It’s the offseason. Which means it’s time for my posts to get even stranger.
Since 1950, there have been 14 intentional walks to hitters who have 80% of their playing time as a pitcher. The incidences include pitchers who were left in a game and their spot came up, or pitchers who are utilised as a pinch hitter.
Two of those intentional walks are credited to Mickey McDermott (That has to be the first time anyone has clicked his Baseball Reference page for a while), the pitcher and pinch hitter who primarily played for Boston in the 50’s.
But who was the last pitcher to be intentionally walked? That would be Brooks Kieschnick in 2004. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Kieschnick (Pronounced KEESH-nick), he was a recognised two-way player and is listed as such on Baseball Reference. He finished with a 6-year Major League career slash line of .248/.315/.444 and an OPS of .760. Not exactly Shohei Ohtani. His pitching line isn’t as expansive as his hitting line, spread over two years and 96 innings, he had an ERA of 4.59 with 62 SO and 26 walks. His WHIP of 1.417 was a little frightening.
But enough about Brooks, what about this intentional walk? Why did it happen, how did it happen and what was the effect on the game or even the season for his team (The Milwaukee Brewers).
May 5th, 2004. The 13-13 Milwaukee Brewers travelled to the 13-13 Cincinnati Reds, if only it was Friday the 13th as well, it would have made for a great story. Alas, it’s not, so accept it for what it is.
In the bottom of the 8th with one out, two on and the score tied at 4-4 (After an Adam Dunn solo shot at the start of the inning) and Ken Griffey walking up to the plate, the Brewers bring in Brooks Kieschnick to try and stop the Reds rally. This leaves Brooks batting 9th.
He strikes out Griffey and Ryan Freel to end the inning.
The Intentional Walk
After a single from Brady Clark (who was subsequently caught stealing), Chad Moeller hits a double and brings our Brooks up to the plate. He’s walked with the idea that Scott Podsednik will ground into a double play. He does exactly that and ends the inning.
The After Effect
The Reds went on to win the game in the bottom of the 10th, which increased their record to 14-13. Having lost the game the Brewers record sat at 13-14.
But did this game have an effect on the outcome of the season? Did the Brewers loss in this game cause an effect further down the line? Not really. If you’re not familiar with the 2004 Brewers season, they finished 67-94 and achieved very little. Except a 7.3 bWAR season from starter Ben Sheets.
How about the Reds? Did this win propel them into the postseason? Nope, another disappointing year, finishing 76-86.
So this wasn’t the real exciting story I was looking for, I wanted drama, a game tipping because of the walk meaning something and even a team delivering the intentional walk actually costing them.
In 1984 Pirates pitcher Don Robinson entered as a pinch hitter, he was intentionally walked one on third and no outs. Robinson eventually comes round to score, but due to Robinson entering the game as a PH, the story isn’t as fun at the 3rd most recent pitcher to be intentionally walked.
In 1970 the 77-54 Minnesota Twins visited the 50-84 Milwaukee Brewers, the Twins chasing down a postseason spot should have walked over this lacklustre Brewers team, but the Brewers held the Twins to just one run, all the way to the 10th inning.
At the bottom of the 9th, the Twins brought in Jim Kaat. The lefty starter finished his 25 years (!) in the Major Leagues with an ERA of 3.45, 1.259 WHIP, 16 gold gloves and a few All-Star selections to boot. He was pretty damn solid.
Kaat was unfortunately given two runners on, but with two outs. However, he could not get that final out until the next batter, Tommy Harper stepped up to the plate. In the meantime, he gave away the tying run.
It was time to redeem himself.
Walk, a single from Rich Reese (Holt to second), reached on error for Leo Cardena (Reese to second, Holt scores) and a sac bunt from George Mitterwald (Cardenas to second, Reese to third) meant the Twins were 2-1 up with two men on and only one out. Enter our hero, Jim Kaat. Despite him being a pitcher and the team now being 2-1 up, the Twins left him in to hit.
Bolin could have gone for the career .185 BA hitter and tried to get the out. But this was the 70’s! It was time for…
The Intentional Walk
Once again, the Brewers wanted a double play. He decided (Or more likely the team decided) to walk the pitcher and bring Cesar Tovar to the plate. Tovar was hitting .286/.344/.429 and an OPS of .773 at the time. He was playing in the OF and had already drawn a walk and hit a single this game.
Tovar hit a single to LF, sending our Kaat to second and two runners scored. Less than ideal for Bolin, who — with the team now down 4-1 — was pulled from the game and replaced by Dave Baldwin.
Danny Thompson grounds out causing a forceout at second. Our Jim Kaat heads to third with Thompson standing at first.
One out to go, where did our IBB hero cause damage?
Harmon Killebrew crushes a home run with the very next AB, seeing Jim Kaat and Thompson rounding off the three run homer, adding more misery to the terrible Brewers season.
The After Effect
The Twins won the AL West that year by nine games, only to lose to the Orioles in the ALCS. The Orioles would of course go on to win the WS that year, over the Cincinnati Reds.
So what have we learned? Pitcher intentional walks are rare. In over 210,000 baseball games, only 14 have ever happened to pitchers, the last one being in 2004.
Clearly this is so rare, because generally the next guy up after the pitcher is the lead-off hitter. Even if it wasn’t your lead-off guy, it’s easy enough to slot a pinch hitter in that could be slotted in to take advantage of the situation.
So will we see it again? Well, never say never. With the “old skool” managers becoming few and far between, it’s probably going to be someone like Joe Maddon that tries this and probably fails. Fingers crossed?