By In Baseball

The Instant Intentional Walk

OK, I’m trying to think of a single good thing about the proposed new rule to eliminate the actual process of intentionally walking a hitter. I might have one, but it probably isn’t the positive that the competition committee had in mind.

By now you probably have read Jayson Stark’s sourced story that says baseball’s competition committee — in an effort to deal with two of baseball’s bigger problems — made a couple of recommendations. The first of those recommendations is the major one: They want to raise the bottom of the strike zone a bit (to the top of the knees) to help counter baseball’s runaway strikeout trend.

And second, in an effort to speed up a slowing game, they want to change the intentional walk so that pitchers no longer have to throw the actual four pitches. Apparently the pitcher would emphatically point to first base or something like that, and the hitter would be instantly walked.

We’ll get to that bizarre recommendation in a minute.

The strike zone change makes some sense. Baseball probably should do something about the strikeout. Teams are whiffing eight times per game for the first time in baseball history — that means almost one-third of all outs are by strikeout. That does make the game less exciting. Baseball is a pendulum, with the advantage swinging from hitter to pitcher, back to hitter and back to pitcher, and right now I think most people would agree that the game is too tilted toward pitching. Taking away the low strike (and the even lower pitches that umpires inevitably call strikes) is a sensible thought.

That said: I don’t know if the rule change would have the desired impact. A lot of this is guesswork. Small — almost imperceptible — adjustments to the rules or even to the baseballs themselves can massively change the game. Will the strike zone change force pitchers to bring up their pitches, giving hitters better opportunities top put the ball in play? Maybe. Then again, it might lead to the skyrocketing of walks, which would only make the lack-of-action problem worse. It might lead to an enormous power surge in the game, where players again start hitting 60 and 70 home runs. Any time you make changes, you are opening up the game any number of unforeseeable consequences.

But THAT said: I’m all for doing something. The low strike isn’t great for the game. Umpires these days often call strikes on low pitches that most hitters simply cannot hit with any authority. I can see how a slightly revised strike zone is worth trying.

The second rule, the no-pitch intentional walk rule, well, I have no idea how that absurdity made it out of committee. I have no idea how that makes the game any better. No one despises the intentional walk more than I do. But my problem with it has nothing to do with how much time it takes up — what are we even talking about here? Thirty seconds? A minute? And how many intentional walks are there, anyway? This year, baseball averages about one intentional walk every THREE GAMES.* This is like trying to reduce the high cost of college by making pizza cheaper.

*I do have this theory that intentional walks will go up because — with strikeouts at an all-time high and batting averages at historic lows — I think the intentional walk becomes a more optimal strategy in today’s game. But so far, thankfully, the intentional walk is not being used all that much.

So what good would this rule do? It would save almost no time. It would alter one of the more fundamental rules of baseball — four balls equaling a walk. It would take away the fans’ opportunity to express protest by booing the pitcher and manager every pitch. It would inspire equally silly and pointless time-saving options such as Brandon McCarthy’s wise guy idea of eliminating the home run trot.

So how would this rule improve the game in ANY way? The only way I can think of is if you made the signal for the intentional walk something entertaining.

Example: Make the pitcher and/or manager fulfill some sort of reality TV challenge — eat a live bug, sing the school song, avoid a live jaguar for 30 seconds — before he could order the intentional walk.

Well, that’s not the only way. I suppose it might improve the game if the hitter that is intentionally passed walks backward around the bases — from third to second then to first — and gets to mock each of the fielders as he goes by.

Or, wait, I suppose it might improve the game if, after the pitcher points to first base to to launch the intentional walk, the hitter is then allowed to point to any fielder and have him taken out for the rest of the inning. I would be all for this, sort of a power play type of thing.

Alas, none of these are likely a part of the competition committee’s recommendation, so what good could possibly come from this new intentional walk rule?

