The Automatic Intentional Walk
you gotta have a catcher. else there'd be a lot of balls to the backstop


It's been at least three days since we promo'ed the Founding Father, and I'm getting jittery.  Hence


There was a quirky little piece the other day in the New York Times called "Baseball's Too Slow. Here's How to Fix It." Some absurd suggestions, but many authors (it was a joint piece) picked up on the commercial breaks, the pitching changes, batters stepping outside the box, the visits to the mound, etc. Victor Mather, one of the authors, had a great quote: "Vigilant and rigorous eradication of nonbaseball will give us the same dose of baseball in far less time." I really liked that line.
Asked by: rtallia

Answered: 3/4/2017
 Excellent. - Bill


The amigos here who dislike the idea of an automatic IBB ... is that just automatic sales resistance, do you think, or is it really aesthetically ugly?  Remember, people thought the 3-point line in the NBA was going to be an abomination.  Meaning that ASR applies to everything up to and including the Golden Goose.  :- )

I would have preferred some convention that was "technically" a baseball play, a balk-type rule to serve as a "neutral" rulebook entry.  Like, if the catcher stands 5 feet off the plate any pitch counts as a HBP or something.  Maybe if the pitcher throws the ball into the stands?  Two birds with one stone...

Personally don't go to the park in order to see how fast I can get home.  I like BEING there.  But there does come a point in some games when nothing has happened for six minutes... just about the only time that happens for me is when the pitchers are nibbling, nibbling, nibbling, and it's 30 pitches per inning, and yet nothing is being hit hard, and it's the third inning and it's 8:30 p.m. and the score is 1-1.  But a rule limiting setup relievers doesn't solve that.

Gotta hit the right balance of "the same dose of baseball in less time."  For awhile they were showing 30-minute accelerated replays of M's games, and that was too fast for me.  60-minute replays would be just about right, I think.  






Your distaste for the new rule is a genetic anamoly, moe. We be bros on most everything else, but to me executing four pitches for an intentional walk because every 200 or so deliveries a guy throws one over the catchers' head is sorta like complaining about rubber tires taking the place of wooden wheels (no offense intended, I'm just havin' fun wit' ya.)

Got 'er done, now we can move on to tougher decisions. This was the low-hanging fruit.


I AM, however, ambivalent about hard time limits for certain activity. I'm all for efforts to shorten what often seem like interminable games.

But baseball tempo is like rubato in classical music. There are certain points in the drama of baseball where a slower tempo is not only appropriate but desirable. It emphatically enhances the drama, saying, "This is the critical at bat, this is the critical pitch on which the game turns."

By all means routine events need to maintain a more expeditious pace. But having to hurry through dramatic moments will only inhibit the drama, perhaps even destroy it. Can you imagine a hurried wedding ceremony? "Dearly beloved, these two wanna get married, I pronounce them man and wife, you may all leave now." It's absurd. The moment requires a slowing down of the pace that, say isn't needed when you run through the McDonald's drive-through.

Baseball defies such restrictions, and it is part of the beauty of the game, NOT because the game insists on being boring, but because it has it's own unique dramatic ebbs and flows. The only solution I can see to needless interminable delays (batters routinely and repeatedly stepping out of the box just because they can) is a system where the umpires can give warnings and then penalize teams for such behavior (perhaps an automatic strike for a batter, an automatic ball out when a pitcher is just dragging out the pace of the game). I hate to put such things in the hands of umpires, I really do, but these kinds of things require human judgement.

Arne's picture

Tempo is a key issue in most sports, isn't it? I don't think anyone wants the last 2 minutes of a basketball game to take as much time as the first 2 minutes. The 100-meter dash takes 10 seconds; a horse race takes about 2 minutes. Seahawks fans talk and listen to talk about their team every day of the year. People are drawn to the buildup to the event.

Nathan H's picture

I haven’t thoroughly explored each side of the debate; if I miss an argument please correct me. When it comes to auto-IBBs I come out against the rule change. Here’s why:

·         Psychology

·         Anticipation

·         Diminishing Returns

·         Crazy Plays

Psychology – Baseball is a competition. Yes, it’s a sports competition but there are many other kinds of competitions out there, too. At its heart baseball is about overcoming, striving, conquering. Players are there to WIN. The IBB is a fantastic scenario whereby a player (sometimes against his will) is forced to submit without a fight. The pitcher and, by extension, the entire team, is sacrificing their real chances for winning in order to gain a less concrete but plausible outcome to win the war. What happens in the minds of players during this event, I would argue, MATTERS. Batters are focusing, getting amped, self-talk is cresting. The pitcher’s mind is wandering to the next at-bat. His humiliation level while actively submitting to the batter is leveled depending on the individual. The defense is analyzing possible outcomes of the next at bat, getting amped, self-talk is cresting…

And ya’ll DON’T want to relish that moment? To let it permeate? Let the pitcher seethe? Let the hitter exult? Let the guy in the on-deck circle feel the girders of the stadium rest on his shoulders for that much longer? What, praytell, are the better things that you have to do in the extra 40 seconds you’re saving? Honestly, maybe you don’t like competition? Maybe spectating baseball isn’t for you? Honestly and I’m not trying to offend but it seems like the pro-rule-change arguments are coming from mostly those who JUST. WANT. THE. GAME. TO. END.


Anticipation – One might argue that these scenarios only happen at critical junctures in the game. Building anticipation in such moments, I would argue, heightens one’s enjoyment of the moment, whether or not the outcome is in your rooting interest.


Diminishing Returns – So you’re saving 40 seconds a game. Is that going to make it over the threshold of requirements for reducing game time to an enjoyable degree? I would argue that, no, you’re not. And what you’re giving up vs. the ground you’ve made toward that goal is inequitable.


Crazy Plays – Pitchers throw wild pitches in these situations. Hitters sometimes swing anyway. That’s crazy! It’s rare but the possibility of these things happening is real. That’s fun!

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