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Giants' Baseball

More Intentional Walks

Not satisfied with last week's thoughts on intentional walks, I went and simulated every possible situation for Barry coming to bat. It turns out that there are some cases when it does make sense to walk Bonds, especially with ground ball generators Pedro Feliz and A.J. Pierzynski coming up. And what are those cases? With two outs -- and only with two outs -- and first base empty but with runners in scoring position, walking Bonds reduces the Giants run scoring in that inning by 4-5%. Indeed, Bonds has received 49 of his 106 IBBs in these situations. There is one wrinkle -- walking Bonds brings him up one batter earlier the next time through the order.

With that in mind, there are two times it's to the opposing team's advantage to walk Bonds:

1. 7th inning or later, runners in scoring position, first base empty, 2 out.
2. Man on third, 2 out, anytime.

The second is a special case: a hit will score the runner from third, but it will take a lot of offense to score Bonds from first after he's been walked. So the worst case is usually at most one run.

The Houston Astros ask: How do you beat the Giants?
The answer is obvious: make sure Barry Bonds isn't playing. In the 58 games Bonds missed the last three years, the Giants are just 27-31. But odds are he's going to play, so what's next? Keep the Giants off the scoreboard. Not surprisingly, they're just 4-42 when they score less than two runs. And how do you keep the Giants from scoring? Start a dominant pitcher, have Gold Glove defense at every position, and get lucky -- have every batted ball hit right at a fielder.

More realistically, teams can beat the Giants if they don't walk Bonds. Now if the rest of the Giants were called up from A-ball (or T-ball, take your pick), walking him would be a very effective strategy because you could simply blow away the rest of the lineup and Bonds wouldn't generate any runs. But not with real major leaguers, even with Bonds batting cleanup surrounded by seven Neifi Perezes, walking Bonds still increases offense by 9%.

The Giants are just 76-87 when they score 2, 3, or 4 runs, even though Bonds hits no worse then (1.299 OPS) than when the Giants put a lot of runs on the board. Lo and behold, we have the real secret: shut down the rest of the team. And isn't that good advice? Just pitch to Bonds, sure he'll hit more home runs, and it isn't muy mucho to give up these gigantic bombs that land in the bay, but didn't White Men Can't Jump teach us all that it's more important to win ugly than to look good while losing? It's going to be ugly; the Giants score five runs a game when Bonds is in the lineup, but their pitchers also give up more than four runs a game. So opposing teams will get on the board, and thirty percent of the time, they'll put up more than six runs. So just pitch to the guy.

RBI machines, all of them
In case you were still of the RBI persuasion, the Giants are a case study in the irrelevance of "big RBI men" in scoring runs. The guys who bat behind Barry -- Edgardo Alfonzo, Pedro Feliz, A.J. Pierzynski and Marquis Grissom -- have been pretty poor at driving in runs. If Grissom's lucky, he'll drive in 90. But the Giants fundamental strategy - put Ray Durham's high OBP up top, Michael Tucker's next, J.T. Snow's third, and Bonds's fourth - has paid off. Now imagine what they could do with some really good hitters batting in the 5-6-7 spots?