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.
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.