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Walks: TFA!

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Walks are great. I love walks because walks (a) avoid outs and (b) clog bases and, with all due respect to those who use it as a pejorative, clogging the bases is a good thing. Many of my favorite all-time ballplayers were proficient base-cloggers: Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, John Olerud, Barry Bonds, Brian Giles. Walks are almost universally good things for a hitter. Some will argue that there are times when a player needs to be aggressive -- like when the bases are loaded, for instance -- and, while the point has some merit and may be worth having a dialog about, walking in those situations can hardly be construed as a bad thing, can it? Baseball has no game clock to dictate the length of a game; outs are the only currency that baseball accepts, and avoiding outs can, theoretically, prolong a game indefinitely.

Walks: They're !@#$ing awesome! One caveat with walks is that when player stats are presented, we usually only get a single column for all walks, which doesn't really tell the whole story about that player's plate discipline. To get the full effect, you really need to see total walks juxtaposed against intentional walks, the delta of which -- unintentional walks -- tell us how often a player drew a walk, which is more meaningful than knowing how often he was issued a walk.

I threw together a list of the highest single-season non-Bonds unintentional walk (UBB) totals since 2000. Here they are:

PlayerName Year UBB
Jason Giambi 2000 131
Jason Giambi 2003 120
Bobby Abreu 2006 118
Bobby Abreu 2004 117
J.D. Drew 2004 116
Adam Dunn 2002 115
Jim Thome 2000 114
Lance Berkman 2004 113
Pat Burrell 2007 113
Brian Giles 2002 111
Brian Giles 2005 110
Adam Dunn 2008 109

I conveniently cut the list off at twelve in order to include the second Adam Dunn season, but it's not as if I'm cherry-picking years altogether, and it's also not clear why every list has to be enumerated to some multiple of five.

The first thing that should strike you about this list is how many of these seasons belong to players who count themselves among the current group of free agents. Seven of the twelve -- 58% -- are free agents, each without the encumbrance of draft pick compensation to consider for his future team. We get two seasons from Jason Giambi, two from Bobby Abreu, two from Dunn and one from Pat Burrell. Brian Giles would have been a free agent had the Padres not exercised their team option on him for 2009. Expanding the list to 20 would have given us three more Giambi campaigns.

The other point of interest here is that none of these are marginal ballplayers. All of these guys are (still!) good-to-great, and each was certainly great during the year(s) indicated. You know why? Walks: TFA!