The intentional walk
Sorry for not posting in a little while, but I was busy at the NSA 16U B World Series. It was a great and well-run tournament, and thankfully only affected by rain once. We did pretty well, ninth out of 34 teams, and with a couple more hits would’ve done even better. Oh well.
One thing that came up in the course of the week was the value of the intentional walk. I think the parents on our team were surprised when we pulled it out, because we hadn’t done it all year. But the circumstances were right, and I’m proud to say it did its job every time we used it.
A lot of coaches are either reluctant to issue the intentional walk or just don’t think about it. Maybe it’s a macho thing — we’re gonna gut it out and pitch to that hitter. Whatever the reason, you just don’t seem to see it a lot.
There were a couple of circumstances where we used it. One was with less than two outs and runners on second and third in a close game. We knew we had to cut off the run at home to keep the game close. We elected to put the next hitter on to load the bases. Throe hitter after that grounded to third and we got the force at home, giving us two outs and a little breathing room. The inning ended without a run scoring. That’s probably the classic scenario.
Another circumstance had a runner on third. The other team’s best hitter (at least against us) was coming up. We gave both her and the next hitter a free pass, again loading the bases, again with the desired result.
There are all kinds of circumstances where an intentional walk makes sense. And a few where they don’t. If the bottom of the order is up and your pitcher has been dominating them, you probably don’t want to bypass those hitters and get back to the top. If you’re in a position to trade a run for an out, you don’t want more runners on base. And so forth.
But if you really need to cut off the run, and you’re confident your infield can make the play, loading up the bases to get a force rather than a tag play makes sense. And bypassing a hitter who’s killing your pitcher in favor of one who’s not does as well. Even if the bases aren’t loaded. Heck, you might be better off walking her with bases loaded and giving up one run than letting her hit a double, triple, or home run and give up four.
As some of you head to Nationals, where presumably there will be a lot of parity in teams, keep the intentional walk in mind. It’s a gutsy call, but it just might save your season.