Way back in 1998, Angels shortstop Gary DiSarcina opened the season by going 61 plate appearances—the better part of April—before drawing his first walk. Towards the end of that stretch, he was quoted as saying he would be perfectly happy if he never drew one, which was consistent with his career approach, as he drew just 154 free passes in more than 4000 career plate appearances.
In 2000, to honor this attitude, I created the DiSar Awards, which recognize the position player in each league who goes the most at-bats into his season without drawing a walk. It’s a relatively meaningless number that pokes a little fun at the players who, in an era where plate discipline is valued, go to the plate hacking.
Last year, the Disar Awards went to Ben Zobrist of the Devil Rays, who came from behind after an extended trip to the minors to post 69 walk-less at-bats, and thus edge out a pair of Tigers, Ivan Rodriguez and Omar Infante, as well as Victor Diaz, who were all knotted up at 68. Zobrist was sent to Triple-A in May having not walked in 63 at-bats, then picked up six more upon his recall in July before drawing a walk on August 3. Such is the power of the Golden Crutch.
In the National League, the rule banning pitchers was a big issue, as Carlos Zambrano, Livan Hernandez, Brandon Webb, Jamie Moyer and Woody Williams were the top five in the league DiSar Count. By rule, however, it’s limited to position players, so it's Craig Biggio who wins the award, as his 59 walk-less at-bats—while batting leadoff, it should be noted—carried the day, a notch ahead of Juan Encarnacion’s 58. The double-play combination of Zobrist and Biggio shows that age is nothing but a number when it comes to swinging the bat—players young and old alike can treat free passes with disdain.
Zobrist and Biggio take their places in a storied group of past winners:
Year American League National League 2007 Ben Zobrist Craig Biggio 2006 Mike Redmond Jeff Francoeur 2005 Andres Blanco Jeff Francoeur 2004 Cesar Crespo Jose Macias 2003 Jose Molina Rainer Olmedo 2002 Carl Crawford Shawon Dunston 2001 Alfonso Soriano Marquis Grissom 2000 Jacque Jones Shawon Dunston
The great thing about the DiSars is that they transcend age, experience, position, race, and all the other categories in which we put baseball players. All-Stars have won DiSars, and bench players have as well. It’s really the most egalitarian award in the game today.
Who’s primed to join this list in 2008? BP’s Jason Paré cranked the numbers on the current league leaders:
American League AB National League AB Jose Molina 56 Matt Diaz 79 Jay Payton 52 Ryan Braun 61 Travis Buck 38 Cristian Guzman 57 Jhonny Peralta 37 Bengie Molina 50 Robinson Cano 36 Brad Ausmus 50
Jose Molina is trying to win his second DiSar Award, helped along by Jorge Posada’s absence from the Yankee lineup, as well as the organization’s inability to find a better catcher. The Brothers Molina won’t pull it off this season—Bengie’s streak stopped well short of the lead in the NL—but that’s an impressive family you see above, with two top-five showings this late in the year.
None of the streaks above are active, so Molina and Diaz are the leaders in this particular clubhouse. In a number of seasons, though, the DiSar Award has gone to a player well off the radar in May. Currently active DiSar Counts include Toby Hall’s 34, Wilson Betemit’s 26, and Brandon Fahey’s 25. No National League position player has an active number above 24, although Carlos Zambrano has to be mentioned: he’s at 30 this year, on top of 81 in 2007, and hasn’t drawn a walk since June 10, 2006, nearly two years and 160 at-bats ago. That is a gift. How about the Big Z Awards, anyone?