Dee Gordon created a minor stir last week when he claimed to not care about drawing walks. It was a particularly interesting quote, because the ability to draw a walk is typically considered a strong addition to any player's offensive arsenal. Everyone knows that in baseball you need to score runs to win, and you need baserunners to score runs. While Gordon is a unique case, his mindset is not necessarily correct especially if it is applied to different types of hitters. However, the problem is that it appears Gordon is not the only Miami Marlins' hitter with this philosophy. In 2015, the Marlins had the lowest walk percentage (BB%) of any major league team.
Last season, the Marlins finished with an overall BB% of 6.3%. However, oddly enough, the Marlins also finished with the sixth lowest strikeout percentage (K%) at 16.8%. This certainly harkens back to Gordon's original point in his interview: he wants to limit his strikeout numbers by making contact. Gordon claimed that if he is determined to force a walk, he usually gets out. However, by refusing to draw walks you are also putting yourself in a position to swing at poor pitches, which often results in an out as well.
Teams that do not draw walks also tend to struggle getting on base. Consequently, the Marlins finished with the 23rd overall OBP in 2015. That is certainly not a recipe for success. Part of the reason the Marlins are struggling to get on base is because they are being aggressive at the plate and often choose the wrong pitches to swing at. Below is a table showing the Marlins swing and contact tendencies on pitches inside and outside the strike zone:
Gordon's aggressive approach seems to have rubbed off on the team. What I notice first is the Marlins' swing and contact tendencies on pitches outside the zone. The Marlins swung frequently on these pitches and often made contact. While a high contact percentage on pitches outside the zone can be beneficial, it can also lead to a fair number of easy outs. The Marlins' aggressive approach is particularly perplexing when you look at their swing percentage on pitches inside the strike zone. The Marlins ranked 24th, and such selective aggression indicates that the team lacked the patience and discipline necessary to generate favorable pitching counts. If you are taking pitches inside the zone, yet swinging at pitches outside the zone, you are racking up a large number of strikes. Racking up a large number of strikes typically does not end well, and thus the Marlins struggled at the plate in 2015.
My favorite sabermetric stat to measure offensive performance is weighted On-Base-Average (wOBA). Not all hits are created equal, and wOBA is a rate statistic that accounts for this by weighing hits according to their proportional run value. For example, a home run generates more runs than a single, and contributes more to a higher wOBA. wOBA is an excellent statistic because it can be used to accurately measure offensive value. In 2015, the Marlins finished 26th in wOBA. This is due to a number of factors (I.E. the Marlins hit the second lowest number of home runs) but among those is the Marlins inability to draw walks and propensity to rack up poor hitting counts by being overly aggressive. As teams recognize the Marlins' have an aggressive plate approach, things may get even tougher offensively. The Fish will see more pitches outside the zone, and following Gordon's philosophy to avoid walks will not be the path to success in 2016.
Batting statistics were taken from Fangraphs