I have said all along that on base percentage by itself shows nothing. How many players now a days sit there with their bat on their shoulders and hit .220 or less? They strikeout 150-200 times a season and self proclaimed "baseball experts" say these are good players because they draw a lot of walks? How is that acceptable? If you did that 50+ years ago, one would be out of the league in a year or two.
Max Bishop played 12 years in the big leagues from 1924-1935, 10 for the Philadelphia Athletics and 2 for the Boston Red Sox. He was known to have one of the best eyes at the plate the game has ever seen, hence the nickname "Camera Eye". What was the most amazing about what Bishop did was the fact that he had 50 more career hits than walks 1216-1156. Among any player I researched, I could not find another player with as many MLB hits that had less than 200, let alone 100 walks than career hits.
To broaden my discussion, I used a players batting average to on base percentage to get a better idea. For example, Gwynn had 3141 hits and 790 walks for a .338 average and .388 on base percentage. (Not factoring in hit by pitches) his OBP is 50 points higher than his batting average. Picking a random player, Brian Downing had 2099 hits, 1197 walks, .267 avg and .370 OBP or a +103 OBP/AVG. Joey Votto is the posterchild for taking the walk as opposed to swinging the bat- he is at 1052 hits, 610 BB, .311 avg. .418 OBP for a +107.
Because this is an experiment, I have not tested every player and made it through the players with the 58 highest walk totals in the history of MLB. If you happen to find another player to fit this discussion, either comment after the article or tweet it to me at @john_pielli. The highest OBP/AVG belonged to Bishop at +152. Next was the all time walk leader Barry Bonds who had 2935 hits, 2558 BB, .298 avg, .444 OBP for a +146. Next is a player known as the "walking man," former Senators 3B Eddie Yost, who had 1863 hits, 1614 BB, .254 avg, .394 OBP for a +140. Next would be Ted Williams who had 2654 hit, 2021 walks, .344 avg, .482 OBP for a +138, followed by Babe Ruth who had 2873 hits, 2062 walks, .342 avg, .474 OBP for a +132.
The next 5 are all interesting. Mark McGwire is 6th with 1626 hits, 1317 BB, .263 avg, .394 OBP for a +131. 7th is current White Sox DH Adam Dunn who has 1591 hits, 1294 BB, .238 avg, .366 OBP for a +128. Next is Jim Thome at 2328 hits, 1747 BB, .276 avg, .402 OBP for a +126. Next is a tie between Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson who finished with 3055 hits, 2190 BB, .279, .401 and current Indians DH Jason Giambi with 2008 hits, 1361 BB, .277, .399. Both players are +122.
Two others I calculated at over +120. Hall of Fame 2B Joe Morgan with 2517 hits, 1865 BB, .271, .392 for a +121 and Harmon Killebrew with 2086 hits, 1559 BB, .256, .376 for a +120. One player I thought would be over 120 was Frank Thomas, but the 2014 HOF 1B/ DH finished with 2468 hits, 1667 BB, .301, .419 for a +118.
Just a reminder, if you notice any player qualify I did not mention, please comment or tweet me @john_pielli. Use Bishop's totals of 1216 hits and 1156 walks as minimum of each for the comparison.