“A walk is as good as a hit” is a baseball adage that encourages a batter not to swing at bad pitches. If the bases are empty, a walk is as good as a hit. However, if it’s the bottom of the ninth and the winning run is on third base, a walk (to help load the bases) does not advance the runner; it simply sets up a potential out at other bases.
“A base on balls is as good as a hit” was cited in print in 1893 and “a walk is as good as a hit” was cited in 1913.
26 August 1893, Sporting Life, “Cincinnati Chips” by Paul Chamberlain, pg. 12, col. 2:
Control is essential when games are to be won, and a base on balls is as good as a hit.
10 October 1894, Cleveland (OH) Leader, “Base Ball,” pg. 2, col. 5:
Certainly a base on balls is as good as a hit, and cannot be rated as a fielding error.
18 July 1898, Cleveland (OH) Leader, pg. 6, col. 2:
One frequently hears a coacher cry, “Wait it out; a base on balls is as good as a hit.”
30 October 1913, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, “Work Starts on the Seals’ New Home at Lone Mountain” by Fred A. Purner, pg. 10, col. 5:
“Perhaps I will acquire the habit of walking, and, you know, a walk is as good as a hit.”
(San Francisco Seals second baseman Jerry Downs, on his employment as a floor walker.—ed.)
25 June 1914, Miami (FL) Herald, “Miller’s Great Pitching Put Seminoles on Top,” pg. 5, col. 3:
And it was then that the old saying that a walk is as good as a hit, was proven true, for he later scored.
2 September 1921, Tucson (AZ) Citizen, “In the Sporting World,” pg. 5, col. 1:
The Babe doesn’t always get a chance to knock out a four-ply blow, for he is so greatly favored that bases on balls are nothing unusual in his young life, and the wise birds tell us that a walk is as good as a hit.
22 December 1933, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, “Statisticians In Full Bloom At This Time” by John Lardner, pg. 17, col. 6:
After several minutes of tedious labor the pitcher sees him trotting off to first. and recalls the ancient ivory adage: “A walk is as good as a hit.”
The Dickson Baseball Dictionary
By Paul Dickson
New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
“walk is as good as a hit, a” A colloquialism urging a batter to get on base by not swinging at bad pitches. In reality, a walk is as good as a hit when the batter comes to the plate with the bases empty, but a walk may not be as good as a hit when a base hit advances a runner two bases.