I mentioned above that I came up with one advantage: if they actually institute this rule — and I am predicting right here that they will not — it might highlight just how ridiculous and anti-competitive and bad for baseball the intentional walk really is. Maybe the visual of seeing a pitcher simply point to first base to avoid the game’s best hitters in key moments will make clear that this is a hole in the game, a too-easy way to evade the tension that helps make the game great.

Errrr, probably not. So, no, there’s nothing good about the idea.

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68 Responses to The Instant Intentional Walk

  1. Geoff says:

    This certainly won’t have a real impact, but it’s not THAT crazy. This is routinely done at the HS level and other leagues (including the men’s league I play in). You won’t get much benefit, but on balance it might be a good thing.

    • GW says:

      You want to walk him? Walk him. As he said, it happens all the time in HS games….I coach high school baseball and think it would be weird to have to go through the formality of throwing four balls. JMO. You (and everyone else) will get used to it, Joe.

  2. boonert says:

    I remember when Willie Montanez used to swing at one of the pitches just to screw with everyone. Very entertaining.

  3. Rob Smith says:

    The Atlantic League has been following these rules for a couple of years, along with several other “speed up the game” rules. I think it’s pretty obvious that to speed up the game there needs to be multiple changes. Intentional Walks only take about a minute, so you’d have to have a lot of Intentional Walks to really chip away at the speed of the game.

    Also, and I can’t find any reference to this, but I thought they experimented with the no pitch intentional walk 20-30 years ago in Spring Training. Maybe they were just thinking about it.

    But bottom line, you need a purpose. I think the only way it would shorten the game, as with the Atlantic league, if you combined it in a package of changes to speed up the game. The Atlantic league included a pitch clock, 6 pitch warmup rule, a time limit on the break between innings, limiting the time walk up music can play, timed “time outs” limited to 30 seconds, and several other rules. So, to me, if you adopted a package of rules that would chop 15+ minutes off a game, then it starts to make sense to do the no pitch intentional walk. By itself, it doesn’t do much. But that would be a radical change to the game. The type of change that baseball rarely attempts. They always seem to be bound to traditions instead of actually improving the game for fans.

  4. Dave Howard says:

    You can shrink the strike zone by calling strikes only on pitches wholly in the strike zone. No more fractions of an edge of a corner. Every now and then pitchers screw up intentional walks with wild pitches, so leave it. Get rid of the balk rule, if you want to change something.

    • rfaronson says:

      If you get rid of the balk rule, then you get rid of stolen bases, one of the most exciting parts of the game. There’s a reason for the balk rule, and it happens less frequently than an IW.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Getting rid of the balk rule would also slow down the game as it would invite all kinds of fake throws over and fake pitches. Dumbest idea ever.

  5. Nick says:

    Again, I suggest limiting the number of intentional all walks to two per team per game. Still available but more thought will need to go into when they should be used.

    • LoSonnambulo says:

      You want to preserve the chance for a team to walk the bases full to set up a double play/force at the plate when the game is on the line. A limit of two per game means that if you walk someone earlier in the game, you forfeit the chance to walk the bases full later. So limit it to three – how many games feature three intentional walks by one side?

    • rfaronson says:

      Remember Sal Maglie? He’d just hit the batter instead of intentionally walking him; one pitch instead of four. And if you limit intentional walks, you’re just forcing catchers and pitchers to memorize another sign for the unintentional intentional walk.

      • Geoff says:

        “Remember Sal Maglie? He’d just hit the batter instead of intentionally walking him; one pitch instead of four.”

        No, he didn’t. Maglie hit a total of 44 guys in his career, including 10 in his first full season. He also issued 8 IBB, although the actual number is probably quite a bit higher, since they didn’t keep track for the first six seasons of his career (and during which he accumulated 2/3 of his career innings). It’s a nice story, but it’s simply not true.

        • First, the same story is told about Don Drysdale, for whom Maglie was a mentor when Big D was a Dodgers rookie. Second, just because he hit 44 and walked 8 intentionally, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have done it–one of the guys he hit could have been an intentional walk, unless we slog through the wonderful and find play-by-play of each of Maglie’s games. And as much as I love baseball, I probably would prefer to be hit by a pitch.

