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Pujols's First Half IBBs

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There’s been a ton of discussion, both here and between Dan and Al, about the virtue of intentionally walking Albert Pujols. I stated here a few of weeks ago that, based on the work done by Tango, Dolphin, and Lichtman when they wrote The Book, teams would be well advised in the long run to just pitch to Pujols in almost every circumstance. Many of you disagreed with me for various reasons.

In the first half of the season (if you can call 91 games "half" a season), Pujols was intentionally walked 32 times. Just for reference, 88 major leaguers who qualify for the batting title have fewer than 32 TOTAL walks so far this season, including Bengie Molina with 3, Cristian Guzman w/ 7, and All-Star Miguel Tejada w/ 10. Everyone’s favorite free-swinger, Jeff Francoeur has a whopping 12 walks this season. I thought, considering all the discussion about intentionally walking Pujols, that it would be interesting to explore what resulted from the 32 intentional walks that Pujols received this year.

I’ve been hesitant about doing this b/c we are dealing w/ a very small sample and I fear that too much will be made of the results, whatever they are. I’m going on record as saying that, based on The Book’s research, I believe it is a mistake to intentionally walk Pujols in almost every circumstance and I’m sticking with that whether the subsequent hitters are 0-32 or 32-32 w/ 500 RBI. It’s only 32 PAs, people! Well, it isn’t really b/c often several others likely batted after the 4th place hitter but we’re still dealing w/ a very small sample – one that’s too small to make any definitive judgments. Still, I’d like to see what the results were.

Interestingly, the Cards were ahead 19 of the 32 times that Pujols was intentionally walked. The teams were tied 9 times and Pujols has only been intentionally walked w/ the Cards behind 4 times. Our largest lead was 6 runs but there was a 5-run lead and 4 4-run leads. All 4 of the margins when the Cards were behind were 1-run margins.

Pujols was walked intentionally just once w/ the bases empty. 17 times Pujols received an IBB w/ a runner on 2nd only. He has received intentional walks 7 times w/ a runner on 3rd base only and 7 times w/ runners on both 2nd and 3rd. Pujols has been intentionally walked 14 times w/ 2 outs and 14 times w/ 1 out. He’s received 4 intentional walks w/ nobody out. When we examined the intentional walk, I concluded that the only time he should be intentionally walked is w/ runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 out in the inning. This intentional walk has occurred only twice this year – by Jared Burton of the Reds on May 10 and by Manny Parra of the Brewers on May 27.

With all the talk of "not letting Pujols beat you w/ the game on the line," Pujols was received 12 intentional walks in the first 3 innings, including 5 in the first inning. 10 of his intentional walks have come in innings 4-6 and 10 more have occurred in innings 7-9.

Let’s then look at the results. Next batter is how the batter following Pujols has done in those situations. Subsequent batters is how all the batters that followed Pujols in the inning have fared. Pujols ’09 is his numbers this year and Pujols career is Pujols’s numbers for his career. Situational Pujols is how Pujols has done in his career w/ runners on 2nd, 3rd, or 2nd and 3rd.

next batter 32 .320 .406 .440 .399
subsequent batters 82 .288 .378 .455 .363
Pujols ‘09 386 .332 .456 .723 .470
Pujols career 5768 .334 .427 .630 .437
situational Pujols 833 .337 .552* .644 .453

* -- includes 179 intentional walks

It’s unreasonable to expect the subsequent hitters to be Pujols, of course, but we can see that they’ve fared pretty well – better than they have on the season – following a Pujols intentional walk. And it’s worth noting that all of those 82 PAs included an additional runner on base (Pujols) than Pujols would have hit with had the bat not been taken out of his hand.

If we were so inclined, we can try using Pujols’s career numbers or ’09 numbers to attempt to simulate what would have happened had Pujols been allowed to hit in those circumstances. We do know that the next batter and the subsequent hitters have done a very good job when called upon – slumps and poor performance otherwise notwithstanding – and that the team has scored 33 runs AFTER Pujols’s 32 unintentional walks. We haven’t been successful every time, or even half the time, but we have had a few big innings and averaged more than a run per intentional walk.

Perhaps allowing Pujols to hit would have led to more runs but, when we first began exploring this scenario, we used The Book’s research to determine that, when followed by a league average hitter (approximately .332 wOBA), Pujols should be pitched to unless there were runners on 2nd and 3rd w/ 2 outs. This assumed that Pujols was had a wOBA of .465 (the table used in the book). As you’ll see, Pujols’s wOBA for the season is .470 – very close to the example used in the book. For his career it’s .437. You should also notice that our subsequent hitters have performed BETTER than league average -- .399 and .363 wOBA vs. .332 – following a Pujols IBB. Therefore, it’s reasonable to conclude that the team has scored more runs following those 32 IBB than it would have if Pujols had been pitched to those 32 times.

It is just 82 PAs so we really cannot conclude too much from such a small sample. But it’s fair to state that the team has done pretty well and, in fact, better than we should have been expected to perform following a Pujols IBB. While I love to watch him hit as well, I’m going to hope that teams continue to walk him, unless there are runners on 2nd and 3rd w/ 2 out!