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Ron Washington may have ordered the worst intentional walk ever yesterday

May 12, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Getty Images

So, to catch you up quickly, I put up my Intentional Walk Rage System up the other day in response to a particularly awful walk ordered by Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. The system has six parts to it and has a maximum of 25 points — that being the perfectly awful intentional walk. Yost’s ordered walk of Robinson Cano almost tilted the system but not quite. It turned out to be a 23-point walk on the rage system, meaning it was bad enough to make me want to hit my head with a wok again and again but not quite bad enough to make me want to make me want to have a piano land on my head

Sunday, Texas manager Ron Washington tried desperately to top him, tried desperately for the coveted 25-point walk. He didn’t quite do it. As you will see,  though, his walk was SO BAD it did force me to add another element to the system. Bonus points.

Let’s go through the Washington walk step by step. Sunday, Texas against Boston, the Red Sox leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia began the game with a double. Red Sox manager John Farrell then had Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt …  if there was rage system for terrible sacrifice bunts THAT ONE would rank very high. I haven’t come up with the features of that system yet but bunting in the first inning, in Texas, with a good hitter and with the double play not even in order would certainly score very high.

But we’re not talking bunts, we’re talking walks, so Pedroia moved to third. Up came David Ortiz. The Rangers had lefty Robbie Ross Jr. on the mound so the Red Sox had the lefty-lefty matchup. Washington ordered the intentional walk anyway.

Let’s put it into the system and see what we get:

Q1: What inning was it? 

First inning, so that gets the maximum number of points of rage.

Result: 9 points.

Q2: Did the walk bring up the opposing pitcher or a particularly weak hitter?

No. No. No. No. No. No. The walk brought up Mike Napoli, who is a terrific hitter. He has a a lifetime 127 OPS+.

Result: 3 points

Total: 12 points

Q3: Did the walk give your team the platoon advantage or force the opposing manager to go to his bench?

No. It gave the exact opposite of the platoon advantage. More on this in a minute.

Result: 3 points.

Total: 15 points

Q4: Does the baserunner matter?

Absolutely. First inning, the baserunner matters a lot.

Result: 3 points

Total: 18 points

Q5: Are you setting up the double play to get out of an inning?

Well … yes. There was only one out in the inning so part of the strategy was to get out of the inning. This does reduce the outrageousness slightly.

Result: 0 points

Total: 18 points.

Q6: Are you intentionally walking someone SOLELY to avoid a great hitter?

No. Not solely. I’d say it was 75% to avoid Ortiz, though. The maximum you can give here is four points. I’ll give three points.

Result: 3 points

Final total: 21 points.

So, by the math, this walk was not quite as bad as the Royals walk of Cano. But there is another factor I had not considered the first time around … mainly because I just didn’t think any manager would be odd enough to force this question.

Q7: Is the player you are walking to face CLEARLY BETTER than the the batter you walk?

This takes the question to a whole other level. As much as I despised all those Barry Bonds intentional walks, as much as I despise all those cowardly decisions not to trust pitchers to get out good hitters, as much as all that drives me nuts … I will generally concede that, hey, managers are ordering these walks to lesser hitters.

But in this case? No. I don’t think so. Well, certainly, David Ortiz is an overall better hitter than Mike Napoli. But we are not talking about an general situation here. We are talking about a situation where the pitcher on the mound is left-handed.

Mike Napoli is a MUCH better hitter against lefties than righties.

David Ortiz is a MUCH worse hitter against lefties than righties.

You might argue that this is already covered in the platoon advantage question, but I’m asking making a slightly different point here. In this case, Mike Napoli is also a better hitter than David Ortiz. One way to test this is to ask the question in reverse. Let’s say you have a lefty on the mound and there’s a man on third base. You want to intentionally walk someone to set up the double play. Which intentional walk would make MORE sense?

1. Walk Ortiz to face Napoli?

2. Walk Napoli to face Ortiz?

David Ortiz, in his career, hits .268/.341/.480 against lefties. Last year he hit .260/.315/.418.

Mike Napoli, in his career, hits .275/.385/.521 against lefties. Last year he hit .284/.376/.523.

I’m not sure how to score walking one hitter to face a better hitter on the scale because it’s so ridiculous that I’m not sure it comes up often enough. For now, it’s enough to give this Washington walk a three-point bonus, making it a 24-point intentional walk … just about enough to peak my general rage and disgust. It goes without saying that Napoli promptly doubled, in the end all three runs scores, and the Rangers lost by three. I’ve made the point before that the rage system is unconcerned with the result of the walk — sometimes stupid intentional walks get good results just like sometimes terrible poker players win money. But in this case, the result is fulfilling. A walk that bad deserves to blow up.

Remember how Andy Griffith on the old Andy Griffith Show would only give Barney Fife one bullet, in case of emergencies? The Rangers might want to consider doing something like that for Ron Washington, for his own good.

  1. snitor - May 12, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Well, the same thing could have been said for the Cano walk, no?

  2. tbutler704 - May 12, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Wash is awesome.

    • jerruhjones - May 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      That’s how baseball go.

  3. scoutsaysweitersisabust - May 12, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    How about bonus points for intentionally walking two batters in a row? I’ve seen that a few times before.

    • jkcalhoun - May 12, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      That happens most often when the leadoff batter hitting for the home team reaches 3rd with less than two outs in the bottom of the 9th with the game tied or in extra innings. The only runner that matters is the guy on 3rd; if he reaches home safely, the game is over.

