Originally Posted by Dan
But isn't it true that a player can't subsist on walks alone? There has to be a point where walking but not hitting for average becomes a detriment to the team, right?
Let me put it another way. There are 3 types of strikes: swing and miss a ball in the strike zone, swing and miss a ball outside the strike zone, and don't swing at a ball in the strike zone. Of these, only the first kind are "good" strikes, in that the player is being aggressive in the right circumstance.
It's my guess that these players with high BB/K ratios are ones who make the majority of their strikes the swing and miss at a ball in the strike zone variety. This leads to a higher SLG if not necessarily a higher BA.
Given your caveats, my guess is he will pan out to be like Geoff Jenkins. Solid, but never quite hitting his potential ceiling because his selective aggressiveness isn't there.
The Sammy Sosa & Juan Gone logic could apply to Bruce. They ended up walking because while they never were great contact hitters, they stopped chasing so much. As their power grew, pitchers starting throwing out of the zone more. They were willing to watch those pitches and thus walks went up. However, they continued to swing and miss at pitches in the zone, so they kept striking out too.
They ended up hitting for average because of their power. The more balls you put over the fence, the higher your batting average is because those balls in play aren't subject to the chance of becoming an out. Particularly if you start converting FB to HR. That's the difference between Sheffield and Sean Casey, from a power perspective. Both guys can hit balls out of the yard when they really hit it square (line drives). But when Sheff gets some loft on the ball, he's got enough bat speed to still drive it out of the yard with regularity. When Casey gets under it, it more frequently becomes an in play fly ball, which turn in to outs more than any other ball in play.
Sheffield has a career HR/FB of 16.5%. For his career, his average has tracked closely with his power. When his flyballs turn in to homers, his average goes up - his 2003 with the Braves being a perfect example (21.0% HR/FB, .330 BA). Casey has a career HR/FB of 7.8%. In 2004, when Casey got his his HR/FB up to 13.2%, he hit .324. Obviously it's not a perfect cause/effect, but it's a pretty strong relationship.