Philadelphia Phillies General Manager and noted smuggler of smug Ruben Amaro, Jr. has faced a lot of criticism for his moves this offseason. The offensive talent he’s picked up really isn’t all that adept at this thing called “getting on base.” The most egregious pickup has been the most recent one, signing Delmon Young and then proclaiming him the starter in right field (whether he consulted with manager Charlie Manuel on that decision is unknown at this point). Young is coming off the worst year of his career, which is saying something given that he’s only had one season that could be considered decent at the Major League level. Most jarring is that he hit into more double plays last year (20) than he drew unintentional walks (19).
Amaro was faced with the criticism of not getting guys who walked a lot, and he replied to that on a local sports radio station by saying he doesn’t care about walks, he cares about production. Far be it from me to assert that I know more about baseball than a guy who is actually in the game itself, but walks are production, dingus.
The objective of baseball on offense is not to make outs. The game is unique in that it’s not limited by time but by an actual, true outcome on the field of play. If you don’t make outs, you can theoretically bat around for ever, right? Yes, you need to score runs to be able to win, but there’s a strong correlation between getting on base and scoring runs, in that if you don’t make an out, you are much more likely to score a run eventually. You don’t need sabermetric statistics to point that out. It’s common fucking sense.
Walking is verily one of the easiest way to get on base. It totally is. Most pitchers aren’t going to throw three strikes looking. Sure, when a pitcher like Greg Maddux is on the mound, he can get a strikeout by painting the corners, but very few pitchers have command like Maddux had. And sure, a guy like Randy Johnson could get a guy to swing and miss at three right down the middle because he was throwing that stinky cheddar, but again, very few pitchers can hit the radar gun as high on a consistent basis as the Big Unit. There are so many factors in getting a batted ball to drop in the right spot to get a base hit, but drawing a walk is something that’s far more in the control of a batter. It’s not automatic at all, and it depends on the umpire and how good that pitcher’s “stuff” is on a certain day. It’s also not to say that a walk is better than a hit, but certainly, it’s not a bad outcome in the least.
Furthermore, patience at the plate is going to force pitchers into making bad pitches in desperation to try and get a guy out. There’s a reason why guys who walk a lot also tend to be considered as good hitters as well. Even Adam Dunn, who posted an abysmal .159 batting average two years ago, got another chance because he got on base in other means, and when he did get a hold of a ball in 2011, it went really, really goddamn far.
So, it goes without saying that playing a guy who walked 19 times in 608 plate appearances is less likely to produce than a guy who walked 21 times in 212. So, why should it be a lock that Young gets to start over Domonic Brown in right field? Brown hasn’t gotten 600 plate appearances in his career, let alone a season. He was so untouchable though that the Phillies refused to give him up in any of the many trades they made in Amaro’s tenure. So, Amaro thinks Brown is valuable enough to withhold for trading for Roy Halladay, but not valuable enough to play over a dude who has been awful for most of his big league career? Yes, Brown has been shaky in a small sample size, but what he’s done has been more indicative of his potential for production than Young has in any season outside of his outlier 2010 season. It all goes back to getting on base.
In baseball, you need to find a way to get on base by any means necessary. When you get on base, you score runs. When you walk, you get on base. Delmon Young doesn’t get on base. Therefore, he doesn’t produce. If Ruben Amaro, Jr. cares about production, he has an odd idea of what production is by acquiring both Youngs, Delmon and Michael (who is coming off the worst year of his career). It’s not “computer nerd magic” to say that walks are important. It’s a commonsense truth that successful teams use to their advantage. With the Phillies in a distinct slide from their World Series years, it’s clear the Phillies aren’t a successful team anymore. If Amaro wants to fix that, maybe he should care about walks.Tags: Charlie Manuel, Delmon Young, Domonic Brown, MLB, Roy Halladay, Ruben Amaro Jr., walks