Deane: Save the intentional walk

From SABR member Bill Deane at on June 1, 2016:

Criticized for ever-lengthening games, now averaging 2:56 each, Major League Baseball has bandied around all kinds of ideas designed to speed up the game.  One of these is to allow pitchers to signal for an automatic intentional walk, instead of having to throw four deliberate balls.  If approved, this will take effect in 2017.

Don’t do it!

First of all, the time savings of such a change would be negligible.  Last year, there were 951 intentional walks in 2,429 games.  An IBB is defined as a walk in which the pitcher “purposely throws the (last pitch) wide to the catcher” – in other words, only the fourth ball has to be intentional for it to count.  I don’t know how many of the 951 were of the four-ball variety, but I’d guess around 700.  That means there is just one full-fledged intentional walk every three or four games.  If each IBB requires 30 seconds, this rule change would save an average of less than ten seconds per game.  As my birthday twin William Shakespeare would say, “Much ado about nothing.”  (I prefer Jim Bouton’s idea for speeding up games: to outlaw Velcro.)

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Originally published: August 29, 2016. Last Updated: August 29, 2016.