Mueller: The Astros are about to set an unbreakable record

From Bobby Mueller at The Hardball Times on September 18, 2019:

The intentional walk isn’t what it used to be. Back in the day (i.e., pre-2017), when a team wanted to intentionally walk an opposing hitter, the pitcher had to physically throw four balls out of the strike zone. It seems so quaint now. Since 2017, pitchers no longer throw those pitches. The manager simply indicates to the umpire that he wants the batter walked and the batter goes to first.

This simple task of communicating to the umpire that the opposing batter should be directed to first base has been executed by every manager in baseball this season except one—A.J. Hinch. The Houston Astros have not issued an intentional walk all season. Should they finish the year with a zero in the IBB column, in a season when records for home runs hit and allowed are falling left and right, they will own an unbreakable record. You can’t walk fewer than zero.

This isn’t a new thing for the Astros. They set the standing record for fewest intentional walks last year, when they issued just four free passes (note: intentional walks have only been officially tracked since 1955). In 2017, they issued the third-fewest intentional walks of any team. The Astros have been miserly when it comes to free passes in each of the last five years, which is a significant change in strategy compared to earlier in the decade.

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Originally published: September 20, 2019. Last Updated: September 20, 2019.