July 31, 2014

Death to the IBB

July 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

I love the history associated with the game of baseball.  I love the fact that baseball is a structured game.  I love the fact that baseball has a sense of indefinable strategy.  I love the fact that baseball is never consistent.  Baseball is 162 games of “what will happen today?”  At times, baseball has a mind of its own.  Players aren’t playing the game, but the game is playing the players.  Above all, I love that baseball is unpredictable until the bottom of the 9th, 2 outs 3-2 count in game 7 of the World Series (even then there is still a margin of error involved, am I correct Red Sox Nation?).

Overall, I am happy with all the adjustments that have been made to the game since its inception as “Americas Pastime.”  I’m cool with Designated Hitters; I’m ok with lowered pitching mounds.  I like instant replay for home run calls (but it should stop there), and I am all in favor of the Wild Card position in the playoffs.  I even think interleague play is fun and educational because you get to see teams that you wouldn’t normally see (still waiting patiently for the Padres to come see me again at the CoPa).  I do think that the rules for interleague play should be such that the visiting teams’ rules apply during an interleague game, not the home teams’ just so the home town fans can see a different style of play for a little while each year.

But, I have a beef with organized baseball… and that beef is the intentional base on balls (IBB). I hate it – a lot! I think the IBB should be eradicated from the game.  You can feed me all the lines you want about strategy and positioning and advantages and I’ll tell you its crap.  The IBB serves one purpose only – for the pitcher to get around pitching to someone who hits well.  And basically that is a form of cheating.  A hitter should not be punished with an IBB (even though it doesn’t go against his batting average, but it does count as a plate appearance) just for being exceptional.  Pitchers should be forced to challenge these good hitters. After all, it’s part of the game!   The whole point of baseball is to put wood on the ball and a great batter can’t do that if his pitches are eight feet outside the strike zone.

Regardless if whether it is my team or not (Go Tigers!!!) I secretly cheer for the hitter who gets intentionally walked.  I want that player to come around and touch home, even if they are the winning run – just to serve as a lesson to the pitcher.  It’s like a little form of revenge for legalized cheating.  Even more so, I’m always hoping that the next batter up after the IBB cranks one out of the park as a little “ha ha – that’s what you get” moment to the pitcher.  In Major League Baseball, any batter is capable of hitting a homerun at any given time on any given night – unpredictability at its finest.

But the problem with the IBB is that it isn’t just going against the batter.  Pitchers should never underestimate the power of a batter. One of the best ways of improving pitching is to pitch to great hitters, and the IBB takes that away from the pitcher.  By pitching to great hitters and finding out their strengths and weaknesses at the plate, it causes the pitcher to step up his game a little too.  The pitcher toughs it out and finds out what they need to do to face these tough hitters.  It improves pitching skills and also commands a high level of perseverance.

I think that many fans agree with me on the eradication of the IBB… I have never, ever been to a ball game when the fans did not boo loudly when the cleanup hitter comes to bat and the pitcher and catcher get in position to start the pitchout.  It kills the momentum of the game and angers many fans at the same time.  The fans sit with anticipation to see if their favorite power hitter is going to pull that ball out of the park into left field or if they are going to go down swinging… and they are rewarded for their love and loyalty with an IBB… For this very reason alone, the IBB should be another page in baseball’s history book.

~Shelly

Comments

One Response to “Death to the IBB”
  1. Mike Lynch says:

    Shelly,

    Good stuff. I think most pitchers would prefer to pitch to every hitter rather than issue an intentional walk, but they’re at the mercy of their managers and have no choice but to intentionally walk a batter when commanded to do so. I’d be interested to know how many times a pitcher asked his manager if he could intentionally walk a batter, though. You hear stories about managers coming to the mound and asking a pitcher how he wants to approach the next batter, and invariably said pitcher insists he wants to “go after” the hitter. I wonder how many times a pitcher said, “Skip, would it be okay if I just intentionally walked him?” :-)

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