Via Wayne Coffee of the Daily News:
Harold Reynolds, MLB Network analyst, admires the judicious eye of a guy like Johnson, and knows that having runners on base is a good thing, but he also believes on-base percentage is “getting a little overhyped.” “In certain circumstances, I want guys swinging the bat,” Reynolds says. “I don’t want them walking. If it’s late in the game, I don’t want (Jorge) Posada walking. That doesn’t do me any good. I think what we’ve done with Moneyball, with fantasy, with the emphasis on on-base percentage is forget that it doesn’t always play into the strategy of the game.”
Contrary to what Reynolds says, if it is late in a game, with the score tied or painfully close, I really don’t see the harm in walking. That is a move that cannot hurt a team in any way, shape, or form, especially not with the Yankees’ lineup, where almost everyone can hit and drive in runs. Rather, a walk prolongs the game, something Joe West hates but ballplayers like as it gives them more opportunities to create a lead or strengthen an existing one. However, to be fair, there are situations where walking is not as valuable as a base hit that might drive in two or more runs. With multiple men on base, I don’t think anyone would argue that a base-on-balls is more valuable than a home run or a triple.
And here, a debate looms. There will be instances this season where Nick Johnson walks and heads will explode. For instance, if there is a man on third base and Johnson takes first on a walk, creating a double play opportunity, many will be quick to blame Johnson rather than the hitter following him (Mark Teixeira) if that opportunity is realized (blaming Johnson isn’t all that fair, of course). There will also be instances where Johnson allows seemingly hittable pitches to go by, only to strike out, gound out or fly out, at the end of the at-bat. So, when does patience (a positive) turn into passivity (a negative)? When is it better to swing at a pitch than it is to take it? Yankee fans seem to love their bar stool discussions, and I foresee another gaining prevalence this season, regarding Johnson and his style of play. Photo by Getty Images
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