It seems hard to believe, but once upon a time the yearly totals of walks and strikeouts were almost equal. From the dawn of the lively ball era, in 1920, through 1951, walk and strikeout totals were within 10% of each other in all but four seasons, and they were within 15% in all of those years. But strikeouts have exceeded walks by more than 15% every year after '51. In fact, each of the past six seasons has seen almost 70% more K's—a ratio of 1.7 whiffs for every walk.
Among players with at least 100 bases on balls in a season, the best walk-to-strikeout ratio, 6.31, belongs to Elmer Valo of the '52 Athletics, who had 101 walks and 16 strikeouts. At the opposite extreme stands John Bateman. Playing for Houston in 1963, he fanned 103 times while drawing only 13 walks—for a rate of 7.92 strikeouts per walk. Through last Saturday's games, Mark Grace of the Cubs was on pace to break Valo's record for the best walk-to-strikeout ratio, and Houston's Pete Incaviglia was on target to break Bateman's record for the worst ratio.
The leaders this season: