None shall pass - Astros issue no intentional BBs

Harry Hooper

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Interesting article at the WSJ:

Houston hasn’t walked a batter intentionally all season and doesn’t intend to change course

The Astros haven’t walked a batter intentionally all season and have no intention of changing course now. This might not sound like much more than a quirky curiosity or a useless piece of trivia. But the Astros’ decision to eliminate what has long been considered a valid and beneficial strategy reveals quite a bit about the state of the modern game.

Batters are hitting fewer ground balls, which create the double plays intentional walks are meant to induce. They are launching home runs at a record rate, turning the intentional walk into an invitation to surrender even more runs via the long ball.

It’s why the Astros could become the first team to navigate a full season without issuing an intentional walk since Major League Baseball started recording the stat in 1955. The way things are going, it’s only a matter of time before the intentional walk goes the way of the spitball and the Sunday double-header.
 

Saints Rest

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The final sentence could be quantified by looking at historical IBB rates league-wide. Otherwise, this is just a curious anomaly driven by one manager/team.

I also wonder how many "intentional unintentional walks" (as my Dad used to say) are being given up, the proverbial "pitching around."
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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Caveat that you can't judge it by just the data but the Astros have had 51 4 pitch walks this season and they rank third in the AL in total walks with 322. The Red Sox have had 53 4 pitch walks out of the 400 (12th in the AL) they've given up along with 17 IBBs. So yeah, for a team that is much better at not walking guys they are giving up roughly the same number of 4 pitch walks as the Sox, who kinda suck at walking guys.
 

BaseballJones

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The Astros, organizationally, definitely have figured some things out with regards to pitching. For a few years there their affiliates at every level led their respective leagues in strikeouts, across the board. They've brought in guys who were either nothing burgers or struggling and quickly turned them into top-shelf pitchers. They also seem to have drafted well. They are doing a lot right with respect to pitching. It helped that they were so bad for a while that they continually got top draft picks, and so maybe their drafts will produce less top-shelf talent, but still...they've got something figured out.
 

bosox79

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Seems like a pretty stupid choice in interleague play pitching to the 8th hitter when there are 2 outs instead of just walking him and facing the pitcher. Not sure if that situation has actually occurred.
 

j44thor

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Seems like a pretty stupid choice in interleague play pitching to the 8th hitter when there are 2 outs instead of just walking him and facing the pitcher. Not sure if that situation has actually occurred.
Unless the 8th hitter is a HR threat what is the harm in pitching to him and taking the chance the pitcher will knock him in vs. walking him and having the pitcher still have to knock him in? I could see perhaps if there are RISP already the case for walking the 8th hitter. Otherwise I find it hard to argue for walking the 8th hitter and more or less assuming the top of the order comes up next inning vs. facing the 8th hitter and leading off with the pitcher the following inning.
 

bosox79

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Unless the 8th hitter is a HR threat what is the harm in pitching to him and taking the chance the pitcher will knock him in vs. walking him and having the pitcher still have to knock him in? I could see perhaps if there are RISP already the case for walking the 8th hitter. Otherwise I find it hard to argue for walking the 8th hitter and more or less assuming the top of the order comes up next inning vs. facing the 8th hitter and leading off with the pitcher the following inning.
Yeah, I meant with RISP, and maybe even 1st base open. A policy should allow for exceptions.
 

CSteinhardt

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Seems like a pretty stupid choice in interleague play pitching to the 8th hitter when there are 2 outs instead of just walking him and facing the pitcher. Not sure if that situation has actually occurred.
Doesn't seem obviously stupid, because it's a multi-inning game (and if this were the 9th inning, there would be a pinch hitter anyway who might well be better than the 8th hitter). Most of the time, you get the 8th hitter out and the pitcher slot leads off a new inning instead. And the top of the lineup is much better at producing runs -- this is the main reason that the 1st inning has more runs scored than any other inning, as well as a good reason openers are a useful strategy. My run expectancy matrix is a few years old, and I'm applying a flat correction for the top of the lineup based upon 1st inning totals vs. later innings, but the difference between having the leadoff hitter up to start the inning and with the bases empty and 1 out is around 0.28 runs (plus there is an additional benefit in reducing the chances that the top of the order gets an extra AB at the end of the game). The only situation in which it would be better to walk a league average 8 hitter if the pitcher is an automatic out would seem to be 2nd/3rd, 2 out. I don't know whether the Astros have faced that specific situation this year, but in every other case, the runs saved in the next inning are more important.
 

jon abbey

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The Astros, organizationally, definitely have figured some things out with regards to pitching. For a few years there their affiliates at every level led their respective leagues in strikeouts, across the board. They've brought in guys who were either nothing burgers or struggling and quickly turned them into top-shelf pitchers. They also seem to have drafted well. They are doing a lot right with respect to pitching. It helped that they were so bad for a while that they continually got top draft picks, and so maybe their drafts will produce less top-shelf talent, but still...they've got something figured out.
I don't think the draft position and their recent pitching record have any connection, most of their big league staff has come from other teams. McCullers was the #41 pick and Whitley was the #17 pick, but neither of those guys have been part of the team this year. Their very high pitching draft picks like Aiken and Appel either didn't sign or were busts, it's all about superior pitching coaching for them currently, just like NY has recently been remarkable at turning castoff position players into solid contributors or even stars.
 

DanoooME

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And in the opposite direction in terms of statistical oddities, the top 5 in intentional walks this year are the entire NL East. Mia, NYM, Phi, Atl, Was
 

bosox79

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190 IBB in the AL this year
349 IBB in the NL this year

Top 12 teams are in the NL. Not really surprising.
 

singaporesoxfan

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Doesn't seem obviously stupid, because it's a multi-inning game (and if this were the 9th inning, there would be a pinch hitter anyway who might well be better than the 8th hitter). Most of the time, you get the 8th hitter out and the pitcher slot leads off a new inning instead. And the top of the lineup is much better at producing runs -- this is the main reason that the 1st inning has more runs scored than any other inning, as well as a good reason openers are a useful strategy. My run expectancy matrix is a few years old, and I'm applying a flat correction for the top of the lineup based upon 1st inning totals vs. later innings, but the difference between having the leadoff hitter up to start the inning and with the bases empty and 1 out is around 0.28 runs (plus there is an additional benefit in reducing the chances that the top of the order gets an extra AB at the end of the game). The only situation in which it would be better to walk a league average 8 hitter if the pitcher is an automatic out would seem to be 2nd/3rd, 2 out. I don't know whether the Astros have faced that specific situation this year, but in every other case, the runs saved in the next inning are more important.
Yeah, I thought “traditional” NL strategy for the 8 hitter was to try to clear the pitcher i.e. avoid having the pitcher lead off an inning.