          On another note, remember the old line that home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords? That’s part of the strikeout problem, well put by Tony Gwynn, the best hitter I’ve had the privilege of seeing. He was asked what was the worst thing happening to baseball and he said, ESPN. Why? Because players wanted to make the highlights instead of doing the important little things like sacrificing or hitting behind the runner, or they would try for catches they shouldn’t attempt. Well, I don’t want to sound like an old fogy, but we have gone from 16 teams in 1960 to 30 today; are there THAT many more capable players? Throw in the argument that a strikeout is as good as any other out (an insane argument in most circumstances, a logical one in a few), and I am not sure the strike zone is the problem.

          But then we come to where the trouble will start: when umpires start calling the new strike zone and the commissioner’s office doesn’t back them. In the early 1960s, they changed the balk rule, and the umpires followed it … and the league presidents didn’t back them up. The balk rule was changed again.

          • MikeN says:

            Yes there are that many more good players. How many foreign players in 1960? Plus the population is much higher now.

          • Geoff says:

            I’ve always taken the Maglie story to suggest that he would hit guys rather than walk them intentionally as a matter of routine. If the argument is that at some point he might have done this a couple of times, maybe, but so what? That doesn’t suggest it’s a viable strategy or anything.

            You made a couple of other comments that I (probably against my better judgement) feel like I need to address:

            1) Unless you define “best hitter” to mean the player who best avoided strikeouts and hit the most singles the other way, suggesting that Tony Gwynn is the best hitter you’ve seen is pretty silly when there was a guy in his division that was *literally* twice as good a hitter as he was, and 8-10 other guys from his era that were probably better hitters, as well.

            2) The old saw about the quality of play declining in some way since 1960 has been disproven any number of ways, but here’s the short version: A) The pool of available talent is now way, way more than twice the size of what it was 50+ years ago. This is true not just in terms of straight population growth and the availability of international players, but in terms of accessibility to big league teams. In 1960, there were undoubtedly plenty of talented players that simply got missed. Today, if you’re good enough to be a high draft pick (or get signed out of the D.R.), every team will know who you are.

            3) You suggest that situations in which a strikeout is no worse than other outs are the outliers, when it fact the exact opposite is true. Non-strikeout outs have some benefit in that they can result in misplays or advance runners, but that’s almost completely balanced by the fact that strikeouts are never GIDP’s.

          • duffy01 says:

            The best athletes play basketball and football now. Soccer is very popular with youngsters as well. Larger population, yes; but much more competition for athletes.

          • Jim says:

            It appears that Geoff does not understand the meaning of the word “literally”. Barry Bonds’ OPS for his career is 182. Gwynn’s is 132. 182 is not “literally” twice as much as 132.

            This, of course, puts aside the PED issues of comparing Bonds to anyone…

          • Geoff says:

            My apologies. I should have said “literally twice as good relative to the average hitter,” although that would undersell how much better a hitter Bonds was than Gwynn. Clearly all big leaguers are at the far right end of the curve, so one is actually twice as good as anyone else relative to a baseline if not being able to play catch without getting hurt. So yes, I literally know what the word “literally” means, but thanks for your guidance.

            I also have no trouble comparing Bonds to anyone else due to “PED issues,” just as I have no trouble comparing Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and everyone else who played from 1960-2010 due to PED issues (amphetamines), or pre-1947 players due to “integration issues.”

          • Rob Smith says:

            Drysdale never met a story that he wouldn’t exaggerate. He loved spinning a story & it made for good listening. But it doesn’t mean that he had some special first person insight that made his words ring true. I’m sure, once or twice, it could have happened. But obviously the stats show that it’s highly unlikely that he did it frequently.

