One more post on intentional walks

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
5:55
PM ET
OK, call me slightly obsessed with the intentional walk. In a previous post, I wrote that there have been 73 intentional walks in postseason history when the team issuing the walk led by one run. Of the first 46, 40 occurred with runners on second and third. But of the next 27, only seven occurred with runners at second and third. I detailed the past 10 in that post. Here were the 10 before those:

2006 NLCS: John Maine (NYM) walks Albert Pujols (STL)
The situation: 3rd inning, runner on second, one out
What happened: Maine retired Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion.

2005 World Series: Cliff Politte (CHW) walks Lance Berkman (HOU)
The situation: 8th inning, runner on second, one out
What happened: Morgan Ensberg flies out. Neal Cotts enters and retires pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino (hitting for Mike Lamb). This was Game 4, which the White Sox won 1-0 to complete the sweep.

2004 NLCS: Jason Isringhausen (STL) walks Carlos Beltran (HOU)
The situation: 9th inning, runner on second, two outs
What happened: Jeff Bagwell singles in the tying run. Cardinals end up winning in 12 innings (this was Game 5; Cards took Game 6 as well).

2004 NLDS: Brandon Backe (HOU) walks Charles Thomas (ATL)
The situation: 4th inning, runner on second, two outs
What happened: Pitcher Paul Byrd delivers an RBI single.

2002 World Series: John Lackey (ANA) walks Barry Bonds (SF)
The situation: 5th inning, runner on second, two outs
What happened: Benito Santiago hits RBI single.

2002 NLCS: Dave Veres (STL) walks Barry Bonds (SF)
The situation: 7th inning, runner on second, one out
What happened: Santiago singles to load the bases but Reggie Sanders strikes out and J.T. Snow grounds out. Cardinals do win 5-4 (Bonds unintentionally walked in ninth with one out and nobody on).

2002 ALDS: Mike Stanton (NYY) walks Troy Glaus (ANA)
The situation: 7th inning, runner on second, one out
What happened: Shawn Wooten pops out but Scott Spiezio hits game-tying single. Angels score three in eighth to win. (Maybe if the game isn't tied, Mariano Rivera comes on for a two-inning save.)

2001 ALCS: Ramiro Mendoza (NYY) walks Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)
The situation: 7th inning, runner on second, two outs
What happened: Mark McLemore grounds out. Yankees hold on for 3-2 win.

2000 ALCS: Brett Tomko (SEA) walks Bernie Williams (NYY)
The situation: 5th inning, runner on second, two outs
What happened: Tino Martinez grounds out. This was the clinching Game 6. Yankees score six runs in the seventh. An intentional walk to Jorge Posada helps the rally.

1999 NLCS: John Rocker (ATL) walks Mike Piazza (NYM)
The situation: 8th inning, runner on second, two outs
What happened: Robin Ventura strikes out. John Smoltz comes on in the ninth for the save.

So, including those other 10, here are the results of these 20 "up by one" intentional walks with a runner on second (or third) base:
  • Nine times it worked (10 counting the Orioles' walk to Robinson Cano on Monday).
  • One run scored: Six times.
  • Three runs scored: Two times.
  • Four runs scored: One time.

Remember, most of those situations probably seemed as logical as Buck Showalter walking Cano. Yet the success ratio was only 11 for, nine against. And twice, it backfired to the extent that it resulted in the key hit of the entire series (Bengie Molina homering off A.J. Burnett for the Rangers in 2010 and Kaz Matsui hitting a grand slam for the Rockies against the Phillies in 2007.)

Again, I'm not saying Showalter made the wrong move. It worked out and in the end that's what matters. But these intentional walks -- and not just in this narrow category of "ahead by run" -- will be interesting to watch as the postseason unfolds.

FYI, for those few who are interested, here are the other batters intentionally walked in this type of situation: Ryan Klesko (1996 World Series, bottom of ninth in 1-0 Game 5, Klesko pinch-hit and Joe Torre had Wetteland walk him to face Luis Polonia); Manny Trillo (1981 NLDS, No. 8 hitter); Darrel Chaney (1973 NLCS, No. 8 hitter); Billy Cox (1953 World Series, No. 8 hitter); Pete Reiser (1947 World Series; this was the famous Bill Bevens near no-hitter game when he walked Reiser with a runner on second in the ninth inning and then Al Gionfriddo broke up the no-hitter with a game-winning two-run double); Joe Gordon (1941 World Series); Babe Ruth (1926 World Series, Game 7, the inning when Pete Alexander came on to strike out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded).

Anyway, as you can see, up until the late '90s, this type of intentional walk with a one-run was rarely applied, excepting No. 8 hitters. It worked for Joe Torre in 1996 and maybe Bobby Cox remembered and used it against Mike Piazza in 1999 and managers have been doing it ever since, even though it's worked barely half the time.

By the way, the Orioles issued 36 intentional walks this season. Only one came when they were leading. Troy Patton walked Minnesota's Josh Willingham in the eighth inning of a 2-1 game on July 17 with runners on second and third. It worked that time as well: Justin Morneau grounded out.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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