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Buster Olney asks an odd question

Sep 9, 2011, 7:21 PM EST

question mark

I’m guessing this is Buster Olney trying to add to the whole pitching to the score/pitcher wins/Cy Young/Jack Morris debate.  But since it’s Buster Olney, it doesn’t make all that much sense.

The tweet:

A question for anyone who thinks pitchers don’t make decisions according to the score: please explain timing of intentional walks.

OK.

1. Pitchers don’t call for intentional walks.  The bench calls for intentional walks.  At best, the pitcher might have some influence over the decision following a trip to the mound.

2. The intentional walk is simply a maneuver used by a team in an attempt to hurt the other team’s chance of scoring one or more runs (usually one).  At least, that’s the idea anyway.  Teams issue them when they’re ahead, when they’re behind and when they’re tied, simply because the whole idea is that it’ll hurt the other team’s chances of scoring.

Anyway, I’m not sure what Olney hoped to add to the debate here.  Besides, no one has ever said pitchers don’t acknowledge the score when they pitch.  Many of us just don’t think it makes any real difference at all.  The great pitchers tend to be just as great whether they have one or eight runs to work with.

  1. cur68 - Sep 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Its the kind of thing which makes you wonder if Olney even watches baseball because he wants to or is forced to take in a game once in awhile so he can keep his job.

    • kiwicricket - Sep 9, 2011 at 7:44 PM

      I have been thinking the same thing Cur. He just seems so utterly unenthusiastic about being at the ballpark.

      The AllBlacks got under way last night with a win over Tonga. This is going to be a pretty fun 2 months of sports watching!

      • cur68 - Sep 9, 2011 at 8:16 PM

        How ironic. I was just watching Invictus the other night with my brother and we both realized that it was time for RWC again. A fact which had escaped us till then. Re. Invictus, all I could think was what a gem of a movie and that it takes Nelson Mandela being involved to get you rooting for the ‘boks against The All Blacks. Since the Canadian team will be pummeled (probably literally) I shall formally register my rooting interests as The All Blacks once the Canucks are carted safely from the field. However, until the blood bath; GO ‘NUCKS!

      • kiwicricket - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:03 PM

        Haha, I have always supported the ‘Nucks in their Rugby and Cricketing endeavors.
        I was born in South Africa, but grew up in New Zealand…. That is called edging your bets my friend!

        Interesting thing about that final…
        type in “All Blacks and food poisoning before the 1995 Rugby World Cup
        final” into google!
        (I was going for South Africa on that one anyway)

  2. scatterbrian - Sep 9, 2011 at 7:53 PM

    There are 29 pitchers who have issued 6 or more IBBs this season. 15 are relief pitchers. The 14 starting pitchers have a 117-142 combined record, and only Tim Hudson, Jake Westbrook and Brandon Beachy have winning records.

    • kiwicricket - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:06 PM

      That’s actually really interesting. How on earth do you guys find this sort of thing though? What websites are you looking at?

      • Lukehart80 - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:18 PM

        I don’t know what site Brian was using, but it may have been the Play Index feature at Baseball-Reference, which is awesome. Most of what it can do requires a subscription, but I find it to be money well spent (and there’s lots of good stuff for free there too).

      • kiwicricket - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:33 PM

        Thanks

      • scatterbrian - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:01 PM

        I went here because they have all the info on one page: http://bit.ly/qPiGc3

  3. bcopus - Sep 9, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    There have only been 3 winning pitchers this year who have eaten lettuce on a Tuesday. And intentional walks have only been harmful if the pitcher has adjusted his left shirt sleeve after the third ball.

    This is the kind of thing that kills public opinion on science, statistics, and commonality. A perceived link is not the same thing as an actual link.

    • Lukehart80 - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:19 PM

      While I agree that the specific set of numbers mentioned above is fairly meaningless, the fact that something like that can even be looked up is pretty cool.

    • cktai - Sep 10, 2011 at 4:24 AM

      That was brian’s whole point though. Olney claims that pitchers can pitch to the count through the use of intentional base on balls. Brian shows there is no link between winning and using intentional base on balls.

  4. bigleagues - Sep 9, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    He used to be Author, Buster Olney.

    Now he’s ESPN’s baseball blogger, Bluster Phoney.

  5. jwbiii - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    Olney clarifies himself in a subsequent twit:

    And what of pitchers who who work around acgood hitter in a tight spot? Same choice when tied 2-all as ahead 6-0? No.

    So, yeah. Senor Pujols (or your favorite player who is likely to damage outfield seats) is going to see more fastballs when his team is down 6.

    • Kevin S. - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:44 PM

      If Pujols is pitched around/intentionally walked, that helps his team score runs. Pitchers being more afraid of the big hit than giving up baserunners aren’t actually giving up fewer runs in the long run. That’s the point people make when they discredit the idea of pitching to the score.

  6. leftywildcat - Sep 10, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    Anyone other than long-term die-hard Phillies fans (phans) remember Gene Mauch?

    The solution to issuing intentional walks (say, with a left-handed hitter facing your right-handed pitcher) is to bring in a lefty reliever, and put your rightly playing third base. After your lefty gets the lefty hitter out, take your lefty reliever out of the game, put your righty back on the mound, and bring a new third baseman into the game.

    Anyone else remember this?

    Abbott and Costello might have loved this. Who’s on third? Depends.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 10, 2011 at 3:13 AM

      Lou Pinella did this a couple years ago. I’ve heard rumors Whitey Herzor used to do it as well, but have thus far found no evidence of it on baseballreference.

    • deepstblu - Sep 10, 2011 at 9:03 AM

      Sam McDowell is credited with one putout as a left-handed second baseman in the 1970 AL fielding stats, the result of Alvin Dark trying that strategy.

  7. thefalcon123 - Sep 10, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    I’ve always been utterly flabbergasted by anyone suggesting Morris should get credit for “pitching to the score”. 1. It’s not really true. I highly doubt if he did it at all he did it more than anyone else and 2. if you’re arguing he did do it, why didn’t Steve Carlton or Greg Maddux have to do it?

    It’s the most absurd argument ever. It’s like saying a .250 hitter is a great hitter but he just doesn’t both he try to get a hit when his team is up 12-1, so it’s okay.

    • Kevin S. - Sep 10, 2011 at 6:42 PM

      Actually, that’s more or less what Ryan Howard supporters argue.

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