          • bob rittner says:

            While Geoff makes a perfectly cogent point in explaining his notion that Bonds was twice the hitter Gwynn was, it is possible to claim that Bonds was literally twice the batter than Gwynn was even without that clarification. Using BB-Ref figures, his O-War was 142.6 while Gwynn’s was 66.2. Their overall WAR comparison is similarly more than double in Bonds case. Bonds ISO is also more than twice that of Gwynn-in fact close to three times better.

            In any case, in practically every important category-HRs, OBP, Slugging, OPS+, Doubles and even SBs Bonds has higher or better numbers.

            As for the importance of Ks vs other outs, of course in macro terms a strikeout is no worse than any other kind of out. The key is not whether making contact is better than striking out, but whether once contact is made, except in certain cases, if an out results, it doesn’t matter.

            Naturally, if you hit the ball, it might get you on base via error, or might move up a runner making scoring more likely. (It is also possible you hit into a DP which is worse than a K in most cases, or make the third out, which is the same.) But if one player strikes out twice as often as another but ends up with a higher OBP, he has probably been the more productive batter.

          • Jim says:

            Bonds racked up 31% of his oWAR from age 36 to 39 when he turned into a cartoon figure.

            I readily admit that Bonds was a first-ballot HOFer and better overall hitter than Gwynn before the time period in which it is generally acknowledged that Bonds started taking PEDs. However, minimizing Gwynn’s career (and the sheer joy that fans took in watching him hit; as Joe has said, walks are boring) is a bit much.

            Also, to ignore the impact that PEDs had on Bonds’ career arc by saying, “well, everyone took greenies in the 60’s, so it all balances out” is myopic, in my view.

  6. Donald A. Coffin says:

    The problem remains the intentional, unintentional walk…the catcher takes his normal position, the pitcher goes through his normal pitching motion, but misses inside, outside, sideways, down. (Or as one of the old-timey pitchers once said, “An intentional walk is two at his head and two at his knees.”) If they want to walk someone rather than pitch to him, they will. It will just be less obvious.

  7. Swissvale says:

    The issue with strikeouts and pace of game are one in the same. Every team has seven or more relievers all throwing 95+ mph. Starter goes 6 innings, bring you’re lefty specialist. Then your rightie specialist. Then your eighth inning guy. Etc, etc.
    Limit rosters to ten pitchers.
    Starters have to start going deeper into games, teams no longer looking only for fireballers since stamina is now just as important, no more endless innings with four different pitchers.
    Averages go up, strikeouts decrease, pace of game speeds up, and you don’t have to change any fundamental rules of baseball to accomplish it.

    • Dan W. says:

      In addition, if pitchers were “on the clock” and had to pitch ever 5 seconds they would be more likely to throw hittable pitches. The ability of pitchers to set their own tempo gives them an advantage. So if MLB wants to help hitters it ought to make pitchers pitch faster and reduce the number of relief pitchers.

  8. David says:

    Biggest downside? No more of these:

  9. Brian says:

    Joe, have a thought for you to help get rid of the intentional walk. As the BBWAA votes for all the major award winners, institute a rule that any pitcher that issues an intentional walk during the season is ineligible to win any award. If they’re not good enough to get the best guys out in big spots, they’re not good enough to win Cy Young.

    Now, I don’t believe you actually should do it. I’m not against the IBB like you are. It’s cowardly but I don’t think it should be illegal.

  10. Tom says:

    I think that these are good proposals. If anyone had asked me, these would be
    proposals that I would have recommended because they could probably be passed and they would have a limited effect on how the game is actually played.

    The intentional walk rule is used in high school and many recreational leagues.
    I know because I umpire youth baseball. Normally, there is a constituency which objects to many rules changes because the changes could have a negative monetary effect on a class of players. However, I cannot imagine either pitchers or hitters having a strong objection to waiving the necessity of making four pitches far outside the strike zone. Nothing out of the ordinary happens 99.9 % of the time when this is done. This is a good rule change, but it would have almost no effect on the length of games.

