Hypothetical: walked every at bat

Don’t fight it.

So imagine a batter. He can make contact every time the ball is anywhere near the plate, but the problem is he always hits it foul into the stands. He’s got a great eye and only swings at strikes. So basically he can force a pitcher to throw to him until the pitcher gets tired or walks him. Would this guy be considered good or not?

You’d start every game with a guy on first. Guaranteed man on every time he’s up. I thought it would be great, my friend disagreed, so I ask the dope.

Bill James posed a similar question in his book on managers. He ran a reasonably sophisticated simulation with Babe Ruth batting third for a below-average team over the course of a season. Using the Babe’s 1921 percentages, this extrapolates to a great season, as you might expect. Then he ran the same simulation, this time replacing Ruth with a hitter who walked every time. Even with a below-average cleanup hitter, the team scored more runs with the guy who walked exclusively.

James’ conclusion was that there was, essentially, no hitter good enough to be intentionally walked every single time up. Applying the same metrics to your hypothetical, such a player would be better than “good” – assuming that he plays on a typical team, he may well be the most valuable hitter of all time.

He would definitely be the greatest hitter of all time.

The greatest player in the history of baseball, no contest.

I can’t even figure how much a player like that would be worth, because the runs created formula doesn’t work for that, but I’d guess such a player would create 300 runs, at least. Maybe 350, maybe more. (The all time record is 230.)

He would be incredible. An OBP of 1.000 and would never make a single out (aside from baserunning blunders, like getting picked off first). Never hit into a double play, so any runners in front of him advance.

Yeah, he’d be the most valuable player in history.

Not only that, but you add in the value of jacking up the number of pitches thrown by the opposing pitcher. It’s not much, but assuming they don’t just IBB him every time, it’s not zero (err…4).

He could also be the slowest player on the planet and he’d be the most valuable offensive player of all time. I’d love to know your friend’s ridiculous argument against him.

The Kid Who Batted 1.000.

Either you forgot some relevant detail in this OP or your friend is an idiot.

Would he be so dominant as to possibly cause a rule change (like MLB changing the height of the pitcher’s mound due to Bob Gibson)?

I’m also not sure that this has to be a hypothetical situation. What’s stopping someone from adopting a stance that puts his shoulders in line with his knees, which would make throwing a strike almost impossible? Examples might include laying down in the batter’s box or a crouch resembling that of a downhill skiier in which the shoulders and knees are at the same height. Could a pitcher reasonably hit a strike zone that size?

I did a study on J. D. Drew recently (in response to some knuckle-draggers who insisted that he was overrated because of his relatively poor RBI totals)-in the times when he walked with people already on base this year, his team scored oodles of runs (more than 1 run per walk), including himself on a number of occasions. The forum in question is a PITA to link to, so I’ll spoilerize it:

[spoiler]Here we go:

First number: times Drew walked (or was HBP-tossed in for the hell of it)

Second number: times runners which were already on base scored after the walk

Third number: times Drew himself scored after his walk

Intentional walk at bats at the bottom (i.e. IBB not counted in first three instances)

Runners on, no force:

12 walks*, 4 runners scored, 1 time Drew himself scored (actually a proxy runner scored after he replaced Drew after a forceout)

Runners on, force in place:

22 walks*, 23 runners scored, Drew scored himself 10 times, had 2 RBI w/ bases loaded walks

Runners on, all situations:

34 walks, 27 runners scored, Drew scored 11 times

IBB plate appearances:

5 walks, 3 runners scored, Drew scored 2 times

[* includes one HBP in each situation][/spoiler]

A pitcher probably couldn’t hit a strike zone that small. So he’d probably go for an easier target, say, the batter’s face.

Look at it this way: Suppose you had an entire lineup of guys like this. Every single at-bat would be a walk, and after the first three, every single at-bat would also be a run scored. You’d never have any out at all, and the first inning score-fest would never end. An entire line-up of always-walkers wouldn’t just be good, they’d be infinitely good.

Hard to do if he’s laying on his stomach.

I believe that in the section defining the strike zone, it says the batter must be in a natural hitting stance.

This was essentially the basis for Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s teams of the early 2000s (see Money Ball). Beane eschewed the standard notions of what makes a desirable player and instead focused mostly on On-Base Percentage. The premise was that the main commodity in baseball is outs. Regardless of any other part of baseball, if your players get on base without producing an out, you will score more runs.

I don’t think there’s anything in the rules that prevents someone from minimizing the size of their strike zone to try to draw a walk in every at-bat.

My friend and I didn’t really discuss it at length, and I’m not much of a baseball fan so a detailed argument never really came about. More of a “what do you think about…?” followed by “eh, there’d be better.”

That’s a different question though. If the metric is filling a team with clones then that team is, as you say, infinitely good. However, consider a normal team with this play on it, and one exactly the same except that the player hits a home run 99% of the time and gets an out the other 1% of the time. Clearly a team full of the latter loses to a team full of the former. I think it’s also clear that the home run guy would be more productive under “normal” circumstances.

I don’t know about that… If I were pitching to a guy like that under “normal” circumstances (at least, as normal as they can be, with a guy that hits a home run 99% of the time), I’d give him an intentional walk every at-bat anyway, effectively turning him into the first hypothetical guy.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s impossible to get a hitter better than an always-walker, because at worst the other team can always intentionally walk him. An always-walker forces the opposing pitcher to do something that the opposing pitcher could always choose to do, anyway, which means that, in a game theory sense, the always-walker dominates over all other players.

Or maybe that’s just the detail he forgot.

I was going to mention that.

“On a third strike bunt!”