

600

184

37

4

17

123

.307

.465

.363

20.5%

.332

.158

600

188

38

4

17

123

.314

.473

.372

20.5%

.339

.160

600

192

38

4

17

123

.320

.482

.381

20.5%

.345

.161

600

196

39

4

17

123

.327

.490

.390

20.5%

.351

.163

A BABIP of around .360 would give you an average wOBA, but that's higher than Ichiro's career mark (.357). It seems like it would be tough to be really productive without a lot of luck going down this road.

The table/graph is with everything changing a little at a time. Cut down on the K's a bit, hit some line-drives to improve that BABIP, add some pop.

AB/PA

H

2B

3B

HR

K

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K%

wOBA

ISO

600

140

26

3

13

141

.234

.349

.287

23.6%

.252

.115

600

145

28

3

14

135

.242

.367

.291

22.6%

.262

.125

600

150

29

3

16

129

.250

.386

.296

21.5%

.274

.136

600

155

31

3

17

123

.258

.405

.300

20.5%

.285

.147

600

160

33

3

19

117

.267

.424

.305

19.5%

.297

.158

600

165

35

3

20

111

.275

.444

.309

18.5%

.307

.169

600

170

37

4

22

105

.284

.465

.314

17.4%

.321

.181

600

175

39

4

23

98

.292

.485

.318

16.4%

.332

.193

600

181

41

4

25

92

.301

.506

.323

15.4%

.345

.205

600

186

43

4

27

86

.310

.528

.327

14.4%

.358

.218

600

191

45

4

28

80

.319

.550

.332

13.3%

.368

.231

600

197

47

5

30

74

.328

.572

.336

12.3%

.383

.244

600

202

50

5

32

68

.337

.594

.341

11.3%

.396

.257

600

208

52

5

34

61

.346

.618

.345

10.3%

.410

.271

Here a league average wOBA isn't so tough, and it's possible to be amongst the best hitters in the game without doing anything too crazy. Delmon Young (.307/.337/.495) is actually having a solid season doing this kind of thing. His walk rate is only 3.3%, but he's gotten his strike-out rate down to 12.9%, his BABIP's at .320 (which is actually below his career .336 mark), and he's hitting for some power (career high 16 HR, and a .187 ISO). FanGraphs has his wOBA at .355.

I'm not sure what to make of Felix Pie, given that he showed the ability to take a walk last year. He does have some power in his bat, but his career BABIP is only .302 (and it's .304 this year). If he's not able to get that up, he'll need to either cut down on the strike-outs even more (tough to do), or start walking again. There are multiple paths he can take to being a plus hitter though, and it'll be interesting to see which one he goes down (and I'm hoping he does indeed go down one of them).

I realized after finishing this that it's not too dissimilar from Jack Moore's Four Factor's series over at FanGraphs. Perhaps I was subconsciously influenced by Jack's work, in which case I wanted to acknowledge it. I'm a big fan of the concept, as you can see.

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