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Walking a mile in his shoes

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 3, 2001


When the weekend began, Sammy Sosa was No. 3 in the National League in an all-important offensive category.

It was not RBI (he was sixth) and it was not home runs (he was seventh). Sosa, a notable free swinger from the time he hit the majors, was third in the league in walks. It is a remarkable transformation that has gone largely unnoticed the past half-dozen seasons.

In 1996, the Cubs rightfielder actually had more home runs (40) than walks (34) for the season. He averaged a walk every 15.6 plate appearances that year. Since then, however, Sosa's walks per plate appearance has improved every season. He now is three times more likely to draw a walk than he was in 1996. The difference shows in his overall production. Sosa's OPS (which is slugging percentage plus on-base percentage) has also been on a steady incline. His OPS the past two years is actually higher than 1998 when he hit 66 home runs.

(Year, walks per PA, OPS)

1996, 15.6,.890

1997,15.2,.782

1998,9.8,1.026

1999,9.0,1.005

2000,7.6,1.044

2001,5.0,1.045

- Compiled by John Romano.

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