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The New Walk Rule

10 questions about the Automatic Intentional Walk rule

Here is everything — and I do mean EVERYTHING — any sane person would want to know about the new intentional walk rule. OK, let’s be honest, a sane person would not have more than two questions about it.

Brilliant readers never let you down. They ask two more questions — and they are questions that I actually asked people in baseball. I just thought they were too boring and unimportant to answer. I should remember: Here at the blog NOTHING is too boring or unimportant.

Question 11 from brilliant reader samlub: Does the pitcher get credited for throwing the four pitches.

Answer: He does not. No pitches are recorded.

Question 12 from brilliant reader Brent: Does the intentionally walked batter count as a batter faced?

Answer: Yes he does. This actually could come into play — a manager could conceivably want to delay the game to get someone warmed up. The manager could put in a spare pitcher (say tomorrow’s starter), have him lob a few warm-up pitches and then have that pitcher on the mound when he calls for the intentional walk. This WOULD count as a faced batter, so the manager could then go back to the mound and bring in the now warmed-up reliever.

This seems like something Billy Martin or Earl Weaver would do. It’s a legal play, at least for now. But I imagine that MLB would not look fondly on such a move, and if it was abused I suspect that the rule would change from “batter faced” to “pitch throw/out recorded.”


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31 Responses to The New Walk Rule

  1. samlub says:

    I’m surprised you came up with all those questions without asking this one: Does the pitcher get credited with throwing four pitches (for balls) that he didn’t actually throw?

    • Joe Posnanski says:

      He does not. I asked … answer didn’t seem interesting enough to include.

      • samlub says:

        Maybe you should have gone to 11 questions then. 🙂

        The reason this potentially becomes interesting is that Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine may have been able to throw more Maddux’s if he wasn’t credited with those 708/580 extra pitches…

        • Rob Smith says:

          I think this brings up something interesting. Remember, it’s not the pitcher that calls for the Intentional Walk, it’s the Manager. So if we’re going to rank those that have the most Intentional Walks we should be ranking the Managers.

          Maddux and Glavine are up there because, along with their long careers and high IP count, they had Bobby Cox as a Manager for a large part of their career. Bobby LOVED the intentional walk. He also loved that ground ball to second to “get the runner over”, the bunt, and all kinds of other old school silliness. In fact, on the Braves broadcasts, you have Mark Lemke who played for Bobby spewing this nonsense endlessly. In 2017 you’d think that we’d have some smarter dialogue on the radio.

          • Casey Bell says:

            Considering Cox’x unmatched string of 1st place finishes, maybe his passion for “old school silliness” wasn’t all that silly.

            It seems kind of pretentious for someone who has never managed a MLB team to question the intelligence of a man whose teams won 14 consecutive division titles and 5 NL pennants in 8 seasons (not counting the strike year).

          • Karyn says:

            Bobby Cox had an amazing rotation and some pretty good hitters. For the most part, he kept the clubhouse on a pretty even keel. That’s probably the most important and the most difficult part of being an MLB manager.
            This is quite different from saying that some of his on-field moves we now recognize as being poor percentage plays.

  2. AdamE says:

    I hope for every single Intentional Walk the manager goes to the mound and visits the pitcher, then walks back the the dugout, has the pitcher throw 3 “unintentional balls, and lastly holds up a sign on the 4th pitch that says “Screw Your Time Saving Rule Changes Manfred! Batter take your base.”

    • invitro says:

      Why do you hope that, and why would a manager do that?

      • SDG says:

        Manfred is such a dummy I’m not entirely opposed to trolling him.

        While in practice this calling walks thing might not matter much, that’s not the point. It’s stupid. It undermines the fact that we’re watching athletes DO things, not just say they’ve done them. No other sport does this that I’m aware of.

        I also expect it will have strategic consequences none of us are imagining right now.

        • invitro says:

          “It undermines the fact that we’re watching athletes DO things, not just say they’ve done them.” — I’m sure there is a small number of baseball fans that are really bothered by not getting to see pitchers throw the intentional walk pitches, and I’m also sure that small number is a very small number. The point is to improve the experience of watching the game, not to preserve silly nonsensical slogans.

    • Rob Smith says:

      If any Manager did this, I’d hope that he’d be ejected after being beaten with a rubber hose.

