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More homers than walks

Posted by Andy on January 22, 2010

Here are the all-time leaders for most homers in a season with a matching or fewer number of walks.

Rk Player HR BB Year Age Tm
1 Andre Dawson 49 32 1987 32 CHC
2 Dave Kingman 48 45 1979 30 CHC
3 Andres Galarraga 47 40 1996 35 COL
4 Juan Gonzalez 47 45 1996 26 TEX
5 George Bell 47 39 1987 27 TOR
6 Vinny Castilla 46 40 1998 30 COL
7 Juan Gonzalez 46 37 1993 23 TEX
8 Orlando Cepeda 46 39 1961 23 SFG
9 Matt Williams 43 33 1994 28 SFG
10 Juan Gonzalez 43 35 1992 22 TEX
11 Tony Armas 43 32 1984 30 BOS
12 Juan Gonzalez 42 33 1997 27 TEX
13 Hal Trosky 42 36 1936 23 CLE
14 Tony Batista 41 35 2000 26 TOR
15 Sammy Sosa 40 34 1996 27 CHC
16 Vinny Castilla 40 35 1996 28 COL
17 Dante Bichette 40 22 1995 31 COL
18 Alfonso Soriano 39 23 2002 26 NYY
19 Matt Williams 38 27 1993 27 SFG
20 Joe Adcock 38 32 1956 28 MLN
21 Dave Kingman 37 28 1976 27 NYM
22 Ernie Banks 37 30 1962 31 CHC
23 Alfonso Soriano 36 33 2005 29 TEX
24 Tony Armas 36 29 1983 29 BOS
25 Dave Kingman 36 34 1975 26 NYM
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/21/2010.

The first thing that popped into my head was to think about Dawson and the 1987 Cubs. Dawson won the NL MVP that year despite the Cubs finishing with a 76-85 record, last place in the NL East. The Cubs were a little bit below average offensively (as compared to the rest of the NL) and the Cubs didn't have a particularly good hitter to follow Dawson in the batting order. Check out the Cubs' batting orders for that season. For the first half of the year Dawson batted 3rd almost exclusively and was followed most often by Keith Moreland or Leon Durham. Those guys had their upsides but they certainly had little business hitting cleanup. In the second half of the season Dawson hit mostly cleanup and was followed by a mix of players including Moreland, Durham, Jerry Mumphrey, and a rookie named Rafael Palmeiro.

This makes me wonder why Dawson didn't walk more. I would have thought that with the lower quality of talent hitting behind Dawson, he would have received more walks. The fact is that any team offense issues may have been overridden by the fact that Dawson just didn't walk very much. For his career, he averaged only 36 walks per 162 games. Of the 66 players with at least 10,000 plate appearances since 1901, Dawson is one of just 3 with fewer than 6% of his PA's turning into walks. Dawson's walk rate was 5.47%, Pinson's was 5.52%, and Buckner's was an astounding 4.49%.

More generally, this list seems to be populated by two types: players on good offensive teams (1990s Rockies and Rangers, for example) and players who simply did not draw a lot of walks in their careers (Alfonso Soriano and Dawson, for example.) The good offense makes sense since a pitcher is less likely to walk a guy when there's another good hitter coming up next.

20 Responses to “More homers than walks”

  1. Pageup Says:

    Juan Gone almost did it for his career, 434 walks to 457 strikeouts!

  2. DavidRF Says:

    Fun list.

    Protection may have helped the guys on good offenses avoid walks a little bit, but they also had to be free swingers to make a list like this as well. There's plenty of cases where guys on great offenses walked a ton with great players on deck. Ruth batted before Gehrig. Mantle batted before Berra. Morgan batted before Bench.

    Its fun looking at old batting orders. Looking at the list above, Cepeda was the least protected player in the Giants line-up in his best season. He generally batted after Mays and McCovey.

