Today I am going to cover some of the players who accomplished the rare feat of finishing the 2019 MLB season with a Walk to Strikeout Ratio (BB/K) greater than or equal to 1. If you have read my blog before, you know this has been the primary reoccurring theme of my blog. If you have not (I assume that is most of you), welcome! I have written about this topic previously on the 2018 season, the 2017 season, and even created a Tableau dashboard to cover the history of this feat in all MLB seasons. I became fascinated with this topic when I started writing online back in the beginning of 2018 as the way the modern game is going, there has been less of an emphasis on plate discipline. The goal of this series of articles is to shine a spotlight on those players that standout out in this area. Let’s get to it!
Note: The number in parenthesis next to a player’s name indicates the number of seasons where they have met this criteria.
Overview of the Year
Of the 1410 players who received a plate appearance this year, only 22 accomplished the feat of maintaining a BB/K greater than or equal to 1. Looking at the dashboard, that is tied for the 9th lowest number in a season ever (tied with 2014). However, to find those eight seasons with a lower number of batters, you have to go all the way back to the 19th century! Additionally, the Statcast era (2015 to present) has shown a trend of a decreasing number of players doing this compared to previous eras. For my sake (I cannot write about players accomplishing the feat if there are none), and the sake of baseball, I hope this is not a trend that will continue.
Of the 22 players who had batting seasons that met my criteria, only two of them received enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title: Alex Bregman (2) and Carlos Santana (4). Oddly enough, both of these players were among those qualified last year (Joey Votto and Jose Ramirez were the other two). Bregman managed to take his incredible 2018 season and improve upon it greatly in 2019. His wOBA, wRC+, and WAR all were all new career highs while he managed to improve upon his BB% by 3.6% without increasing his K%. For his efforts, he should finish at least Top 2 in AL MVP voting this year (Mike Trout being the other candidate to beat him or finish runner up).
Carlos Santana returned to the Indians in an off season trade, stopping in Seattle along the way, and went on to post the best season of his MLB career. Like Bregman, he also set career highs in wOBA, wRC+, and WAR. This season was the fourth time in his career he had over 100 walks and for the second time in his career (2016 being the other), finished with the same number of walks and strikeouts (108 each this year).
Other Batters of Note
After the two batters above, the player with the third largest number of plate appearances is Luis Arraez (1) with 366. I consider my knowledge of MLB and MiLB players fairly deep (playing in dynasty leagues will do that for you), but I had never heard of Arraez until his call up this year by the Twins. The 22 year old was rated as the 12th prospect on the Twins by Fangraphs this past offseason with a future grade of 40+. He is a high contact, lower power batter who played all over the diamond while putting up 2.1 WAR in roughly half a season for the AL Central winners this year. It should not be a surprise that Arraez made this list as he has done this three out of the six years he was in the minors. I love players with elite plate discipline (hence this series of posts), but not knowing about him was major oversight on my part. I am a believer in his skills and he definitely benefits from the “juiced ball”. I know this is not a fantasy article, but I would be buying in deep dynasty leagues.
The next batter appearing on this list, with 206 plate appearances, is Kendrys Morales (1), which was a genuine shock to to me. Morales set career lows in batting average, slugging percentage, wOBA, and wRC+ during his age 36 season, did not finish the year on a roster, yet still managed to put up a BB/K of at least 1 for the first time in his career. With the year he just had, he may not get another chance to make appear on the list again. Additionally, when I noticed he had a negative WAR (-0.8), I checked to see if that is the record low for a batter when they walked at least as many times as they struck out. To my surprise, it was not and it was not even close. The lowest WAR put up by a batter to appear in my dashboard is actually -2.7 and the mark was put up by two separate players: shortstop Pat Rockett in 1978 and second baseman Fresco Thompson in 1930.
Most of the remaining players on this year’s list are primarily pitchers. One pitcher I was hoping to be here and was not was Blake Snell. Last year, I wrote about how Snell had spent the past three season putting up a BB/K of exactly 1. Snell, pitching in the AL, does not get many chances to bat so I was fascinated by him not only making the list, but also repeating this feat twice in a row. Unfortunately, Snell did not have any plate appearances this year in his injury shortened 2019 season so while he did not qualify for the list, he did not break his streak either. Hopefully he gets a chance to bat in an NL park next year so we can see if he can continue his “elite” plate discipline skills.
That is it for the my 2019 MLB walk to strikeout recap. I look forward to the 2020 MLB season and seeing which players will join this club next year. Thanks for reading and have a great day!