    In the last few years, I have noticed that a lot of “low” pitches have been called
    strikes when they appear from the center field camera to be below the knees. I suspect that the umpires can adopt to this new rule after a transitional period. The only thing we don’t know is what are the consequences. Will there be increased walks where nothing happens? Will hitting improve so that the length of games
    is dramatically increased?

    It will be difficult to regulate the balance between offense and defense (pitching)
    so that more balls are put in play and, at the same time, the games move along briskly. The fans generally want offense, but if there is too much of it, the games get longer and the fans turn off the TV or leave the park early.

    Its funny that during the so called steroid era of the late 1990’s and the 2000’s, it was said that the strike zone was the size of a postage stamp and should be enlarged. Now there is a proposal to make it smaller. I guess that in the last ten years or so, for some reason, pitchers (both starters and relievers) have learned to throw the baseball several MPH’s faster then before. I remember that it was not that long ago when a 90 MPH fastball was exceptional. Now, it needs to be 95 to 100 MPH to be exceptional. How did this happen?

  11. There are a lot more hitters who can make contact on a low strike than a high one. Low strikes tend to produce ground balls—a good thing—while high strikes tend to produce whiffs—a bad thing. I think that as the high strike has gotten progressively lower since its heyday in the 1960’s, umps have added a little to the bottom of the zone to compensate, and give the pitchers a fair window to throw to. Squeezing the zone at the knees is just going to add to the number of walks. I think that making sure the umps don’t add an inch or two to the corners like they did in the Maddux-Glavine era will go a lot farther towards helping hitters than shaving an inch or two at the knees.

    The automatic intentional walk seems silly to me. Better to concentrate on eliminating the intentional walk rather than facilitating it. It won’t speed up the pace of the game by more than a few seconds anyway. As for pace of the game, and improving batting outcomes, instituting a rule that would require a pitcher to record one out or give up one run before allowing a pitching change would curb some of the excesses of lefty-righty switcheroos and lead to more favorable platoon advantages.

  12. Cliff Blau says:

    The bottom of the strike zone has been the top of the knees before, and I didn’t notice many players hitting 60-70 home runs then.

  13. Wayne C says:

    The best way to speed up the game would be to prohibit batting gloves.

  14. sansho1 says:

    Walks per nine innings have remained remarkably stable over the last 50 years or so, always hovering around 3-3.5, despite a long history of changes in the general condition of the game. They seem to self-correct to whatever environment is presented, so I wouldn’t worry too much on that count. I think it would be a definite improvement.

  15. Kuz says:

    Talk of “eliminating” the intentional walk has always driven me crazy. I’ve been (w)racking my admittedly limited brains trying to imagine how one would eliminate the intentional walk. I’m trying to come up with an analogy. One analogy would be eliminating terrorism by banning the murder non-combatants. How would that work?

    • John R says:

      Give the batter the option to decline a walk. If he does, restart the at bat with a 0-0 count.

      • Kuz says:

        I’d throw four more balls, then what, decline the walk again? OK here comes four more.

        • John R says:

          Why would you do that? The batter can decline endlessly. Being stubborn about it would accomplish nothing, and meanwhile your arm is getting tired.

          • Kuz says:

            I guess you just don’t get it. Your idea makes a farce of the game. You just can’t legislate a strike.

        • Schuxu says:

          Have you read Poz on that subject before? If you walk him a second time he gets two bases, and so on.

    • Tampa Mike says:

      Why are you so worried about eliminating something that doesn’t even happen all that often anyways?

  16. njwv says:

    My first reaction to the Instant Intentional Walk was wondering if this is part of the adoption of the pitch clock.

  17. Moon says:

    Even if you get your wish and MLB bans intentional walks, there will still be intentional walks. Managers will give some secret sign to the pitcher who will throw 4 unhittable balls into the dirt or something. This may result in a wild pitch or a passed ball, but I see that as karma for trying to avoid a hitter.

