Carleton: Where have all the walks gone?

From Russell Carleton at on August 6, 2015:

Whatever happened to ball four? The walk? The free pass? The base on balls? It’s already something of a persona non grata in baseball. If a hitter walks, we sorta pretend it didn’t actually happen (e.g., “He went 1 for 3 with a walk.”) But it seems that lately, we’re seeing fewer of them. On a recent episode of my favorite baseball podcast, Effectively Wild, co-host (and um, my boss) Sam Miller pointed out that pitcher walk rates that are average now might have been among the league leaders a decade ago.

For example, Gerrit Cole and Carlos Carrasco have (as of this writing) have each walked 1.9 batters per 9 innings pitched. This puts them (among starters qualified for the league ERA title) in 22nd and 23rd place, respectively in MLB. In 1996, the two men would have ranked 6th and 7th on the same list with those kind of walk rates.  There are 94 pitchers qualified for the ERA title. The 47th guy (halfway down the list), Chris Heston of the Giants, has walked 2.5 batters per 9 innings. In 1996, that would have been good enough for 20th place, only a quarter of the way down the list.

In fact, here’s a graph showing the percentage of plate appearances that ended in walks league wide in each year from 1993 to 2014.

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Originally published: August 6, 2015. Last Updated: August 6, 2015.