Steve’s column earlier on, ahem, players with loose strike zones got me wondering – how do we make people appreciate a walk in an RBI situation? Should we sit there and parse the RE tables and show that, yes, taking a walk actually helps the team? Go through a fundamental analysis of how plate discipline and taking pitches helps you get good pitches to hit?

No, my sabermetric brethren! We will, at last, finally turn the weapon of our enemies against them! I give you…


The sacrifice walk is a walk where a player has runners in scoring position, is not intentionally walked and is not awarded an RBI. Like the sacrifice hit, the player gives up a chance at bat (and an opportunity to pad his personal stats with an RBI) to improve his team’s chances at scoring runs.

By calling it a sacrifice walk, it no longer sounds like lawyer ball, it sounds like something noble, heroic – the sort of thing Derek Jeter would do, back when that was still a compliment. It’s genius! There’s no way this could go badly.

(NOTE: This could totally go badly. There’s a very real danger that the sarcasm here is totally missed by someone, somewhere and I go down in sabermetric histories as “Colin Wyers, the man who created the sacrifice walk” and future generations will feel the same deep loathing I do for the person who decided three runs was a “save situation,” and the recursive loathing will cause me to spontaneously combust. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.)

I give you, your 2011 sacrifice walk leaderboards:



Jose Bautista


Bobby Abreu


Adam Dunn


Ryan Braun


Garrett Jones


Carlos Pena


Kosuke Fukudome


Kevin Youkilis


Torii Hunter


Joey Votto


Dustin Pedroia


Dexter Fowler


Carlos Gonzalez


Colby Rasmus


Carlos Santana


Jorge Posada


Logan Morrison


Daric Barton


Jonny Gomes


Asdrubal Cabrera


Shocking, utterly shocking – Jose Bautista leads the list here. Totally not the most predictable thing ever. Not at all.

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Ah .... but like RBIs, we must consider them in the context of "opportunities".

Who are the leaders in SW%?
For some reason this makes me want to create a blog, and to title it "Sacrifice Walk."
I'm not sure I can list all the caveats that I should put on this comment: it's only May, it's only two players, I didn't account for the different starting and ending situations, I didn't account for pitchers or defenses or parks, ... I'm sure there are more. But:

Runs scored by the Blue Jays after a sac walk by Bautista: 26
Runs scored by the Angels after a sac walk by Abreu: 3

(It's kind of a hilarious difference, to the point where I feel the need to promise that it's not cherry-picked. I don't have a play-by-play database, so I compiled these by hand, deciding to just do the top two and see what happened.)

There's a continuing conversation here from Steven's piece, and I want to make sure that what I said over there isn't taken to be more than I meant. Walking is a Good Thing: I've seen the RE tables. Chasing pitches out of the zone is a Bad Thing: I've seen the heat maps. I simply think we have to be careful about applying conclusions drawn from population data to particular situations without considering the circumstances of those situations and why those situations might differ from the average.

We already do this selectively. We mentally deflate walks drawn by #8 hitters in the National League because the guy batting behind those players has a drastically lower-than-average chance of making that baserunner matter. We understand that there are a very few end-of-game situations where sacrifice bunts make sense because of the score, inning, and identities of the runner, pitcher, current and next batters, bullpen pitchers, and pinch-hitters. I don't think it's crazy to ask that we bring the same care to other analyses before tossing off "bad manager" charges and making universal declarations of "in no way" this and "would only" that.

The two numbers above are hopefully illustrations of that point.

Anyway, now that I've written another N words about this stuff, here're some fun tidbits from the data!

Bobby Abreu has exactly one sac walk with a runner on first. Jose Bautista has seven.

Thirteen of Bautista's 26 runs came after he walked with a man on first.

Bobby Abreu lasted all the way until May 14th before a sac walk resulted in a run. From April 18th to May 9th, Abreu had four straight sac walks result in immediate inning-ending double plays. (He had another one on May 19th.)

Six times, the man immediately after Bautista made an out, but the Blue Jays scored anyway.

Nine of Jose Bautista's sac walks came with two men on. Two of Bobby Abreu's did.
There are a lotta reasons why a batter doesn't want to widen the strike zone. By keeping it narrow, he's more likely to get a good pitch to hit IF the pitcher is trying to throw strikes.
All batters with RISP, sorted by walks - 2011 to date