Padres’ slugger Juan Soto has a multitude of great offensive skills that make him one of the most dangerous hitters in MLB. Above all else though, Soto’s greatest weapon is his discipline.
Soto’s vision at the plate is unparalleled. I’ve never seen a man so willing to take juicy-looking pitches up and out of the zone. Soto scoffs at pitchers’ attempts to get him to chase. He’ll gladly take and take and take until he’s standing on first without his bat ever having to leave his shoulder. Of all qualified hitters, Juan Soto leads the league in walk percentage (20.8 percent) — more than four points higher than the next closest qualified hitter, Max Muncy (16.7 percent).
Despite the immense success Soto experienced in Washington, many of his teammates didn’t follow in his footsteps. No player is a greater example than Nationals’ shortstop Luis García.
García is 22 years old and in his third year at the Major League level. This season is García’s first year posting an OPS-plus over 100. He’s hitting for the highest average of his career at .290. Yet despite that high average, García’s on-base percentage sits at just .295. Across 228 plate appearances this year, the shortstop has managed to walk just twice. He was hit by a pitch once, so I guess that helps, but still, García’s OBP is insanely low for someone with that high an average.
Let’s put those two walks in perspective, shall we? Juan Soto had 24 games with two or more walks this year. He had seven games with three or more. If you count intentional walks, then that second figure climbs to 10. Since 2010, there have been 433 instances where pitchers not named Shohei Ohtani have walked at least twice in a single season. In 2016, Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams walked twice in three plate appearances. In 2010, the Yankees’ Javier Vázquez did so in five plate appearances. He was playing in the American League. Pitchers didn’t hit in the American League and he managed to draw as many free passes as García has. That’s nuts!
García’s on-base percentage is so low in relation to his batting average that in the history of professional baseball, there are only three players to have an on-base percentage lower than .295 while maintaining an average of .290 or better across at least 200 plate appearances. Their names are John Radcliff, Ezra Sutton, and Mike McGeary. They retired in 1872, 1874, and 1875 respectively.
Since the turn of the 21st century, there have been only six players to record an average of .290 or better and an on-base percentage of .315 or lower: 2013 Willin Rosario (.292 average; .315 OBP), 2013 Brayan Peña (.297; .315), 2012 Pedro Ciriaco (.293; .315), 2002 Karim García (.297; .314), 2017 Ronald Torreyes (.292; .314), and 2019 Harold Castro (.291; .305). Nobody with a .290 average or better has come within nine points of García’s .305 on-base percentage since 1934.
What’s even crazier is that García isn’t that much of a free swinger. In 2022, he’s swinging at only 55.6 percent of pitches thrown his way. While that is the highest mark of his career, it still ranks him 22nd in MLB among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. Of the 21 players who swing more often, 18 have walked at least ten times. Five have walked at least twenty times. The only three that haven’t accrued double-digit walks are Raimel Tapia (nine), Salvador Perez (nine), and Michael Harris (eight), meaning that even at the extreme end of the free-swinging spectrum, García is an absurd outlier.
Juan Soto has played six games with the San Diego Padres since being traded. He’s walked five times. Since joining the Padres, Josh Bell has walked four times. Brandon Drury has walked twice. Since joining the Nationals, Luke Voit has walked twice. Since joining the Red Sox, Eric Hosmer has walked three times. All of these players joined their new teams a week ago, and all of them have already eclipsed García’s walk total for the season.
We’re witnessing history folks. Don’t let it pass you by.