  3. JDV Says:

    MY first reaction to Dawson's numbers was that he may have homered in a bunch of lop-sided games, and probably lop-sided losses. A quick look, however, reveals that not to be true. The Cubs were 25-15 in games in which Dawson homered -- several were multi-homer games -- and I count only about five that were never close. (I didn't dive into the specific game situations at the instance of each home run.) Anyway, it seems that Dawson just had an awesome season (even by 1987 standards), and was very difficult to pitch away from, as most would remember him.

  4. Andy Says:

    Good point by reader pageup although he/she meant to say Gonzalez had 434 HR and 457 walks.

  5. Johnny Says:

    If you're wondering, Kingman, Gonzalez, Castilla, Williams, Armas, and Soriano show up multiple times on the list.

  6. JDV Says:

    Regarding Gonzalez, I also notice that he averaged better than one RBI/G over a four-year period (514 RBI in 511 G from '95-'98). That must be unique in the post-WWII era.

  7. Andy Says:

    Manny averaged exactly one RBI per game from 1998 to 2001.

  8. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Dawson's '87 was not particularly awesome, though he did hit extremely well with RISP. He didn't create that many more runs than an average right fielder that season. If you're going to look at all the RBI, you also need to consider he only scored 41 runs when he didn't homer (ok, he didn't have great hitters behind him, but he wasn't getting on base all that much). Terrible MVP choice.

  9. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Gonzalez, Bell, Dawson, Cepeda, Banks, were all MVPs.
    Cepeda, Galaraga and Bichette have won batting titles.

  10. Philip Haberkorn Says:

    DAWSON 1987: he didn't walk very much because he was playing under a contract he left blank and let the team fill in his salary - so he HAD to swing, to put up numbers and earn a bigger contract for 1988. Walks don't equate to $1-Million, home runs do that. As for the hitters around him in the line-up, they all seem "weaker" because none of them was Andre Dawson. Hitting was actually the Cubs strength that year, it was the pitching that failed them.

  11. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Well, Dawson never walked much. But it is true that his BB-rate was even lower in '87 than in the surrounding seasons, so perhaps there is something to your theory.

    Hitting may have been the Cubs' strength, relatively speaking, but they were still only 8th (of 12 teams) in scoring that season.

  12. DoubleDiamond Says:

    The first thing I noticed was a disproportionate number of players with Hispanic names on this list. I've heard a phrase that goes something like, "You don't get off the island by not swinging," in connection with at least one Dominican Republic native (don't remember which one, though). (Well, there's at least one Mexican and at least one Venezuelan on the list, and those countries aren't islands, unless you count the Americas continents as one big island, but the same concept may hold in these places.)

  13. Pageup Says:

    yeah, I did mean walks, he had a few more strikeouts than that...

  14. Pageup Says:

    as for the rbi per game thing, Sosa had 597 over a 4 year span (637 games though) which is obviously a large number that probably hasn't been matched in a while

  15. stan cook Says:

    Also an extreme home road split

    OBA of about 288 and SA about 480 on the road as I recall

  16. Andy Says:

    DoubleDiamond, I have not heard that phrase regarding Latino players, but it made me wonder. In the 1980s, I guess it might have been possible to see such trends with native Latino players since most of them were developed in their home countries and trends in teaching baseball and player development might have been different. However I'd have a hard time imagining that the same is true today, the way information travels so much more easily to all places.

    Interesting point.

  17. mccombe35 Says:

    Olivo has 96 career HRs & 98 career BBs

    2004 was the last time he had more BBs than HRs in a season.

    & I think the saying in the Dominican Republic is "You don't walk off the island"

  18. charityslave Says:

    I dub this the "Two True Outcomes" list!

    Oh, and DoubleDiamond, I believe the saying is "Nobody walks of the island!"

  19. Tomepp Says:

    charityslave : Yours might not be the actual quote, but it suer is more clever that way! I like the double entendre. (Though I seem to remember the quote more like the way DoubleDiamond wrote it.)

  20. Johnny Twisto Says:

    The saying is definitely "Nobody walks off the island."

    Not to be confused with "Braindead Caribbeans, swinging at slop"