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Sunday, September 12, 2004

Changing Intentional Walks

Great article here on The Athletic Reporter on the silliness of banning or changing the rule regarding the intentional walk (something Bill James has advocated). I particularly like his closing:

"If you want to talk about rule changes relating to Barry Bonds, one more in accordance with baseball history would be banning giant elbow pads the size of beach balls. Bonds is able to lean out over the plate to a laughable degree, and any pitcher who dares to throw one two inches off the inside of the plate (i.e., at him) is subject to reprimand and ejection. This notion that pitching inside is not allowed, and that giant elbow pads the size of beach balls are, has done as much if not more than steroids to undermine the basic competitive nature of baseball. When held up next to steroids and giants elbow pads the size of beach balls, intentional walks don't even register on the "Ways Baseball Is Worse Because of Barry Bonds" scale.

So stop this 'banning the intentional walk' nonsense. I don't want to here anymore about it."

Couldn't agree more.

For those interested in the underlying question as to whether teams should pitch to Barry Bonds or not, a study was published in the November 2002 issue of By the Numbers, the newsletter of the SABR statistical committee. The study by Jerome P. Reiter concluded from 2001-2002 data that "there is little difference in opposing team's ability to prevent runs when walking Bonds versus when letting him hit. In fact, the data suggests that it may be better to pitch to Bonds than to walk him in certain game situations." For example, the only two situations where the Giants actually scored less frequently when walking Bonds was with none on and one out and none on and two outs.

The authors of Curve Ball also did an analysis of this issue in chapter 9 using 2002 play-by-play data and found that you should walk Barry a runner on second and two outs and runners on second and third with two outs. In all other situations you either definitely pitch to him or it was too close to call. It's interesting to note that 5 of the 7 situations in which it was too close to call were with 2 outs, the other 2 with 1 out. Never walk Barry with nobody out.

By the way, Barry hit his 699th homerun of his career tonight and now has 203 walks, 104 of which are intentional.

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