Whenever circumstances prompt a comparative look at different baseball eras, people are justifiably amazed at some of the ways the modern game has changed. The incidence of strikeouts is a good example. When Dan Uggla compiled a 33-game hitting streak earlier this season that ranked second longest in Braves history, it was pointed out that he struck out 27 times during the streak -- compared to the nine Tommy Holmes had during the entire 1945 season during which he'd hit in a club-record 37 straight. By now, the strikeout angle is trite, no matter the yardstick applied. Yes, Babe Ruth led the American League in whiffs five times, yet never had more than 93 strikeouts in a season -- a total that would've tied him for 110th in the Majors in 2010. Joe DiMaggio struck out fewer times in his entire career (369) than Mark Reynolds has since the start of the '10 season.
We get it. Less contact, but the ball travels farther when players do connect. Usually overlooked in that equation, however, is the flip side of the power tradeoff: Walks; or, sometimes, the lack of them. At this moment, eight big leaguers with 20-plus home runs already have a chance to finish the season with fewer walks than dingers -- something accomplished a total of 99 previous times. So while that statistical parlay has not been rare, it is definitely a modern trend: More than half of the occurrences -- 50 -- have come since 1991. The trot-don't-walk pioneer was the Philadelphia Athletics' Al Simmons, who in 1929 paired 34 homers with 31 walks. The statistical oddity was repeated only five times in the pre-1961 expansion era. Now, in this season alone, eight players could join the list, led by Alfonso Soriano, an old hand at this trick. The Cubs outfielder has hit 24 homers and walked 22 times (and even that includes four intentional passes). This would be the fourth time Soriano's homers exceed his walks. He had 39 and 23, respectively, in 2002; 36 and 33 in 2005; and 33 and 31 in 2007 (additionally, he had 38 of each in 2003). Mark Trumbo is the only other player with a surplus of homers at the moment. The Angels' rookie first baseman has 26 homers and 24 walks, including six intentional. Trumbo's teammate, Vernon Wells (20 of each) and the Orioles' J.J. Hardy (26 of each) are straddling the fence. Also in the picture are the Rangers' Nelson Cruz (28 homers and 32 walks) and Adrian Beltre (20-23), Washington's Michael Morse (26-29) and Baltimore's Adam Jones (23-27). The only one to pull off this stunt last season -- barely -- was John Buck, who hit 20 homers for the Blue Jays while drawing 16 walks. These are intriguing numbers for fans to crunch down to the wire. The trot-don't-walk peak was hit in 2000, when seven guys had 20 or more home runs and fewer walks: Tony Batista, Garret Anderson, Geoff Jenkins, Brad Fullmer, Glenallen Hill, Ivan Rodriguez and Daryle Ward. That was a freakish season. For one thing, the most players with more homers than walks in any other season is four. For another, everyone on that 2000 list reached his career high in long balls, with one exception. The exception was Pudge, who was in the middle of an unrivaled trot-don't-walk stretch. Rodriguez had more homers than walks in three consecutive seasons from 1999 to 2001 -- totaling 87 home runs to 66 walks. Rodriguez knew that a walk was as good as a hit -- but not as good as a long hit.