Which major league hitter had the best “eye”? How do we answer that question?
We could say Bonds drew the most walks; but many of them were intentional. We could look at walk rate (W/PA or W/AB) to normalize by career length; but one issue that will be raised, legitimately, is that Ruth/Bonds/etc were often walked BECAUSE they were feared. Who knows, maybe Dal Maxvill would have drawn 100 walks a year if he actually had been able to HIT.
Other potential things to wrassle with:
1 in some eras of MLB play, walks were more prevelant than others.
2 what about park effects?
3 level of play corrections?
4 does “good eye” change over time; do we need to make a “peak” and “career” assessment of the best eye?
Sometime soon, I’ll outline my methods to deal with these issues, and write an article about who Realyl had the best “eye”. Until then, suggestions welcome.
Walks: do they correleate with batter ability? The answer is, they do correlate with ISO (isolated power, or ‘bases above singles’ per AB: doubles are 1, triples = 2, home runs = 3. Can also be calculated as SLG – AVG.
I used 20 years of MLB play (1953-56, 1965-72, 1981-88) and ran a regression using the 3700+ players who had at least 300 PA in any year.
There was no tendency for players with higher AVG to draw more walks. Which surprised me. But higher ISOs definitely correlated well with walks. The best fit was a 2nd order fit; avg walk/AB = .076 +.656 * ISO^2. So a player with absolutely NO power at all should walk 7.6 times per 100 AB. But a Ruthian man with an ISO of .350 would be expected to walk 15.6 per 100 AB. In an average enivronment. So in this way, the raw walk rate of a player can be adjusted for how much power he had.
Be back next week with a report of who had the best eye ever.
See the followup here.