To piggyback off Dave Cameron’s earlier post.
Jason Heyward and Elvis Andrus are two of the game’s youngest everyday players, known for their upside more than anything. Perhaps the most underrated aspect about either’s game is their affinity for the walk. Heyward (20-years-old) is walking the sixth most amongst all major leaguers and Andrus ranks just outside of the top 30 walk rates. The updated ZiPS projections have both finishing with 63 walks.
Surprisingly – or perhaps not – that total wouldn’t rank within the top 35 for most walks in a season by a player younger than 22-years-old.
Here’s a quick rundown of the top five:
T5. 103 BB by Jimmie Foxx – 1929 Philadelphia, 21-years-old, 638 plate appearances (16.1%)
T5. 103 BB by Mel Ott – 1930 New York, 21-years-old, 646 plate appearances (15.9 %)
3. 107 BB by Ted Williams – 1939 Boston, 20-years-old, 677 plate appearances (15.8%)
2. 113 BB by Mel Ott – 1929 New York, 20-years-old, 674 plate appearances (16.8%)
1. 117 BB by Rickey Henderson – 1980 Oakland, 21-years-old, 722 plate appearances (16.2%)
Two things noticeable: 1) Each of those players are in the Hall of Fame and 2) only one of those seasons came within the last 30 years, while three of them were within a span of two seasons. If the year range is shortened from the turn of the 20th century until 1950, then only one season with 100+ walks remains – that being Henderson’s, of course – with the only other players topping 90 walks being Eddie Matthews and Joe Morgan – two hall of famers as well.
If the scope is narrowed to view history from 1990 onwards, this is what the top 10 looks like:
1. Ken Griffey Jr. 71
2. Albert Pujols 69
3. Miguel Cabrera 68
4. Delino DeShields 66
5. Ken Griffey Jr. 63
6. Ryan Zimmerman 61
7. Adrian Beltre 61
8. Alex Rodriguez 59
9. Melky Cabrera 56
10. Adrian Beltre 56
Notice the quantity of walks dropping, but not only that, only 28 players aged 21 or younger had enough plate appearances to qualify. A smaller time frame between 1920 and 1930 registers 22 players. This should not be a shock, given the development and expansion of farm systems and free agency. Teams simply aren’t fielding that many 20- or 21-year-olds because they don’t have to and because disincentives exist for rushing a potentially elite player to the majors. At least if the plan is to keep that player through the years presumed to be his statistical prime.
Back to Heyward and Andrus though. If either (or both) can simply add, say, 10 walks to their projections, then whichever accomplishes that will be the new leader in the post-1990 clubhouse. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee a bust in Cooperstown, but it will ensure them a place in modern history.
As an aside, you can read more about Heyward (from me) at Wired’s Playbook blog. It’s mostly talk about his usage of Twitter, but there’s some quotes from smart people too.