When I grew up, I learned baseball statistics from the back of baseball cards, like this 1986 Topps Darryl Strawberry card:
Sure, walks were listed, but on-base percentage was nowhere to be found. Batting average was still king of my world in those days. Over the years, thanks to the writings of Bill James, Rob Neyer, Baseball Prospectus, and many others, I came to appreciate the finer points of baseball statistics. The importance of the walk became more apparent to me.
When I think of the term patience, as it relates to baseball, I don't necessarily mean for it to be players simply looking for a walk. Rather, patience is working the count to your favor, so you can get more good pitches to hit, and when you get those more hittable pitches, hammer them. However, a byproduct of patience is in fact the almighty walk.
It may seem as I'm a bit obsessive about walks. I issued the 50-walk challenge to the Dodgers, and my first article ever at True Blue LA was about walks.
The Dodgers are leading the major leagues in walks taken, with 213. It's a main reason their offense has been so good, averaging 5.7 runs per game. As good as it is to get walks offensively, it's understandable that it's less desirable to give walks. This is one of the rare cases where it isn't better to give then receive.
Dodger pitchers have given up 196 walks, third most in baseball. Only the Nationals (202) and Florida (200) have issued more free passes. However, the Dodgers have taken more walks than they have given, so their "walk gap" is a +17.
Here's how the Dodgers rank among all major league teams:
Is the walk gap all that important? Scientifically, I doubt it, but it stands to reason that it's better to have more walks offensively than while pitching, so it would seem the higher the positive walk gap the better. Plus, it's never a bad thing to highlight a stat that in which the Giants are dead last.