      I won’t “walk” through Joe’s IWRS to see how he’d rate intentional walks in that situation, but they make a lot more sense than the walks he’s been highlighting lately.

      If it happens earlier in the game when those extra runners matter, different story.

  4. raysfan1 - May 12, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    I still say the all time worst IBB was by the Cards in the ’11 WS. They used a relief pitcher to issue the walk and then pulled him before the next batter. The excessively weak reasoning was that a miscommunication had resulted in the wrong pitcher getting sent in from the pen…so they wasted him and then brought in the other guy. That has to earn a huge bonus on the rage scale.

  5. Glenn - May 12, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    As a Sox fan, I was gnashing my teeth at Victorino bunting, but Washington’s idiotic intentional walk made it all go away. Even better when Ortiz scored. Shouldn’t professionals know a little more than the fan at home?

    • rollinghighwayblues - May 12, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      Did you happen to see the Ike Davis boner last night? And no, not in his pants. Pirates are mounting a two run deficit, bases loaded and no outs with Rosenthal on the mound. The batter before Davis gets walked on four straight. Four. What’s the golden rule after a four pitch walk? Take until you get a strike, right? Ike pisses on that idea and hacks away at what would’ve been Rosenthal’s fifth straight ball. Pop up to the 1B. One out in the inning with the winning run at second base. What’s the next batter do? Grounds out into a 1-2-3 double play to end the game. I pray that Clint Hurdle gave Davis the tongue lashing of the decade.

    • chc4 - May 12, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      I can’t kill Davis for that. With the bases now loaded in a 1 run game you know the pitcher is throwing a get-over fastball after walking the previous guy on 4 straight. I’d be mad at Davis for missing the pitch, not swinging at it.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - May 12, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        I was thinking maybe it was one of those “due to the camera angle the pitch seemed worse than it really was” issues. Nope, he swung at a bad pitch:

        http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/numlocation.php-pitchSel=572096&game=gid_2014_05_11_slnmlb_pitmlb_1&batterX=85&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3&league=mlb&cache=1.gif

      • Francisco (FC) - May 12, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        Make the guy throw a strike! Victorino suffered from this same fallacy in the ’09 WS and swung at three AWFUL sliders in the dirt when he had Grand Slam stars in his eyes. GRRRR HULK SMASH!

  6. nolanwiffle - May 12, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Sometimes ya just gotta trust your gut?

  7. pisano - May 12, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    I’ve never seen this guy as much of a manager, he’s had plenty of horses over the years, but to be called a good or great manager, NO.

  8. tbird05 - May 12, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    Joe, you are my hero.

  9. tacojones - May 12, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    I’m not excusing Wash’s decision, just maybe making it slightly less egregious? Napoli might hit into a double play and end the inning, right? Meanwhile, if Ortiz hits a routine grounder to second, Pedroia can crawl home because of the shift.

    Also, going back to the hypothetical scenario of choosing to walk Ortiz to face Napoli or vice versa, how likely is Ortiz to hit into a DP with the shift?

    • rollinghighwayblues - May 12, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      hehehe you said “DP”…

    • paperlions - May 12, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      It is the first inning in a hitter’s park. Who care’s of you give up 1 run at that point, what you don’t want to do is facilitate a big inning occurring.

  10. 18thstreet - May 12, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Joe, you wrote that “Red Sox manager John Farrell then had Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt,” but the ProJo’s Brian McPherson said that Shane did it on his own.

    • Francisco (FC) - May 12, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      This just reinforces my post above on how Victorino makes poor decisions during his at-bats.

  11. lukedunphysscienceproject - May 12, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    I don’t even disagree with Joe on this, but I would make a couple of points:

    1) Comparing averages is a little disingenuous. With one out and a speedy runner on third, he doesn’t need a hit to get that run in. A medium fly ball or even a well placed ground ball would do it.

    2) If you’re listing all of the players you’re hoping to see standing on first base when you’re looking for an inning ending double play, you’re not got going to get too far before you get to David Ortiz.

    3) And once you’ve gotten Ortiz out at second, you’re not exactly terrified of Napoli beating the throw to first.

  12. drewsylvania - May 12, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    The only thing I could think of is that Ortiz has hit lefties well this year so far. Or maybe there’s something in the scouting report that suggests Ortiz would hit Ross and/or Napoli wouldn’t.

    But I think I’m giving Washington too much credit.

  13. thoughtsandsox - May 12, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    You left out one thing in the who is better against lefties Napoli vs Ortiz argument; that is the shift that is put on Ortiz by virtually every single team for every single Ortiz at bat. I’ve watched probably 60% of Red Sox games in the past 15 years and I don’t know how to look it up but the shift beats Ortiz allot! With a man on third Texas can’t use the shift against Ortiz which would raise his .268/.341/.480 slash against lefties.

    On kind of that same note. I guess if I could actually see in numbers how much the shift beats him I might think differently but wouldn’t it behoove Ortiz to bunt to third every now and then, in the right situation of course? If the opposing team knows he may bunt they can’t shift every single time against him which would make more of his hits fall in. Right now they know it is not going to third so they shift away. I’m saying this and I hate the bunt but to me it wouldn’t really be a bunt it would just be a soft hit to third.

  14. phatnate - May 12, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    That’s why we pay big $$$ to read Joe.

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