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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Are Managers Getting Smarter About Intentional Walks? | FanGraphs Baseball

Without getting incredibly granular, it’s hard to make a mountaintop-worthy announcement that teams are figuring out how to use the intentional walk properly. There’s more research to be done here.We do know that the overall frequency of the IBB is down, which is good. We also know that when they do happen, they are happening in higher-leverage situations than five, ten, or 15 years ago. This is almost certainly good.

Jim Furtado Posted: March 13, 2014 at 09:15 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. boteman Posted: March 13, 2014 at 01:25 PM (#4670968)
Are Managers Getting Smarter?

FIXED!
   2. The District Attorney Posted: March 13, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4670981)
Having larger bullpens would generally suggest fewer IBBs, I think. If you don't want your righty reliever to face a certain lefty hitter, you don't need to put the guy on base; you can just bring in a lefty pitcher.

Still, I'm skeptical of this. I feel like I see more IBB to middle-of-the-order hitters, and a lot more "set up the double play" IBB, than I used to. And I think managerial incentives suggest this. The effect of an IBB gone wrong feels attenuated... it's not like the IBB directly scores a run... somebody else for the opponent still has to step up. And then if the guy who does get the hit is generally a worse hitter than the guy who got walked, that feels more like "bad luck" than a strategic mistake.

I wonder how the numbers would look if you removed the Boston and Washington outliers (10 and 17 IBBs, respectively -- God bless you, Davey!), and also removed IBBs of the #8 hitter in the NL.
   3. dr. scott Posted: March 13, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4670990)
Given the lower offensive environment, and lower HR totals isn't this just natural? I would assume given the lower run environment the optimum is near zero, so Im not sure people are being smarter, but just responding to the environment and lowering IBB's from the high high HR era.
   4. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 13, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4671017)
The lower the run environment, the greater the relative value of SLG to OBP, which would imply more IBB to power hitters I'd think.

Edit: Of course it also means fewer runners in scoring position and fewer IBB opportunities, so Idk.
   5. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: March 13, 2014 at 03:36 PM (#4671022)
Bobby Cox's retirement is finally showing up in the numbers.
   6. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 13, 2014 at 03:47 PM (#4671026)
the brewers going from ken macha to ron roenicke certainly helps the cause. ron has his flaws but god bless him for his aversion to the intentional walk.

   7. Walt Davis Posted: March 13, 2014 at 09:44 PM (#4671243)
Odd, I hope untrue, line from the article: Intentional walks are perhaps less of a lightning rod in our community than something like sacrifice bunts. Sheesh, if we think acquiring a base for an out is a terrible idea, giving up a base for nothing in return should make us apoplectic.

But near as I can tell, there is no attempt to adjust for "opportunities" -- i.e. first base open, etc. This is done somewhat by attempting various (indirect)* controls for leverage but the numbers presented are counts (except for IBB/PA). As 4 notes, fewer men on base implies fewer in scoring position with 1st base open, implies fewer IBB opportunities.

* Something of an odd decision. He uses inning, outs and score differential but separately. We've got various overall leverage measures now (WPA, LI, whatever) that using separate components is not necessary these days. It might be worth it to look at the separate components too but the leverage story is a lot easier to tell with a measure of leverage. :-)
   8. OCF Posted: March 14, 2014 at 03:05 AM (#4671290)
My all-time champion instance of an IBB causing me to yell at the screen, "Why are they DOING that?": this game of the 1989 NLCS, top of the fourth. Walking Brett Butler (the leadoff hitter) to load the bases with one out, so that if anything other than a DP happened, Will Clark would bat with the bases loaded. And Clark was on his way to having an OPS for the series of about eleventy billion.

What was missing from my memory, and I only found upon looking it up: the pitcher issuing that walk was Greg Maddux. And he's supposed to be smart. Huh.
   9. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 14, 2014 at 09:51 AM (#4671380)
With the increase in bullpen size and the decrease in bench size, I would expect IBBs to be issued more frequently. Teams aren't going to pinch-hit very often for a non-pitcher any more when they only have 3-4 bench players, and since teams are also doing at lot of R-L-R-L arrangements in their lineup I'd think you'd probably see more situations where a LOOGY comes in to face the first lefty, gives an IBB to the righty, and then faces the next lefty.

I took a quick look at the data, and obviously I'd have to do a more detailed analysis accounting for opportunities as Walt mentions in #7, but the first obvious trend that I see is that the percentage of intentional walks issued by a team with a lead is higher than it's historically been. Historically, only about 5-7% of IBB have been issued by a team with a lead; over the past few years that rate has been closer to 10%. That suggests that to the extent that there is a strategic change, the impact has been mostly in situations where the team issuing the IBB is trailing or tied.

-- MWE
   10. Cowboy Popup Posted: March 14, 2014 at 10:10 AM (#4671403)
Joe Girardi isn't.

He's a good manager and all, but the IBBs are infuriating.

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