  18. ND5 says:

    The unintentional intentional walk is fine because they still have to work for it. It’s lame, but it requires effort.

    The intentional walk is a lazy workaround to use minimal effort.

    Or at least I thought so… the instant walk is even lazier.

    • Andy says:

      ^ This. Yes, there would still be pitch-arounds, but that’s the point. The pitcher would have to pitch and hit his spots.

  19. LoSonnambulo says:

    The intentional walk is not silly when it’s intention is to create a force play, especially when that play would be at the plate.

  20. MikeN says:

    Actually, I haven’t read Jayson Stark’s column, and this was the first I heard of it. I wonder how many people here have done so.

    I like your eliminate the fielder idea. How about we make that the rule for any four pitch walk?

  21. manimalof7 says:

    To me, the best way to deal with the IW is to let hitters step across the plate and hit them. Why there’s still a rule preventing that I’ll never know.

    Re: strikes, it seems like the high number of strikeouts is due to hitters being too selective, and pitchers just having to throw it over the plate. If anything, expanding the strike zone would make hitters swing, which to me would lead to more balls in play and less called third strikes.

    • Kuz says:

      This would also lead to farce. Imagine the batter jumping in front of the catcher with a man on base. The batter cannot impede the catcher from throwing out a runner.

  22. rfaronson says:

    The IBB takes four pitches. That’s a minute. Once every couple of decades a hitter smacks a pitch too close to the plate (note the video was when Cabrera was still a Marlin). Once a decade there’s a wild pitch or a fake IBB leading to a called strike. But those are all trick plays. On average, every game could be shortened by 20 seconds. Find enough of those little time savers and you’ve shortened the game. I’m fine with it. There’s also a minuscule reduction in potential injuries (eight fewer throws and squats) and I see no downside except tradition for a bad rule. Baseball has changed hundreds of bad rules over the decades; when the only argument in favor of something is something that happens once every few years, it’s a bad rule. I’m not a fan of the IBB but this isn’t bad.

    As for the strike zone, that’s something different. Teams have learned that there is more benefit to two fireballers in the bullpen than a long man/spot starter and a third catcher/utility man, especially because you can bring a guy up from AAA the next day what with planes and more teams having their AAA team somewhere close. You’d have to change the option rules, such as a team can only make so many roster changes a season unless a 15 day DL is involved, and unlimited 60 day DLs. That would put more value on the spot starter who might have to go 4-5 innings instead of throwing 90s for one inning. Fewer one inning relievers means (inevitably) fewer strikeout artists who can’t throw more than an inning (because of the strain on their arms). Mandating 10 man pitching staffs would just lead to a constant recycling of long relievers the day after your long reliever pitches.

    The real problem, and it’s not a problem IMO, is Moneybal. Everyone in baseball understands the value of OBP, so batters take more pitches, not just to try and get walks, but to tire the starting pitcher and get into that bullpen sooner, and to show ones teammates more pitches so they hit better. With more walks and power, you get more fielders chosen for their bats so the strikeout is even more valuable; so what if he walks two in the process?

    I hate to say this, because I love umpires, but I think the real solution might be to use PitchF/X to call balls and strikes if the umpire thinks it’s close (same is he asks the fellow umps on checked swings). Batters get two appeals per game per batter (more if appeal overturns the strikle), umps get rewarded with playoff games for percentage of correct calls behind the plate, the strike zone gets tightened, calls are more accurate. Yes, it would take a little bit more time for the appeals, but at least we’re getting the call right. I still seethe over a playoff game a few years back where the Phillies got 16 incorrect calls in their favor, one against, and the Dodgers 13 against, one four, according to GameDay’s strike zone, on a game in Philadelphia of course. That’s the real home field advantage.

    • Richard says:

      With regards to using PitchF/X or some similar system to call pitches….

      Do you set the “strike zone” at the front of home plate? The back? The middle? The batter’s front knee? His back knee? How do you adjust it for the batter’s stance? His height? Do you go by where the center of the baseball passes, or any part of it? The strike zone is a three-dimensional space with fluid boundaries. Are you going to have to recalibrate the system with each at-bat? Each pitch?

