About a week ago during one of the RotoGraphs podcast, Eno Sarris and Mike Podhorzer were discussing Adrian Gonzalez‘s walk rate falling off the cliff. It was basically cut in a third going from 18% in 2009 to 6% in 2012. Over the time frame, Adrian’s eye didn’t change, instead he just was not intentionally walked (IBB) as much. Today I am going to look at the effects of intentional walks on walk rates and some player whose walk rate have recently been bloated because of them.
Looking again at Adrian Gonzalez, he went from a high of 35 IBB in 2010 to only six in 2012. If intentional walks were removed from his walk rate (NIBB%), here are the two rates:
Season BB%, NIBB%
2004: 5%, 5%
2005: 6%, 5%
2006: 8%, 7%
2007: 9%, 8%
2008: 11%, 8%
2009: 17%, 14%
2010: 13%, 8%
2011: 10%, 8%
2012: 6%, 5%
By looking at these values there is still a decline, but not as steep. There is still bias in his walk rate during his peak IBB seasons (2009 to 2011). When pitchers weren’t directly intentionally walking him, they were pitching around him. They were forcing him to either swing at junk outside or take a walk. A while back, I found for every two intentional walks, there is probably one non-intentional, intentional walk (Adjusted NIBB%) inflating a player’s walk rate.
With this additional factor added in, here is his three different walk rates over the years.
Besides a huge increase in 2009, his Adjusted NIBB% hovers right around 6%. He really hasn’t seen a decline in his walk rate, he just is not as feared and teams are more willing to let him hit.
Another great example of how IBB hid a player’s decline talent was with Albert Pujols. Here are his walk rates over the years.
His NIBB% peaked out in 2007, but his BB% continued up for two more seasons. Once teams no later found his bat no longer a threat, he got less intentional free passes.
It is always important to look at a player’s intentional walks when walk rate takes huge jumps. Here are some players whose recent Adjusted NIBB% values may be masking a lower or declining walk rate (alphabetical by first name).
• Adrian Beltre may seem to have his BB% increasing from 2011 with it going from 4.8% to 7.2%, but his Adjusted NIBB% stayed the same (4.8% to 4.6%).
• Andrew McCutchen has seen his BB% come down from a 2011 high, but considering he is getting intentionally walk 10 more time a season, the actual drop is worse. The reason for the drop is because he is swinging at outside pitches more. Here are his O-swing% over the past 4 seasons:
• Carlos Beltran‘s 2012 to 2013 4% drop can be attributed to the number of IBB going from 15 to 1.
• David Ortiz‘s drop in BB% was 2%, but his Adjusted NIBB% has been on a six year decline.
Once Ortiz is no longer a feared batter, his walk rate may drop like a rock (see Albert Pujols).
• Edwin Encarnacion‘s increase in BB% can almost all be attributed to more IBB.
• Intentional walks are masking a four year decline in Jay Bruce‘s adjusted walk rate
Season: BB%, Adjusted NIBB%
2009: 10%, 9%
2010: 10%, 9%
2011: 11%, 8%
2012: 10%, 7%
2013: 9%, 6%
• Joey Votto‘s BB% would still be pushing 15% even with no IBB.
• All of Josh Hamilton‘s drop in BB% (9% to 7%) can be attributed to his drop in IBB (13 to 4).
• Michael Brantley was intentionally walked 12 time in 2012. I did not know he was that feared last season.
• Whenever Miguel Cabrera is no longer intentionally walked 20 times a season, his walk rate will probably stabilize around 6% to 7%.
• Paul Goldschmidt‘s 3.5% jump in BB% is because of his 19 IBB.
• Prince Fielder‘s walk rate dropped right in sync with a decline in his IBB over the last 3 seasons.
Season: BB%, IBB
2011: 16%, 32
2012: 12%, 18
2013: 10%, 5
• How does Ryan Hanigan and his fearsome .243/.341/.306 line get intentionally walked 22 times over the past two seasons? Bat eighth for a National League team.
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