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.

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

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Spitball McPhee
10 years ago

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.

10 years ago

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.

10 years ago

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.

10 years ago
Reply to  EDogg1438

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

10 years ago

Excellent stuff!