If you’ve spent any time at all reading this Web site or our annual book, you’ve seen our opinions on the value of walks, and in a more general sense, plate discipline. You also may have an idea what we think of players who don’t incorporate that skill in their game.
Of course, not everyone sees things the same way. Many talent evaluators and management types within the game disregard or even scorn the ability to draw walks. Players even miss the boat on this critical point, often trumpeting their "aggressive" approach to hitting and acting as if being selective at the plate will damage their performance.
No one personifies this better than Angels’ shortstop Gary DiSarcina. DiSarcina went deep into April of the 1998 season before drawing his first walk, and proudly stated that it was a goal of his to not walk all season. He believed he was a better hitter when hacking away and being "aggressive". DiSarcina’s career OBP of .291 and five full seasons of .294 or lower haven’t deterred him, or moved the Angel coaching staff to dissuade him of the notion.
So in honor of our misguided friend, I’ve elected to establish the DiSar Awards. The DiSars will go to the player in each league who bats the most times before taking his first free pass. It should be noted that the legendary DiSarcina himself is already out of contention, having walked once before injuring his thumb Saturday and going on the disabled list.
The early candidates for the DiSars are below. In compiling the list, I limited the search to players who had at least 20 walkless at-bats through Tuesday’s games. Let’s run the lists and then discuss them:
American League AB National League AB Jacque Jones, MIN 35 Tony Womack, ARZ 33 Garret Anderson, ANA 33 Adrian Beltre, LAD 29 Derek Jeter, NYY 27 Scott Rolen, PHI 29 John Flaherty, TB 25 Geoff Jenkins, MIL 28 Eddie Taubensee, CIN 27 Eric Karros, LA 26 Ryan Klesko, SD 25 Orlando Cabrera, MON 24 Javy Lopez, ATL 22
If you’re not surprised by some of those names, well, I don’t know what to say to you. Tony Womack and Garret Anderson would be on anyone’s short list for a DiSar, but Derek Jeter? Jeter’s improved plate discipline was a big part of his jump in performance last year. Scott Rolen has put up excellent walk totals in each of his three full seasons and Ryan Klesko has been your basic walks-and-power lefty slugger for years.
So who’s your pick for the inaugural DiSars? Drop me a line with your candidate. In addition to the players above, there are a number of dark horses who are spotting these guys a dozen ABs or so, but who are legitimate threats in their own right. If anyone correctly picks both DiSar Award winners, I’ll come up with some suitable prize for them. Maybe dinner with Oscar Azocar.
Joe Sheehan can be reached at email@example.com.