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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Walks: a terrible rule.

From the original Radical Baseball document, June 9, 2006:

4. Walks: a terrible rule.

They should have changed the walk rule no later than 1923 after Babe Ruth walked 170 times. Who goes to the park to root for a walk? OK, my friend Eric but he’s a SABR member. The penalty is not severe enough to deter the defense from simply bypassing the offense’s best batters. The offense must be given a choice. In most cases the manager will be too wimpy to exercise the option, much like football coaches ignore the two-point conversion after a touchdown. However, for a Ruth, Bonds, Pujols, … maybe the manager would be radical.


Here are a couple of options. Decline the walk but continue the at bat. This is cool. Let’s say Barry Bonds is batting and he gets ball four on a 3-1 count. The offense may choose to let Bonds continue batting with the same count. If the count reaches 6 balls, the batter may take two bases. In other words, for each two additional pitches outside the strike zone the batter gets an additional base. There is some risk. The strike count remains the same. So if the count reaches 6-2, Bonds is at risk if he continues. However, the crowd is in a frenzy! Everyone is screaming for Bonds to continue. Ball eight: three bases. All runners move up, as they would with a one base walk. Ball ten: Bonds walks all the way around the bases! That will make the defense think twice about walking the other team’s slugger.

I prefer the option above but here is another. The batter declines. A pinch runner goes to first but is still eligible to play later. The walked batter starts a new at bat. Obviously, if a weak batter walks, he would probably simply take the walk as now happens. But a slugger might bat again.
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Starting in 1903 both the American National Leagues had the same rules for balls and strikes. From 1903 through 1923 at least 100 bases on balls (BB) was achieved 29 times:

Rk Player BB OPS+ Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Babe Ruth 170 239 1923 28 NYY AL 152 697 522 151 205 45 13 41 130 93 4 3 17 21 .393 .545 .764 1.309 97/83
2 Babe Ruth 150 255 1920 25 NYY AL 142 616 458 158 172 36 9 54 135 80 3 5 14 14 .376 .532 .847 1.379 *978/3H1
3 Jimmy Sheckard 147 131 1911 32 CHC NL 156 704 539 121 149 26 11 4 50 58 3 15 32 .276 .434 .388 .822 *7
4 Babe Ruth 145 238 1921 26 NYY AL 152 693 540 177 204 44 16 59 168 81 4 4 17 13 .378 .512 .846 1.359 *78/13
5 Jimmy Sheckard 122 103 1912 33 CHC NL 146 660 523 85 128 22 10 3 44 81 5 10 15 .245 .392 .342 .735 *7
6 Topsy Hartsel 121 138 1905 31 PHA AL 150 674 538 88 148 22 8 0 28 65 1 14 37 .275 .409 .346 .755 *78
7 Eddie Collins 119 165 1915 28 CHW AL 155 681 521 118 173 22 10 4 77 27 5 35 46 30 .332 .460 .436 .896 *4
8 Donie Bush 118 90 1915 27 DET AL 155 703 561 99 128 12 8 1 44 44 2 22 35 27 .228 .364 .283 .648 *6
9 Burt Shotton 118 134 1915 30 SLB AL 156 683 559 93 158 18 11 1 30 62 2 6 43 32 .283 .409 .360 .769 *79/8H
10 Ty Cobb 118 185 1915 28 DET AL 156 701 563 144 208 31 13 3 99 43 10 9 96 38 .369 .486 .487 .973 *8
11 Donie Bush 117 97 1912 24 DET AL 144 643 511 107 118 14 8 2 38 53 3 12 37 18 .231 .377 .301 .679 *6
12 Miller Huggins 116 114 1910 32 STL NL 151 688 547 101 145 15 6 1 36 46 6 19 34 .265 .399 .320 .719 *4
13 Donie Bush 112 99 1914 26 DET AL 157 721 596 97 150 18 4 0 32 54 3 10 35 26 .252 .373 .295 .668 *6
14 Burt Shotton 110 127 1916 31 SLB AL 156 727 614 97 174 23 6 1 36 65 0 4 41 28 .283 .392 .345 .738 *7
15 Johnny Evers 108 115 1910 28 CHC NL 125 556 433 87 114 11 7 0 28 18 2 13 28 .263 .413 .321 .734 *4
16 Roy Thomas 107 117 1906 32 PHI NL 142 620 493 81 125 10 7 0 16 44 6 14 22 .254 .393 .302 .695 *8
17 Roy Thomas 107 141 1903 29 PHI NL 130 607 477 88 156 11 2 1 27 46 3 20 17 .327 .453 .365 .818 *8
18 Topsy Hartsel 106 144 1907 33 PHA AL 143 624 507 93 142 23 6 3 29 66 0 11 20 .280 .405 .367 .771 *7
19 Jack Graney 105 93 1919 33 CLE AL 128 586 461 79 108 22 8 1 30 39 3 16 7 .234 .380 .323 .703 *7/H
20 Miller Huggins 105 115 1914 36 STL NL 148 633 509 85 134 17 4 1 24 63 7 14 32 .263 .396 .318 .714 *4/H
21 Lu Blue 103 116 1921 24 DET AL 153 711 585 103 180 33 11 5 75 47 5 16 13 17 .308 .416 .427 .843 *3/H
22 Johnny Bates 103 129 1911 28 CIN NL 148 646 518 89 151 24 13 1 61 59 6 19 33 .292 .415 .394 .808 *8/9
23 Miller Huggins 103 106 1905 27 CIN NL 149 683 564 117 154 11 8 1 38 46 7 9 27 .273 .392 .326 .718 *4
24 Jack Graney 102 117 1916 30 CLE AL 155 702 589 106 142 41 14 5 54 72 2 9 10 .241 .355 .384 .739 *7/H8
25 Bob Bescher 102 114 1911 27 CIN NL 153 716 599 106 165 32 10 1 45 78 5 10 81 .275 .385 .367 .753 *7
Rk Player BB OPS+ Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
26 Roy Thomas 102 137 1904 30 PHI NL 139 610 496 92 144 6 6 3 29 61 5 7 28 .290 .416 .345 .761 *8
27 George Burns 101 100 1923 33 CIN NL 154 724 614 99 168 27 13 3 45 46 0 9 12 14 .274 .376 .375 .751 *9/8
28 Babe Ruth 101 217 1919 24 BOS AL 130 543 432 103 139 34 12 29 113 58 6 3 7 .322 .456 .657 1.114 *71/3H8
29 Eddie Collins 101 156 1912 25 PHA AL 153 673 543 137 189 25 11 0 64 28 0 29 63 22 .348 .450 .435 .885 *4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/4/2016.

Ruth did it four times and is the only batter to hit home runs in double figures. Ruth broke the old record of 147 set by Jimmy Sheckard in 1911, then smashed his own record of 150.
Photo of Jimmy Sheckard

Sheckard had 704 plate appearances in 1911 at age 32. His batting average was only .276 but all those BB lifted his On Base Percentage (average) to a National League (NL) leading .434. His Slugging average was only .388. Several of those 29 season listed above had OBP higher than SLG. Not Ruth, of course. Sheckard led the NL again in 1912 with 122 BB. Those were his only seasons with at least 100 BB.

So why did Jimmy Sheckard and other less than notable batters receive 100 BB? Some of it may have been umpiring. In the AL in 1915 Hall of Famer Eddie Collins of the White Sox led with 119 BB, one more than Tigers Cobb and Bush and Brown Shotton, who is best known for managing the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers in a business suit; Jackie Robinson was a Dodger rookie in 1947.

In 1915 AL BB per game were 3.40, highest from 1903 through 1924. See AL Batting Encyclopedia. In 1920 Ruth hit 54 home runs, more than every other AL team.

Ruth is the only home run hitter listed above. The one season for Cobb, his SLG was only one point higher than OBP.

In 2016 the only batting outcome more boring than BB are SO, which are at record highs. So how about we do something about boring old BB? In addition to the rule changes suggested back in 2006, here's another original Radical Baseball doc tenet: six man batting order. Get those big boppers up at least every other inning. They'd have 1,000 PA.

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