Punting on Pitching to Punto

From SABR member Colin Wyers at Baseball Prospectus on October 20, 2011:

To start with, wow: there was an intentional walk issued to Nick Punto in the fourth inning. This is a player who has 2,984 career plate appearances and nine career free passes. Rarely has it come to pass that anyone thought it was a good idea to walk Nick Punto of their own accord. This makes sense: usually a manager is glad to see a career .249/.325/.327 hitter come to the plate. They accept them gratefully.


Punto has just 14 career home runs, and he’s not much of a doubles threat either. Looking at positive events (runs that increase the likelihood of scoring runs, in other words), Punto gets 78% of his positive offensive value from non-walk events over the past five seasons, compared to 85% for the average hitter. And the difference between a walk and a single is less in this spot than it would be otherwise, with Lance Berkman being the runner at second; he can make it from first to third on a single only 22% of the time, compared to 27% for the average batter. So rather than being an exceptionally good spot for an intentional walk, this is an exceptionally poor spot for an IBB, which should narrow the gap between the two options. But no harm done, right? Unless you look at what it does to the next inning. The average team scores .60 runs in an inning where their leadoff hitter leads off the inning; when the pitcher leads off the inning that drops to .49 runs. Or to put it another way, you go from a 75% chance of a scoreless inning when the pitcher leads off to a 68% chance of a scoreless inning when the leadoff hitter bats to start the inning.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15338

Originally published: October 21, 2011. Last Updated: October 21, 2011.