Swinging Works Too

Jose Guillen is currently putting together the weirdest hot streak of all time. In his last 37 games, he’s racked up 55 hits – 23 of those going for extra bases – and a .359/.365/.613 mark. Nothing wrong with a .360 batting average and a .600 slugging percentage, but you may notice that the on base percentage isn’t much higher than that batting average. That’s because, during those 37 games, Guillen hasn’t drawn a single walk. He’s been hit by pitch twice, accounting for the tiny difference between his BA and OBP, but he hasn’t heard the umpire call ball four since May 15th.

Those 37 games encompass 156 plate appearances where Guillen has just swung at absolutely everything. Generally, that’s a pretty bad idea, but the aggressive approach he’s taken may have actually rescued his season. The last time Guillen took a walk, he was hitting .224/.260/.395. He had drawn 7 walks in his first 154 plate appearances, right in line with what we’d expect based on his career walk rate. Clearly, all that walking was getting in the way of his hitting, so he decided to just eliminate the pesky base on balls, and voila, an offensive surge was born.

Okay, so that’s not really fair. Guillen actually caught fire a week before he drew his last walk, hitting .533/.563/.833 from May 7th to May 15th before the end-of-walks approach kicked in. So maybe there’s no cause and effect here, but it’s still at least interesting how well Guillen has hit while completely abandoning one of the easier ways to get on base. For comparison, Adam Dunn has drawn 32 walks since Guillen drew his last – that’s a lot of free pass opportunities to give up.

But for Guillen, it works. His hyper-aggressive approach at the plate doesn’t cost him his power, and his game continues to be centered around his ability to drive the ball into the alleys and over the wall. When he stops being able to do that, I’ll tell him to stop swinging at everything. Until then, I’m not going to argue with the guy slugging better than .600 while ignoring the base on balls.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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14 years ago

His team’s going nowhere, so why not have some fun with it? I’d be hacking too if I played for a perennial laughing stock.

I always enjoy seeing how far players can take these streaks. I was watching the Yankee game last year where Tony Peña, Jr. snapped his 244 walkless plate appearance streak. The Royals bench laughed and gave him a mini-standing ovation as Peña returned their smiles, which was nice to see from a team mired in last place with no designs on contention any time in the foreseeable future. They even requested the game ball which Mike Sweeney promptly scribbled upon. Something funny I’m sure.