What is an Intentional Walk (IBB) in Baseball/Softball?
An Intentional Walk in Baseball, or, Base-on-Balls, is when the defensive team decides to purposefully walk a batter instead of trying to actively get him, or her if it's softball, out.
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What is the benefit of Intentionally Walking someone?
Baseball strategy, and now analytics, and of course, a bit of mythology and superstition in the old days if we're being honest, suggests that in certain circumstances, it's better to walk the batter than give them an opportunity to hit. Here's one such example.
It's the bottom of the ninth inning and the away team is ahead by 3 runs. There are two outs, with a man on third and a man on second base, as well as the home team's All-star slugger at the plate. In this scenario, it is often times better to walk the power hitter with first base being open than it is to let them swing away.
Sure, they could ground out, fly out or strikeout, but they could also hit a three-run homer to tie the game up. It might be better for the away team to take their chances with the next batter. In theory, and often in practice, the benefit of issuing the Base-on-Balls is to mitigate the risk of many runs scoring on one play.
Another common example is issuing a IBB to a slow hitter when first base is open and there is a man on second. This not only extends a future force play to the runner at second, it also gives the defensive team a greater chance at potentially turning a Double Play
Intentional Walk FAQs
Which player has been Intentionally Walked the most in MLB history?
Barry Bonds has been Intentionally Walked more than any other player. Barry was a feared hitter, especially in his later years. Setting any performance enhancing substances aside, Barry entered the major leagues with a great eye and exceptional plate discipline.
As the years went on, his ability to recognize pitches became truly remarkable. Because of this, he was able to produce offensive numbers in exclusive territory with regard to MLB history.
Pitchers and managers alike feared Barry. They feared him so much that they intentionally walked Bonds 688 times over his career. He had 120 IBBs just in 2004 alone.
To put that into perspective, Barry played in 147 games, resulting in a likelihood of 81.6% that Barry was given a free pass if he played in the game. That's absurd and bordering on unreal. The next two closest seasons are also Bonds in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
Further, of the top 7 seasons for Intentional Walks, Barry has five of them. Only Willie McCovey and Albert Pujols even come close to Barry's run on the first base freebie, with McCovey gathering 45 in 1969 and Pujols getting 44 in 2009.