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Baseball rule change: Free Pass (FP) instead of IBB

In the name of brevity, rule objectivity, and streamlining of contract arbitration, the tedious IBB ('intentional walk') is replaced with an instant 'Free Pass.'
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While the main action in baseball moves counterclockwise, pro baseball's marketing braintrust claims that shortening games is key to rebuilding the sport's popularity. To that end, they've proposed the odd arbitrary rule change, but largely just pressure umpires to better enforce existing rules to propel the game at the pace of a brisk, um, picnic.

I propose a novel change to speed up the average ballgame (if only slightly), while axing one of baseball's troublingly subjective rules. Walks (for the benighted baseball-clueless out there, walks are automatic bases awarded to batters who refrain from swinging at four pitches deemed out of the hitting zone) get -officially- scored as either unintentional or 'intentional' (i.e. when the pitcher deems a walk less risky than letting the particular hitter try to hit).

However, the leisurely thrown pitches in an 'intentional' walk are fair game for the batter to hit (a rarity); moreover, the official scorer must judge -intent- as part of a play -- clearly a subjective and error-prone endeavor. Yes, baseball has other rules which invoke intent, but I think most folks will agree that the fewer such subjective rules the better.

So why not let pitchers issue an instant 'Free Pass' to first base in lieu of the tedious fully/half-heartedly/unconsciously 'intentional' walk? The game would move that much faster; the pitcher would save energy and preserve his pitching rhythm; a walk would simply be a walk; and, finally, pitchers and their agents could no longer argue that walk totals should be discounted by the number of 'intentional' ones (which often result from the pitcher getting himself in trouble in the first place). This would streamline contract negotiation and arbitration too, perhaps blunting fan fury at players' ever-skyrocketing salaries.

n-pearson, Jun 29 2003

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       The intentional walk sometimes is used as a way to get a guy out at third. Back in the day... I had to relieve the game's starting pitcher (I usually started on the mound), Craig went to the bench (he couldn't "play baseball", only pitch), Louis (RIP) came off the bench to SS where I'd been... Man/Ape/Boy who batted 3rd in the rotation had hit a triple driving in 2 runs, and there he was on 3rd, itching to get home. Threw a couple of intentionals to their power hitter (who later went Pro), then ripped the ball to Chuck over on third base, thereby getting the Man/Ape/Boy who'd gotten cocky - tagged out. Still had two outs to go. Threw nothing but heat after that, ended up getting him and the next guy out on a double-play. Been almost 30 years, and can still remember that beautiful inning.
thumbwax, Jun 29 2003
  

       [thumbwax] that's impressive. I like [n-pearsons's] proposed rule change, though. Have you ever heard of this happening any other time? If it is common for a pitcher or catcher to think of this I would say leave the IBB. (The throw/catch could have been botched scoring Ape/Man/Boy - what a risk. I played little kids baseball with someone who as a rule toyed with the pitcher when on third and he scored due to error more often than was thrown out
The batter faced during this usually hit or walked as well).
Zimmy, Jun 29 2003
  

       We're paying this blasted lefty mid-reliever a mil and a half, and he's only working 50 to 60 innings a year. At about 14 P/IN, it's costing us a couple grand every time he throws the ball. So he can throw the intentional for eight thousand bucks, or hit the batter for only two. If we could just wave the batter over to first for free, I think it makes sense.   

       (cough cough - how'd I sound? Think they'll guess I've never been to a ball park?)
lurch, Jun 30 2003
  

       They already do this in Little League, up to some age, so might be hard to convince players and fans they should adopt a rule originally used for little kids (not that players or fans have a real say in rule changes, but they'll make a big stink). I think the IBB is a great thing, cause it gives you a long time to boo, if it's your guy they're walking. And it would just be one more screwed up change to a game that has miraculously survived too many bad changes (DH, expansion, astroturf, domes, to name a few). Might as well use aluminum bats and adopt the 9th batter rule (3rd out, like minor little league). Naw, I don like it.
oxen crossing, Jun 30 2003
  

       It makes sense, but I personally don't want to see a reduction in the length of games. One of the great things about baseball is its stately pace. For the most part, it's almost hypnotically action-free. Then, when something happens, there's a delirious rush of excitement. Yay!   

       That's why I love it. It's a very beautiful sport.
snarfyguy, Jun 30 2003
  

       It seems most of the objections are not to eliminating the IBB score category, but to eliminating the actual walk process itself. As I acknowledged, the ball is live during an IBB, and folks seem to relish the booing and the rare swing/pickoff &c. which might then occur. Myself, I've seen many great chances to steal home frustratingly wasted: runner at third, righty hitter and catcher (so catcher moves to the right to backhand the pitch), lefty pitcher (less aware of runner's movements) in lazy wind- up...yet I've never seen anyone do it live.   

       And note that a pitcher who throws three pitch-outs during an at-bat, then walks the batter 'unintentionally,' is charged with a salary-suppressing BB -- while one who throws just one 'intentional' ball (four) after falling behind a slugger gets off with just an IBB.   

       So, if we're going to ban instant FP's for the sake of the intrigue (which I could live with), let's at least eliminate the official IBB category; the play is clearly qualitatively identical to other BB's, if perhaps more booable.
n-pearson, Jun 30 2003
  

       Even cricket is more exciting.
RayfordSteele, Jun 30 2003
  

       //a salary-suppressing BB// Oh, those poor bastards.
thumbwax, Jun 30 2003
  

       wax -- :-D   

       Until now I suspected you might be a devious ML pitcher, given the name and all...
n-pearson, Jun 30 2003
  

       You want to give a free pass? Hit the guy. One pitch. A walk should be credited against the pitcher, even if it's intentional -- because an intentional walk is the pitcher giving in to the batter. It's perfectly reasonable.   

       Also, "fully/half-heartedly/unconsciously 'intentional'" walks are different things. Barry Bonds gets a lot of walks where the pitcher doesn't dare hit the strike zone but they're not intentional walks. And he still leads the league in real IBBs.
benw, Jan 31 2004
  

       sometimes a pitch gets away froma catcher during an intentional walk. for this reason, you gotta keep the rule.
gusbot6000, Feb 15 2004
  

       This reminds me of an idea I had to eliminate the IBB: when a batter receives Ball Four, he would have a choice: (1) Accept one free base; or (2) Start over with a fresh 'count' and let the pitcher try again. If the batter opts for #2 and the picther throws four more balls, the batter would be given the choice of: (1) Accept TWO free bases; or (2) Start over again with a fresh 'count'. Option 2 and four more balls, and the batter would be allowed a free triple. Four more balls after that, batter would be required to take a free home run.   

       Under almost anything other than an intentional-walk scenario, batters would almost certainly take the free base rather than risk getting put out. But if a pitcher tried to intentionally walk a batter, the batter could simply decline until either the batter scored a hit, the batter was put out, or (very unlikely) the batter received a total of 16 walks and thus a free home run.
supercat, Feb 15 2004
  

       I'm waiting for a pitcher/catcher battery to fake an IBB for strike 1: catcher stands with arm out to signal the IB: batter relaxes: pitcher grooves it right over the plate at 80-85 mph (not too fast since the catcher isn't in a good position) - catcher crouches and backhands the ball, strike 1! Then settle down and pitch to the bastidge, already ahead in the count and with him somewhat rattled.
strange606, Jun 29 2006
  
      
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