With on-base percentage emerging as one of, if not the most important offensive statistic, more teams and fans are putting value into the importance of a walk. In fact, most successful teams walk more often than unsuccessful teams. For example, the Cleveland Indians, who are 30-26 and in second place in the American League Central division, lead the Major Leagues in the percentage of plate appearances where they reach base on balls with 10%. The 28-31 Philadephia Phillies, who are in last place in the National League East division, are the team with the lowest BB%, with 6.3%.
And then you have the Pirates.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have scored 4.42 runs per game in their past 12 games, in which they are 9-3, and have walked in 7.4% of their plate appearances. In the 44 games prior to that, the Bucs scored 2.86 runs per game and walked in 5.9% of their plate appearances. Their walks have totaled up to 6.3% of their appearances at the plate. The 29-26 Pittsburgh Pirates, who are second place in the National League Central, walk as much as the 5th place in the NL East Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates, who are averaging about 36.6 plate appearances per game, walk, on average, two times per game. The average Major League team, which walks about 8.26 times per 100 plate appearances, walks about three times per game.
While that one extra baserunner per game may not seem like much, walking 56 extra times this season would raise their on-base percentage from its current .266 value to .298.
The problem with the Pirates is most likely their lack of discipline at the plate. The Pirates lead the MLB in the amount of pitches outside the strike zone at which they swing at, swinging at 34.2% of would-be balls. The Pirates swing at about six more pitches out of the zone than the average Major League team (29.95). It’s not just balls the Pirates are swinging freely at. They also lead the Majors in total pitches swung at by swinging at 49% of pitches thrown at them, which is 4.6% higher than the MLB average of 45.4%.
It seems like the best way for the Pirates to improve their offense is by taking more pitches and being patient at the plate. Either that or each one of them getting a pair of glasses.