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Matt Treanor, the Royals' Unlikely On-Base Machine

With two more walks and a single on Friday night, Royals catcher raised his OBP to .357 on the season. This has to be one of the more astounding random performances of the 2011 season, for the Royals or for any hitter in the American League. Treanor has little power and has a low batting average (.227). He has no real history of being a walk machine or a good OBP guy.

Treanor is third on the team in walks with 32, despite not being an every day player. And, you know, despite being not a good hitter.

Prior to this season, in over 1110 Major League plate appearances, Treanor had a career line of .227/.311/.310. He is 35 years old, playing in a pitcher-friendly environment. This all makes sense. TREANOR!

Now, Treanor has shown some patience in the past. He's had a handful of seasons with BB rates around 10%. However, he's well over 14% this season, a substantial jump. One of the keys to Treanor's performance is the fact that he's not swinging at balls outside the strike zone. His O-Swing is just 23.2%, below the league average of 30%. Now, this does raise the larger question, which is why aren't pitchers throwing Matt Treanor more strikes? 

Certainly, part of the answer might be the Alcides Escobar effect: those magical two months when our shortstop was hitting .200, turning him into a quasi-pitcher who pitchers wanted to face. Moreover, as the estimable Lookout Landing has pointed out from time to time, throwing strikes is harder than you might think. Sometimes guys can't find the strike zone even when they're really really trying.

Amongst AL catchers with at least 200 PAs, Treanor is just 10th in wOBA at .305, so it isn't like he's been a true offensive force. We don't usually talk about OBPs as being empty, but Treanor's OBP is entirely empty. In the end however, he's had a better offensive season that players like Miguel Olivo, Kurt Suzuki, Kelly Shoppach, and J.P. Arencibia, who are all probably considered better hitters than him.