Monday, May 5, 2014

Red Sox 1-36: 33 is for…

33 Intentional walks to Ted Williams in 1957

Wow. That’s a lot of intentional walks.

Now, I know that the intentional walk is falling a bit out of favor these days. Why would you put any base runner on if you didn’t have to? Recent computer simulations have suggested that if you walked Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds every time they came to the plate, it would just mean the guy behind them would drive in 150 runs. And, that makes sense. The more time someone bats with runners on, the more times they would drive them in. If the guy batting behind David Ortiz came to the plate every time with Ortiz on first, at the very least every home run would score two.

But, if you’re going to employ the selective intentional walk, the 1957 version of Ted Williams would be a good place to use it. Sure, Ted was getting older. He’d only play three more seasons. But, he led the league in batting that year, and produced a .328/.462/.584 slash line. Those three numbers were all down from the year before when he again led the league in hitting, as well as the other two categories, when he went .388/.528/.731. (All three of those numbers were the second best of Ted’s career.) So, if there was ever a hitter that would warrant some unique strategy, it would be that guy. Adding to that argument would be the people hitting behind Williams. His protection. I checked out a handful of box scores to see who batted fourth in games. Dick Gernert was the Opening Day clean-up hitter. In May I saw Gene Stephens take a turn. In June, there was a case of Mickey Vernon doing the honors. I’m guessing that it wouldn’t take much to convince you that you’d rather face any of them than Williams.

So, while walking Ted every time he comes to the plate would be foolish, I think I’d have a hard time arguing against doing it every one in a while. After all, 33 walks meant only about once every three or four games he played in that year.

Even today, I think it would be hard not to walk him at least that often.

33 is for the 33 intentional walks Ted Williams got in 1957

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