Garret Anderson Retires: A Legacy of Terrible, Terrible Plate Discipline

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Garret Anderson Retires: A Legacy of Terrible, Terrible Plate Discipline
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

On July 27, 1994, a 22-year-old outfielder named Garret Anderson made his MLB debut with the California Angels.

Now, 17 years and 2,228 games later, he is calling it a career.

Angels fans will also remember Anderson as the owner of the franchise record books. In his fifteen years with the Halos, he set club records in almost every major offensive stat, including hits (2,368), RBI (1,292), runs (1,024) and total bases (3,743).

To be fair, though, that's to be expected from a player who also has the most games played (2013), at-bats (7,989), plate appearances (8,480) and outs made (5,936) in team history.

For those fans who live outside Anaheim, he will be best remembered for the 2002 season, when he helped the Angels to their first World Series championship and finished fourth in the AL MVP voting (albeit undeservedly).

He finished his career with 287 homers, 1,365 RBI (good for 77th on the all-time list) and an average just a hair under .300 (.293). So even if he wasn't one of the defining offensive machines of his era, he'll doubtlessly be remembered as a good hitter.

Except he really wasn't.

Yes, Anderson finished with a solid batting average and even if his power declined quickly, he still finished with an above-average .168 ISO.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

And yet, according to his 99 WRC+, he was actually a below-average hitter for his era.

What gives?

The answer is his .324 career OBP. If you're thinking that a .324 OBP seems a little low for a guy who hit almost .300, you're right. You don't need to see the numbers to know that Anderson didn't walk much.

But in this case, "doesn't walk much" seems like an understatement. We're not talking a guy like Ichiro Suzuki, who makes contact with everything or Pablo Sandoval, who swings at everything.

Anderson has never walked more than 38 times in a season. In 2002, when he was an MVP candidate, he walked 30 times in 678 trips to the plate.

Yes, Anderson's most enduring legacy will be having one of the worst batting eyes of all time. 

Anderson's career walk rate will stand forever at a putrid 4.7 percent. When you sent him up to the plate, the odds of him letting four bad pitches go by were less than 1-in-20.

Want some perspective on that?

In the history of Major League Baseball, 256 players have accumulated at least 8,000 plate appearances. Of those men, Anderson finishes 251st in walk rate. More than half (140) have career walk rates of at 9.4 percent or higher, or more than double Anderson's mark. Twenty-seven players in that group walked thrice as often, and three men—Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Ted Williams—worked free passes with over quadruple Anderson's frequency.

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Of course, the game has changed dramatically over the last 100-plus years; the modern game has a new emphasis on plate discipline, so putting Anderson's walk rate in a historical context isn't quite fair.

What happens if we instead compare him to his contemporaries?

Anderson's career spanned 17 seasons, from 1994 to 2010. Over that span, 101 MLB players accumulated at least 6,000 plate appearances. Of those, his plate discipline is dead-last.

Vladimir Guerrero, the master of swinging at everything, has a walk rate of 8.5 percent. Miguel Tejada, who was quoted in Moneyball saying that, if he didn't take more walks, "Billy Beane send me to Mexico," has walked 32 percent more often than Anderson.

Things get even worse if one considers that nearly a quarter (24.2 percent) of his free passes have been intentional; counting only the walks he earned while the pitcher was actually trying, his walk rate drops to just 3.6 percent.

A base on balls every 28 plate appearances? That's about the rate at which my MVP Baseball 2005 team walked, and I could pretty much hit home runs at will.

Baseball lost a good player today—three All-Star appearances, a pair of Silver Sluggers and 15 consecutive seasons of at least 108 games played is nothing to shake a stick at.

But the only thing about Anderson that should be remembered in the annals of history is his complete inability to take ball four. 

 

For more of Lewie's work, visit WahooBlues.com. Follow him on Twitter @LewsOnFirst or  @WahooBlues.

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