3 Takeaways: Working our way back to Walk Rates

While walks were once undervalued in baseball, they’re now so valued that they brought about the changes to liven the pace of play in baseba- wait – that’s not right. Still, it’s been some time since the term market inefficiency applied to walks. We recognize the importance of not making outs and how walks play a part in that. There’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to OBP though. For today’s takeaways, we’re going to examine three teams, their walk rates and how that plays into their current spot in the standings.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 10.2% Walk Rate

The Dodgers remain atop the power rankings and seem unlikely to budge from that spot unless or until another team clinches a playoff spot first. They’ve done so thanks to optimistic projections and a 26-17 start to the season, with much of that built on a deep offense. With Yasiel Puig out, the star power might not rival some other teams, but near every at-bat is a quality one, with numerous players willing to work the count in their favor. All of that patience has led to a team OBP that ranks second in the majors, while leading the majors in walk rate and wRC+. While the Dodgers aren’t a poor-hitting team when it comes to contact or average, what pushes their offense from good to great is an elite walk rate (and leading the league in slugging, of course).

Kansas City Royals: 5.4% Walk Rate

The Royals are on the other end of the spectrum but have been no less successful (it’s worth noting, of course, they’ve been more successful to this point). The Royals have nearly half the walk rate of the Dodgers, and yet their offense checks in at second overall per wRC+. The reason is that, while they rarely walk, they also rarely strike out. That’s a good thing for this lineup too, as when they put the ball in play, it’s a hit more often than any other team in the majors, save for the Tigers. So while the Dodgers are second in the majors in OBP, the Royals rank third overall, thanks to a league-leading batting average and 28 hit by pitches (second overall). While they go about it in starkly different ways, a strong OBP is a common thread between two offenses that pace the majors in production.

St. Louis Cardinals: 8.1% Walk Rate

The Cardinals split the difference, ranking 15th overall in walk rate (tied with the Braves and Rays). They don’t compensate for their ~league-average walk rate by avoiding the whiff like the Royals do — in fact their strikeout rate is slightly above that of the Dodgers — but their OBP still ranks in the top five in the league. Calling back to last week’s look at BABIP, the Cardinals rank sixth there, helping drive their .265 team batting average. Combine their walk rate and their BABIP and the top-five OBP makes a bit more sense. All of this only adds up to the 10th-best wRC+ in the majors, but with the pitching staff the Cardinals boast, that’s been more than enough.

For the full Playoff Odds Power Rankings, click here.