      Calling balls and strikes is a LOT more complicated than you think.

  23. Kuz says:

    For the younger fans out there, Google “1972 World Series fake intententiobal walk”.

  24. The Old Pro says:

    By baseball standards, waving the batter to first is a sudden, headlong innovation. It’s only been 50 years since Bill Veeck proposed it.

  25. Ian says:

    Didn’t Johnny Bench hit a home run off an intentional walk pitch?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Not that I know of. But he was struck out by Rollie Fingers after “faking” like they were going to intentionally walk him on a 3-2 pitch. Bench always said he was not fooled and was ready to hit it. But Fingers threw a tough slider on top of everything.

  26. Robert Rittner says:

    Perhaps I missed it, but I am surprised nobody has suggested that a four pitch walk becomes 2 bases and/or a four pitch walk moves every base runner up 1 base whether forced or not. It would of course penalize pitchers who are wild or lose their control for a batter, but it might also increase offense because with a man on base and a big hitter up, the pitcher might be discouraged from nibbling or pitching around the batter, so the batter may get more hittable pitches.

    It seems to me that approach serves its purpose by discouraging a strategy rather than adding more complex rules and non-baseball changes like limiting how often you can do something (limits on appeals) which I hate because they add a tactical choice or lack of one that has nothing to do with the play itself.

  27. Rob Smith says:

    We lost a championship game in Little League when I gave up a single to the other team’s best hitter in the bottom of the last inning. Later, thinking about it, I asked my Dad (the coach) why we didn’t intentionally walk him since the next hitter was much weaker. He said “that stuff’s for girls”. End of conversation.

  28. Swissvale says:

    Just looking at teams that one the World Series in five year intervals:

    2011-2015 86 pitchers on the five teams appeared in 10 or more games. 48 appeared in at least 30 games. 21 appeared in at least 50 games.

    1991-1995 59 pitchers on the five teams appeared in 10 or more games. 33 appeared in at least 30 games. 16 appeared in at least 50 games.

    1971-1975 51 pitchers on the five teams appeared in 10 or more games. 37 appeared in at least 30 games. 11 appeared in at least 50 games.

    Again, limit pitchers to ten per roster. Relief pitchers are destroying the game.

    • invitro says:

      Nah, limit the number of pitching changes. Many problems solved. I think this is a Bill James idea. It’ll never happen because pitching changes = TV ads.

  29. Brian says:

    Is this column a joke? Someone is really arguing FOR watching four intentional balls perfunctorily sail high and outside? I know the “automatic” intentional walk doesn’t save much time, but my god I can’t believe anyone thinks the “non-automatic” intentional walk (which is really just an automatic intentional walk with more red tape) is something worth fighting to keep around. It’s just traditionalism run riot.

    • professorbohn says:

      If the argument is to save time, we’re talking about maybe 1 minute of a three hour game. It’s a change for the sake of change, which is just as pointless as the argument from tradition.

  30. Berdj Rassam says:

    Another tweak or two to the game which for those of us who remember how it was before the change(s) may care, while the new generation of baseball fans will be none the wiser and won’t care.

  31. KHAZAD says:

    I don’t think the increase in strikeouts has anything to do with the strike zone. Moving it a couple of inches (when the Umps all kind of have their own zone anyway) will change nothing.

    The increase in strikeouts has been happening steadily since 1980, and continued (albeit more slowly) through the years of the postage stamp strike zone in the late 90s and early 00s. It is due to several changes in the game, and the philosophy of the game.

    The first one was the steady increase in pitching changes and specialization. In 1980, only 45.47% of AL PAs were facing a pitcher for the first time that day, and 26.94% were facing the same pitcher for a third time or more. In 2015, 57.15% of PAs were the first time facing a pitcher, and only 18.7% were a third time or more.

