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Wrapping up the season's intentional walks

The Intentional Walk Rage Scale (IWRS) leaderboard is updated with all of the intentional walks from the 2014 season.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the season I have been publishing a leaderboard for Joe Posnanski's Intentional Walk Rage Scale (IWRS). You can read the previous articles here and here. The basic idea behind the scale is that the intentional walk is a poor strategy in all but a very few situations and the IWRS provides an amusing way to identify the egregious (or reasonable) examples. Now that the 2014 regular season is complete we can update the IWRS leaderboard to look at the performance of this season's major league managers.

Here is a quick refresher on how the IWRS works. It involves assigning points to each intentional walk (IBB) based on the answers to the following six questions:

  1. What inning was the walk in? 9th inning or later: 1 point. Add 1 point for every inning before the ninth.
  2. Did the walk bring up the opposing pitcher or a particularly weak hitter? Yes: 0 points. No: 3 points.
  3. Did the walk give your team the platoon advantage or force the opposing manager to go to his bench? Yes: 0 points. No: 3 points.
  4. Does the extra baserunner matter? Yes: 3 points. No: -1 point.
  5. Are you setting up the double play to get out of the inning? Yes: 0 points. No: 3 points.
  6. Are you intentionally walking someone solely to avoid a great hitter? Yes: 4 points. No: 0 Points.

The points are then summed to get the final amount of rage. The scale ranges from 0-25 with higher numbers indicative of more rage. Recall that this scale is not about second-guessing an IBB after observing the results of the next few plate appearances. This is about first-guessing the process of issuing an IBB.

Using the Baseball-Reference play index event finder I evaluated all of the intentional walks for the 2014 season. There have been 985, which continues a downward trend for the IBB: 1018 in 2013, 1055 in 2012, and 1231 in 2011. Cleveland issued the most (51) while the Royals issued the fewest (14), which keep Mr. Posnanski smiling. Victor Martinez (28) and Giancarlo Stanton (24) were given the most free passes this season.

As outlined in my previous articles, here is how I answered each of the questions listed above:

  1. Straightforward.
  2. Particularly weak hitters were those with an OPS+ lower than 55.
  3. The platoon advantage was determined by looking at the on-deck batter's career splits against right- and left-handed pitching.
  4. I assumed the extra baserunner mattered in all situations except for bottom of the 9th inning (or later) of a tie game with a runner already on base (i.e., the winning run).
  5. I assumed managers were setting up the double play in any situation with less than 2 outs and first base open.
  6. This is the most subjective of the questions. I assumed managers were walking someone solely to avoid that hitter if questions 2,3 and 5 were all answered no, question 4 was answered yes, and the hitter is widely recognized as great (e.g., David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Joe Mauer). There were a couple of exceptions to this rule. However, no half measures were taken in responding to this question. The IBB received 0 points or 4 points.

Here are some basic descriptive statistics for these IWRS data:

N Mean SD Median Min Max
985 11.33 4.01 11 0 25

And here are the final IWRS data for the season, organized by manager (the table is sortable):

Manager Team IBBs IWRS Total IWRS/IBB
1 Ned Yost KCR 14 203 14.50
2 Lloyd McClendon SEA 36 469 13.03
3 Bryan Price CIN 33 420 12.73
4 John Gibbons TOR 23 289 12.57
5 Bob Melvin OAK 28 349 12.46
6 Ron Washington/Tim Bogar TEX 43 533 12.40
7 Joe Maddon TBR 27 330 12.22
8 Bo Porter/Tom Lawless HOU 32 389 12.16
9 Mike Scioscia LAA 41 494 12.05
10 Walt Weiss COL 32 382 11.94
11 Rick Renteria CHC 37 435 11.76
12 Brad Ausmus DET 34 397 11.68
13 Robin Ventura CHW 42 483 11.50
14 Don Mattingly LAD 35 402 11.49
15 Buddy Black SDP 32 365 11.41
16 Clint Hurdle PIT 43 483 11.23
17 Terry Francona CLE 51 564 11.06
18 Ron Gardenhire MIN 24 260 10.83
19 Ron Roenicke MIL 20 216 10.80
20 Mike Redmond MIA 35 377 10.77
21 Mike Matheny STL 35 375 10.71
22 Bruce Bochy SFG 35 370 10.57
23 Fredi Gonzalez ATL 36 380 10.56
24 Buck Showalter BAL 25 260 10.40
25 Matt Williams WSN 26 270 10.38
26 Kirk Gibson ARI 43 434 10.09
27 Terry Collins NYM 38 382 10.05
28 Ryne Sandberg PHI 43 431 10.02
29 Joe Girardi NYY 23 227 9.87
30 John Farrell BOS 19 187 9.84

Sorting the data by IWRS/IBB shows a few interesting things. First, Ned Yost holds top spot, which is fitting given the rage scale was really created in his honour. Yet, this is unfair as he has actually issued the fewest IBBs. Yost just makes sure to issue particularly bad IBBs, which keeps him on top. Terry Francona issues many IBBs but manages to keep them reasonably low in terms of rage-worthiness.

Ron Roenicke joins Mike Matheny as a manager that issued a rageless IBB. In both cases the managers issued the IBB to set up a potential inning ending double play in the 9th inning of a tie game on the road. Here are their efforts:

Date Tm Opp Score Inn RoB Out IWRS
2014-04-02 STL @CIN tied: 0-0 Bot-9 -23 1 0
2014-09-18 MIL @STL tied: 2-2 Bot-9 -2- 1 0

Even more exciting news is that the quest to find the maximum rage inducing IBB is over. Robin Ventura did it! He asked Chris Sale (a legitimate top-5 Cy Young candidate) to walk Victor Martinez in the bottom of the 1st inning, with 2 outs and J.D. Martinez on deck (a good right-handed hitter). This is remarkably anti-competitive. Unfortunately J.D. Martinez struck out, which will only serve to reinforce the decision in Ventura's mind.

Along with Ventura's gem, here are the other most rage-worthy IBBs from this season:

Date Tm Opp Batter Score Inn RoB Out IWRS
2014-09-24 CHW @DET V. Martinez tied: 0-0 Bot-1 -2- 2 25
2014-04-18 SEA @MIA G. Stanton down: 2-3 Bot-2 -2- 2 24
2014-06-11 CHC @PIT A. McCutchen down: 2-3 Bot-2 -23 2 24
2014-06-28 OAK @MIA G. Stanton ahead: 4-3 Bot-2 -23 2 24

If you have questions about the coding of the IBBs or suggestions for ways to examine things let me know in the comments below.

And again, thanks to Joe Posnanski for developing this interesting scale.


You can have a look at the data here.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Chris Teeter is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @c_mcgeets.