There was a offensive revolution in the 1890's that had nothing to do with players hitting home runs. The 1893 Baltimore Orioles of the National League won 60 games and lost 70 under manager Ned Hanlon. For the season, they walked 539 times, struck out 323 times, and stole 233 bases. Their team batting average was .275 and on base percentage was .359 for an on base over batting average of +84. A year later, the Orioles went 89-39, winning the National League Pennant and finishing the season with 516 walks, just 200 strikeouts and 324 stolen bases. They hit .343 as a team and had an on base percentage of .418, which gave them a BA>OB of +85. Whether it was the fact that the Orioles got a hit seven percent more of the time or were on base six percent more of the time, the bottom line was both probably contributed heavily in the Orioles having a sixty game swing from 1893 to 1894.
I am sure that during this time, the expression was made, "a walk is as good as a hit." The expression is no different than the one that kids hear in Little League and though it is not as often spoken on the field in a major league baseball game today, a guy getting on base is important any way one can. You can hear it coming from the dugout, "Good eye!"
Generally speaking, the better hitters in the game historically have high batting averages. Because of their high batting averages, it is likely their on base percentage can be close to or over .400 for their careers. Ted Williams, for example, hit .344 for his career and his .482 on base percentage is the highest in baseball history. Williams' career BA>OB is an impressive 137. In the history of baseball, there have been only 56 players have a career on base percentage of over .400. There are two active players with OBP's over .400.
Using my own research (this leaves open the possibility I could have missed somebody.), I have found only five players to have a BA>OB over 140. And the conclusions are not that impressive. Eddie Yost played 18 seasons in the big leagues mostly for the Washington Senators and finished his career with a .254 batting average. However, he also finished his career with a .394 on base percentage for a BA>OB of +140. In the 19th century, there was a player by the name of Bill Joyce. He started his career in 1890 playing in the players' league for the Brooklyn Ward's Wonders. He would later play for the Boston Reds of the major league American Association before finishing his career in the National League playing for Brooklyn, Washington, and New York. He hit .293 for his career but had a .435 OBP for a +142 BA>OB.
The next player on the list became an immortal because of his home run numbers (mostly later on in his career) and became the most feared hitter the game has ever seen. Williams had four seasons where he had an OBP over .500 (one of them was a shortened season where he had just 110 at bats because he was fighting a mission in Korea. Barry Bonds had four STRAIGHT seasons of an OBP over .500 from 2001-2004. Bonds finished his career with an OBP of .444, and has more walks than anyone in the history of major league baseball. His career BA is .298, which means he has a career BA>OB of 146.
If I gave you a guess of who had the top two BA>OB numbers in baseball history, I would get a lot of wrong guesses. The tops of all time (based off of my research) is Max Bishop, who spent most of his career with Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1930's. Bishop hit a respectable .271 for his career, but had an on base percentage of .423 for a BA>OB of 151.
The player who is second on this list is none other than Gene Tenace, who had a batting average of .241, but an OBP of .388 for a BA>OB of 147. Here is the top five.
Max Bishop (1924-1935) .271 BA .423 OBP +151 BA>OB
Gene Tenace (1969-1983) .241 BA .388 OBP +147 BA>OB
Barry Bonds (1986-2006) .298 BA .444 OBP +146 BA>OB
Bill Joyce (1890-1898) .293 BA .435 OBP +142 BA>OB
Eddie Yost (1944-1962) .254 BA .394 OBP +140 BA>OB
As you can see, the top five cover a good amount of major league history. In fact, not a single player in the top five played a game in the same year as another.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout finished 2017 with a batting average of .306, but an OBP of .444. This gave him a BA>OB of 136 for the season. In his career, it is just +104, down from the career mark of 115 that Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto has.