  3. Brent says:

    Does the batter count as a batter faced? Let’s say I am a manager who doesn’t have his guy in the bullpen ready yet, but needs a few extra minutes to get him warmed up. So, I come out to the mound, and then when the umpire comes to break it up announce that I am replacing my pitcher with my left fielder, bring the guy in from left field, and put his replacement out there. Then let my LFer take his warm ups, then announce that he is intentionally walking the batter (so he doesn’t actually have to risk throwing a pitch), then come out and replace him with my now warmed up relief pitcher. Is this OK?

  4. Marco says:

    Obligatory addition to any discussion of intentional walks:

  5. Jeff says:

    “Answer: Yes he does. This actually could come into play — a manager could conceivably want to delay the game to get someone warmed up. The manager could put in a spare pitcher (say tomorrow’s starter), have him lob a few warm-up pitches and then have that pitcher on the mound when he calls for the intentional walk. This WOULD count as a faced batter, so the manager could then go back to the mound and bring in the now warmed-up reliever.”

    There was nothing stopping a manager from doing this previously. Bring in an off-day starter, have him lob four pitches to IW the batter, then bring in warmed-up reliever.

  6. Sadge says:

    Yes, but what about those other rule changes? What’s this about the defense not being allowed to leave markers on the field for reference? What is the new footwork regulations for pitchers?

  7. I think the story is actually untrue, but supposedly Don Drysdale, who’s fifth on the all-time list, got the signal from Walter Alston to walk Frank Robinson intentionally and instead hit Robinson with the pitch, reasoning that it saved three throws.

    If Rob Manfred wants to speed up the game, he might try reducing the time between innings. Oh, dear, we could never have THAT, could we?

    By the way, Bill Veeck talked about eliminating warming up between innings, arguing that if you weren’t warmed up by then, you wouldn’t get warmed up. Jocko Conlan also preferred not to have the grounds crew come out and sweep the infield in the fifth inning, and the last time I went to Dodger Stadium, I think they came out every other inning to do it.

    I can remember that Doug Harvey–all rise, please, at the mention of God–started refusing to give batters timeouts, saying if they weren’t ready, they could just back out of the box so they wouldn’t get hit by the pitch. If we did reduce the timeouts and the posturing between pitches, most of the problems would be solved.

    • invitro says:

      “If Rob Manfred wants to speed up the game, he might try reducing the time between innings. Oh, dear, we could never have THAT, could we?” — No, the time between innings is for commercials, and they’re not going away. Manfred does have many other changes planned that should significantly reduce dead time. The players’ union is against all of them, so they won’t be implemented this season, but maybe next season.

    • Jeffsol says:

      Hallelujah on the idea of not automatically granting time. Get in the damn box and be ready to hit. They called Mike Hargrove The Human Rain Delay and I think he’d be on the speedier side of players in today’s MLB where everyone seems to step out of the box after every damn pitch. God I sound like an old grumpus…

      • KHAZAD says:

        You are right, he was considered extreme for his time but would not stand out at all now.

        Umpires actually used to refuse time quite a bit, and they never do it now. Players just raise their hand and back out. Many also raise their hand and take about 15 seconds to “get comfortable” when they are actually in the box. (I blame Derek Jeter for this)

        I saw half a dozen instances in games that I watched last year of the Ump granting time while the pitcher was in his windup. That kind of late time out was never granted before the last 10 years or so. I continue to assert, while the league fiddles with pitch clocks (Do they start after the batter gets comfortable? Do they restart after he asks for time?) and free walks and other smaller things that it is the batter, not the pitcher, that is the biggest waster of time. Clock it some time in a game, and you will agree.

    • Robert Rittner says:

      This one may also be apocryphal, but I heard that Stan Williams, also a Dodger pitcher, was told one season that he would be fined every time he walked a batter. He threw hard, but had poor control, and this was intended as an incentive to put the ball over the plate, not nibble. So whenever Williams got to a 3-0 count, he would intentionally hit the batter to avoid the fine.

      Also, aren’t the warmup pitches between innings not to warm up the pitcher but to get reacclimatized to the mound which develops subtle differences as the game proceeds and different pitchers use it, differences that really do matter to the pitcher’s delivery? The same goes for the reliever who has to adjust to a different mound from the one in the bullpen where he warmed up.

  8. Robert Rittner says:

    Does the research show that young people are deserting the game because it is not fast paced enough, or is this an assumption based on the proliferation of computer games and such? I wonder if we aren’t defaming a generation with false assumptions.

