Walking Albert Pujols with the bases loaded

Hello, my name is
Brian Kenney and I’m another writer from Mike’s blog 4parl.wordpress.
I’m a huge Cardinals fan, as you might notice from my first post-which
is about a week and a half old by the way. It took a while for me to
get publishing privileges on my account . In about a week I’m going to
go to The University of Missouri-Columbia for my first year of college
where I’m going to study mechanical engineering (so my posts might be
few and far between). Some of my hobbies include hockey, golf, and
poker.

Albert Pujols is the undisputed best hitter in the game. His batting
numbers this year are Bonds-esque, and he is receiving what is now
known as the Bonds treatment. He currently has 36 intentional walks,
which is a whopping 20 more than 2nd place Adrian Gonzalez. As most of
you I’m sure know, intentional walks are almost always an incorrect
play. There is one situation in particular, however, where an
intentional walk is plain ridiculous: when the bases are loaded.

However, many talking heads are debating whether it is a smart idea to
intentionally walk Albert Pujols when the bases are loaded. The basis
of their arguments comes from the fact that Pujols has been insane with
the bases loaded this year. 7/9 with 5 home runs. The sample is so
ridiculously small that almost no useful information could be obtained
from it. Anyway, just how bad of a decision would it be to walk Pujols
with the bases loaded? Let’s break it down.

For the year, Pujols’ at-bats results in the following x % of the time (discounting IBB):

Out-60%
1b-13.5%
2b-5.8%
3b-.2%
HR-8.4%
BB-10.7%
SF-1.2%

The mere fact that a Pujols’ AB with the bases loaded will result in an
out (and 0 runs) 60 percent of the time should tell you that walking
him intentionally is borderline insane. Let’s break down the numbers to
see just how insane it is, though.

(.60)(0)+(1)(.107)+[1(.135*.25)+(2(.135*.75)]+[2(.058*.5)+(3(.058*.5)+(.002)(3)+(4)(.084)+(.0117)(1)=
0+ .107+ .2025+ .683+ .058+ 087+ .006+ .336+.0117=.84785 runs.

*I assumed a single would result in 2 runs 75% of the time and 1 run
25% of the time. I also assumed a double would score 2 runs 50% of the
time and 3 runs 50% of the time.

So, an intentional walk will result in 1 run 100% of the time. Pitching
to Pujols will result in .84785 runs on average. The choice is clear,
especially when you consider the caliber of players hitting behind
Pujols. Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick are no slouches, and their
positive run expectancies make this decision even easier.

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One Response to Walking Albert Pujols with the bases loaded

  1. SJC says:

    For more complete analysis you need to calculate the probabilities of the Cards scoring various numbers of runs. Your analysis only shows that if the opposing team wanted to minimize the expected number of runs it gives up, they must pitch to Pujols. But it is not clear that this is the best decision in a two run game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with a speedster on second. Nobody is credibly saying Pujols should be walked every time he’s up with the bases loaded. The interesting research question is: In what bases loaded situation should Pujols be walked, if ever?

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