Two months ago we published a leaderboard for Joe Posnanski's Intentional Walk Rage Scale (IWRS). You can read the initial article here or click on the Must Reads link below. It is known within the sabermetric community that the intentional walk is a poor strategy in all but a very few situations. The IWRS gives us a simple and fun scale that can be used to identify the egregious (or reasonable) intentional walks. Now that we are at the ‘midway' point of the season (roughly 95 games in) we can revisit the scale to update the IWRS leaderboard to check in on the decision making of our favorite major league managers.
Before we get into updating the leaderboard, here is a quick refresher on how it works. The IWRS involves assigning points to each intentional walk (IBB) based on the answers to the following six questions:
- What inning was the walk in? 9th inning or later: 1 point. Add 1 point for every inning before the ninth.
- Did the walk bring up the opposing pitcher or a particularly weak hitter? Yes: 0 points. No: 3 points.
- 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.
- Does the extra baserunner matter? Yes: 3 points. No: -1 point.
- Are you setting up the double play to get out of the inning? Yes: 0 points. No: 3 points.
- 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 collected all of the intentional walks for the 2014 season. There have been 565! The Phillies have issued the most (30) while the Royals have issued the fewest (7), which should make Mr. Posnanski smile. David Ortiz (16) and Giancarlo Stanton (15) have been given the most free passes.
- Particularly weak hitters were those with an OPS+ lower than 55.
- The platoon advantage was determined by looking at the on-deck batter's career splits against right- and left-handed pitching.
- 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).
- I assumed managers were setting up the double play in any situation with less than 2 outs and first base open.
- 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.
And here are the IWRS data organized by manager (the table is sortable):
Sorting the data by IWRS/IBB shows a few interesting things. First Ned Yost takes over top spot. However, this is somewhat unfair as he has actually issued the fewest IBBs. When Yost does issue an IBB it has been particularly bad, which keeps him on top in terms of rage per IBB. The rest of the top 10 includes names that we would expect to see (e.g., Ron Washington) and many of the relatively new managers.
To some extent National League managers have an advantage with this scale in that many of their IBBs are issued to the batter hitting in front of the pitcher, which is considered a less egregious decision. In fact the 8th spot in the lineup receives the third most IBBs at 108, behind only the 3rd (126) and 4th (113) spots.
We have still yet to see the maximum rage inducing IBB this season. I will continue to keep this leaderboard up-to-date throughout the season to see if anyone can achieve such heights. I will also likely post another update to the leaderboard later in the season.
If you have questions about the data or suggestions for ways to examine things let me know in the comments below.
And again, thanks to Joe Posnanski for developing this fun and elegant scale.
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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.