By now you’ve heard the news. Intentional walks are no more, in that we’ll no longer have to suffer through watching a pitcher throw four tosses to the catcher. #blessed. Sarcasm aside, this is super dumb. It’s NHL-level dumb.
As teams have now realized that putting people on base for free generally leads to bad things happening for their team, intentional walks have grown scarce to the point where teams will only issue a handful each season. Even dedicated stat sites will now group intentional walks in with normal walks because at the end of the day distinguishing the two doesn’t really matter unless you’re Barry Bonds.
Last season there were 932 intentional walks given to teams, an average of 31 per team. That average has been declining at a dramatic rate since 2011. If the average team is getting intentionally walked 31 times during the season, that means there’s less than a 20% chance they will receive one in a given game. So let’s assume every fifth game an intentional walk occurs. Let’s also assume the MLB actually did this extremely simple math, because you can see where this is going.
So how much time is this really saving? Let’s look at the most famous intentional walk of all time in which the Diamondbacks decided to walk Barry Bonds with the bases loaded.
The first pitch is thrown at 0:48 and the ball reaches the catcher’s glove at 1:24, a total of 36 seconds. If every intentional walk took 36 seconds, we’d be looking at about 559 minutes or 9 hours per season. One more time…9 hours per season. There are a total of 2,430 games played each season and those games take two hours and 56 minutes on average. If we round up to three hours, that means 7,290 hours are spent playing baseball in the MLB. That 9 hours makes up 0.1% of the total time spent playing baseball.
Big round of applause for the MLB. They’ve sped up our beloved game by 0.1%. Now I just have to decide what I’m going to do with all my free time.