    As a senior citizen, I have seen the games become increasingly slower due to batting glove adjustments, mound trips and the like, and do think it worthwhile to enforce the rules already in the book to speed them up. I don’t consider it vital, but reasonable to require players to get on with it and stop stalling. And while I think that changes in strategy, such as increased bullpen usage, are a natural evolution in the sport and a product of increasing insight into the game, I don’t think putting some limits on it in regards to pitching changes would hurt the sport or stop it from experimenting with new approaches.

    I like Joe’s idea of making managers do something demeaning to signal an intentional walk. I have some really nasty ideas about how to do that.

    • invitro says:

      I don’t know of any research that suggests young people are “deserting the game” at all, for any reason. And I don’t think alleging that people are watching less baseball (whether it’s true or not) due to time-wasting activities is defaming… it seems like a natural response by anyone. (Perhaps the people that should be defamed are the players’ union, and maybe the umpires, for blocking the needed changes.)

      • invitro says:

        Here’s a 2013 article with a handy graph showing the increasing median age of World Series viewers by year: It gets a recommendation for comparing with the increasing median age of all Americans, but loses a little for the bars that focus on extreme values instead of the average. But the median viewer age gap (over the population median age) has increased, slightly, over the last 20 years. (Now I’d like to see how this compares with other sports. I did see a quick stat that showed the NFL’s age increasing, but less than MLB’s, and the NBA’s being constant.)

      • Robert Rittner says:

        My point about defaming is that there is a common assumption that young people lack an attention span, that they require constant stimulation and can’t appreciate anything that isn’t exploding or racing or otherwise dazzling. I don’t know whether such assumptions are valid at all or to some extent or are simply stereotypes with no concrete evidence, but if a whole generation is labeled in this way, it is a form of defamation.

        As for the union, its function is to protect the interests of the players, and while we may not see any immediate reason for resisting changes to increase the pace of play, they may exist and at the least may require the union to do its duty and investigate the possibilities before agreeing.

        Additionally, it may be a matter of asserting the union’s right to participate in decisions and not be bypassed whether for important or unimportant decisions. Management may try to steamroll a change through which not only sets up later efforts to do the same, but may have unintended consequences.

        And finally, if one side in a negotiation wants something-whether for the good of the whole or not-it is entirely legitimate for the other side to see whether advantages can be gained. If the players want some change in injury treatment for example, I would expect management to try to link it up to something they want. And since I don’t see how increasing the popularity of the game would be antithetical to player interests, if the union is hesitating, we must assume they are simply doing their duty.

        Note that they are not blocking the changes, just refusing to agree to them immediately. Discussion may make any current proposal more efficacious.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Robert Rittner,

      I agree with you. To me, the problem is not so much the time of the game but the pace. It drives me nuts to watch these pitchers fiddle around on the mound, trying to decide if they really want to pitch and, equally, watching hitters playing with their gloves, their jocks, and everything else. There’s no reason these players (with help from the umpires) can’t get moving. They are playing baseball, not solving unified field theory. Make the players play. Of course, the players resist ANYTHING that would disrupt their sacred routine.

  9. Jeff Chamberlain says:

    I can think of a few more questions about this new rule.

    Must the ball be live when the manager signals for a no-pitch intentional walk? (I’m guessing no.)

    Must the ball be live when the umpire sends the batter to 1b? (I’m guessing yes, which then raises these questions….)

    Must the pitcher be on the rubber when the umpire signals the no-pitch IBB? (If the ball is dead, to make it live the pitcher must be on the rubber with the ball.)

    If so, can the pitcher balk during a no-pitch intentional walk? (E.g., With a live ball, after the manager signals the umpire for a no-pitch IBB but before the umpire actually signals the IBB, pitcher on rubber drops the ball. Or pitcher improperly steps off to try to pickoff a runner at 3b.)

  10. Robert Rittner says:

    Here is another question. If Manfred thinks that eliminating the four pitch intentional walk is of any use, why not extend the point and eliminate the trot around the bases for over the fence home runs? There are a lot more home runs than intentional walks, and a lot more dead time trotting them out. Sure, we might miss the styling of some players, but really, is that a big deal? And the chances of some strange occurrence such as failing to touch a base is a lot less likely than the strange occurrences with pitching 4 balls.

    As soon as the ball is hit, the batter may run, but once the signal is given, he just trots back to the dugout. The same can be done with ground rule doubles. Once the signal is given, just run straight to second not bothering to touch first, and baserunners who automatically score just run to the dugout.

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