    There were changes in philosophy involving hitting, having to do with “sabermetric” type realizations by the players and management of the game. The first was the idea to swing harder to get more extra base hits and home runs. Instead of simply trying to make contact, players began trying more fervently to hit the ball hard, and less players changed their approach with two strikes, as the prevailing wisdom said that strikeouts were just another out, and the trade off for the added power was worth it. Next was the rise of OBP and working deeper into counts to get walks. This patience at the plate also led to more two strike counts, and more strikeouts looking on borderline pitches that the old time players would have tried to hit or foul off.

    The biggest change in philosophy was the rise of fielding independent pitching metrics and Babip, which have been fully embraced by front office personnel and have completely change the type of pitchers the hitters now see. The idea of evaluating a pitcher primarily on his ability to get strikeouts and avoid walks – most heavily on the strikeout part, and the idea that what happens when there is contact is primarily luck, whether you agree with it or not, has been embraced and scouted for many years now, and coached at younger levels as well. Throw harder, strike out more guys, and you will get a shot. The entire generation of pitching we are seeing now has been brought up and scouted this way.

    I must say that one of the biggest oddities in sabermetrics is the idea that strikeouts don’t matter much on the offensive side, but that they matter above all on the pitching side. In my opinion any analysis should begin with the fact that the effect on run production that the strikeout has should be similar when lokking at either side, and if they they are not looked at this way, there is a mistake somewhere, but that is an issue for another day. For right now, the prevailing wisdom says to be aggressive when you swing offensively, but also be patient and get deep into counts. It also is strikeouts uber alles from the pitching side. As long as these two philosophies hold, and pitching gets even more specialized, the trend will continue.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I’m not sure how much of the change in hitters’ philosophies can be attributed to sabermetrics. I don’t think that many players actually understand or believe in sabermetrics. The only way I can see this having an impact is through analytically-inclined GMs that build their teams around high-power, high-strikeout hitters. But how many teams actually do that?

      I think hitters changed because players are stronger and more are able to hit home runs. The days of a Mark Belanger or Eddie Brinkman are gone. Last night, Danny Espinosa hit a bomb into the upper deck to win the game for the Nats. Now, Espinosa is not much of a hitter, but he does have power. I think there are simply more guys like Espinosa around; guys who aren’t particularly good hitters, but are able to hit home runs and so they do (and strikeout more) because they can. Fifty years ago, maybe a middle infielder would come up in that situation (late innings of a tie game) and just try to get on base because it would be futile for him to try to hit a home run.

  32. Tim says:

    If they really wanted to speed up the game and (more importantly) reduce fan frustration at perceived slowness, all you need to do is make one simple change. Relief pitchers who come in mid-inning (aside from when a pitcher is injured) have to come in already warmed up and ready to pitch. That’s it – done. The later innings with frequent pitching changes will no longer feel like such a slog.

    Of course, this will never happen since every pitching change means a commercial break – this would be a non-starter with MLB and all the RSNs who are paying billions of dollars for these games.

  33. Mark says:

    I’m against the intentional walk proposal because it would remove another human element in the game. Just the other day, the White Sox were suffering a ninth-inning meltdown against the Royals and the White Sox pitcher STRUGGLED to make accurate lobs to the catcher on two intentional walks. A couple tosses were borderline high strikes the batter easily could have offered at, and one sailed over the catcher’s head for a wild pitch. Give me the remote chance of a crazy result, a smidgen of uncertainty, over the robotic free pass.

  34. Squawks McGrew says:

    I know I’m an old-timer but the desire to speed up the game is targeted at folks who really aren’t going to love the game anyway no matter how much time you shave off it. I like the fact that the game’s “slow-paced” and I might be at the ballpark for quite some time. I remember when baseball embraced this unique feature — anybody recall the Mark Grace commercial where they showed highlights of being at Wrigley Field? Then, Grace turns to the camera and says “If you worked here, would you be in any hurry to leave?”

  35. Kennethrut says:

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