Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 5/8/12

Even before Billy Beane and Scott Hatteberg and Moneyball, the Oakland A’s were a team that took a lot of walks. Over the 50 years of the Expansion Era (1961-2011), the A’s ended the season with a walk rate below the league average only eight times. Of those eight seasons, in only one did the A’s have a walk rate more than one percentage point lower than the league average. In 1978, the league average walk rate was 8.5 percent and the A’s walk rate was 7.3 percent.

On the flip side, Oakland has three of  the top fifteen walk-rate seasons in the last fifty years. The 1999 A’s share the record with the 2000 Mariners for highest team walk rate in the Expansion Era at 12 percent.  The 2000 A’s came in at 11.7 percent and the 1992 A’s at 11.3 percent. The league average in those seasons was 8.5 percent (1992), 9.5 percent (1999) and 9.6 percent (2000).

After Monday’s action, the A’s team walk rate is 7.9 percent, below the league average of 8.3 percent. That fact isn’t particularly interesting. But the way the A’s get to their 7.9 percent team walk rate is.

The A’s have three players in the top thirty in walk rate for batters with more than 50 plate appearances so far this season. Seth Smith leads the team with a 17.6 percent walk rate (15 in 67 plate appearances), followed by Jonny Gomes at 14.5 percent (9 in 51 plate appearances) and Daric Barton at 13.4 percent (9 in 57 plate appearances). The Indians also have three players in the top 30 (Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner and Shelley Duncan). No team has more than three players in the top 30. Ten teams have no players in the top 30.

The player with the lowest current walk rate in the majors for hitters with more than 50 plate appearances also plays for the A’s. Catcher Kurt Suzuki has one walk in 98 plate appearances, giving him a walk rate of 1 percent. Teammates Josh Reddick and Cliff Pennington also make the top 50 in lowest current walk rate. Reddick is at 4.1 percent (five walks in 121 plate appearances) and Pennington is at 4.4 (5 walks in 114 plate appearances).

If Smith, Gomes and Barton continue on their path and Suzuki, Reddick and Pennington continue on theirs, the A’s could match some interesting records for teams in the Expansion Era.

Since 1961 (and not counting the strike years of 1981 and 1994), only one team has had three players draw 20 walks or less in a season, among players qualifying for the batting title. On the 2007 Seattle Mariners, Jose Lopez drew only twenty walks, while Yuniesky Betancourt and Kenji Johjima drew fifteen each.

Only eight other teams over the last fifty years had two players end the season with twenty or fewer walks among players qualifying for the batting title (again, not counting the strike years).

The 1977 Cardinals were one of those teams. Ken Reitz drew nineteen walks that season. Garry Templeton drew only fifteen. But that Cardinals team also boasted two players who ended the season with more than 75 walks. Keith Hernandez and Ted Simmons each drew 79 walks. The 1977 Cardinals are the only team in the Expansion Era to have two players with twenty or fewer walks and two players with 75 or more walks in the same season.

Will the A’s match the 2007 Mariners for most qualifying players with twenty or fewer walks in a season? Will they match the 1977 Cardinals with two qualifying players with twenty walks or fewer and two players with 75 walks or more in the same season? Will they match both Expansion Era records?

We’ll have to watch and be patient. As patient as Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Daric Barton.


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