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Do AL-To-NL Starters Reduce Their Walk Rates?

In my post discussing Gio Gonzalez, I pointed to Ted Lilly as an example of a pitcher who drastically reduced his walk rate upon moving from the AL to the NL.  As it turns out, there is no evidence a starter moving from the AL to the NL will reduce his walk rate, and Lilly was one of the more extreme success cases.

I asked stat guru Matt Swartz of FanGraphs to run some numbers on starters who had at least 180 innings in the AL one year and at least 100 in the NL in the next.  Since 2005, only 14 starters even fit these criteria.  Their walk rates dropped from 2.40 to 2.39 upon moving to the NL -- virtually no change.  Javier Vazquez, Ted Lilly, and Dan Haren had decent-sized walk rate drop-offs, while others like Edwin Jackson and Shaun Marcum actually had sizeable increases in the NL.  Matt also pulled this data dating back to 1993, which gave us 43 pitchers, and still found no significant change.

The bottom line: you can hold out hope that Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Mark Buehrle will see an NL-related benefit to their walk rates, but there's no evidence it'll happen.  Maybe someone like Gio will see the light anyway, but don't overrate the league switch in terms of walk rate.  Now, strikeout rate on the other hand...


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