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Base on balls

A base on balls (BB) is credited to a batter and against a pitcher in baseball statistics when a batter receives four pitches that the umpire calls balls. It is better known as a walk. The base on balls is defined in Section 2.00 of baseball's Official Rules, and further detail is given in 6.08(a). It is called a "walk" because the batter is then entitled to walk to first base, or more specifically (as defined in the rules of baseball) he is "entitled to first base without liability to be put out." However, the term "base on balls" is used in official context because it is considered a faux pas for a professional player to walk to first base, and also to distinguish from the other manners in which a batter can be awarded first base without liability to be put out (e.g., hit by pitch, catcher's interference).

A batter who draws a base on balls is commonly said to have been "walked" by the pitcher. When the batter is walked, runners advance one base without liability to be put out only if forced to vacate their base to allow the batter to take first base. If a batter draws a walk with the bases loaded, all preceding runners are forced to advance, including the runner on third base who is forced to home plate to score a run, and the batter is credited with an RBI per rule 10.04.

Receiving a base on balls does not count as a hit or an at bat for a batter but does count as a time on base and a plate appearance. Therefore, a base on balls does not increase nor decrease a player's batting average, but it does increase his on-base percentage.

A hit by pitch is not counted statistically as a walk, though the effect is the same, with the batter receiving a free pass to first base.

Intentional base on balls

A subset of the base on balls, an intentional base on balls (IBB) or intentional walk is when the pitcher deliberately pitches the ball away from the batter in order to issue a base on balls. As with any other walk, an intentional walk entitles the batter to first base without liability to be put out, and entitles any runners to advance if forced. Intentional walks are a strategic defensive maneuver, usually done to bypass one hitter for one the defensive team believes is less likely to initiate a run-scoring play (e.g., a home run, sacrifice fly, or RBI base hit), or to set up a double play or force out situation for the next batter. They do carry an inherent risk, however, as they give the offensive team another runner on base, without any effort on their part, who could potentially score a run.

An intentional walk is signaled by the catcher standing and extending one arm to the side away from the batter. The pitcher then pitches the ball to that side several feet outside from home plate, usually outside the reach of the batter. A ball pitched in this manner is called an intentional ball and counts as a ball in the pitcher's pitch count. In order to count as an intentional ball, the ball must be legally pitched, i.e., the pitcher's foot must be on the pitcher's rubber, the catcher must be in the catcher's box, and the batter must be in the batter's box appearing ready to take a pitch at the time the ball is thrown. An intentional walk may be signaled at any time during the batter's turn at the plate; in these cases only enough additional intentional balls need to be thrown to bring the total to four. Only walks issued by the catcher signaling as described above are recorded as intentional walks (see below); walks issued without the catcher signaling – even if the pitches are intentionally thrown outside of the strike zone – are not recorded as intentional.

Another risk taken by the defensive team in issuing a base on balls is that since intentional balls must be pitched in a legal manner, they can legally become wild pitches or passed balls. Likewise, a baserunner can attempt to steal a base, or the batter can choose to swing at an intentional ball; however, these rarely occur since taking these risks is rarely more beneficial to the offensive team than allowing the walk to occur. In the Major Leagues, the most recent example of a swing at an intentional ball resulting in a hit occurred during a June 22, 2006 game between the Florida Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles. In the top of the 10th inning, with a runner on second base, Baltimore pitcher Todd Williams was signaled to intentionally walk the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera. Noticing that the intentional ball came in too close to the plate, Cabrera swung at the ball, resulting in a base hit and a run scored for Florida.

Though intentional walks are recorded as such in the records of the official scorer, they are combined with standard, non-intentional walks when calculating a player's on-base percentage, and are almost never given a separate column with a player's statistics.

A common nickname for the intentional walk is four-finger salute, since most managers call for an intentional walk by holding up four fingers. Outside the professional leagues, such as in high school or college baseball, the manager may simply request to the plate umpire to let the batter go to first instead of having the pitcher waste four outside pitches.

Barry Bonds is the all time record holder with 688 intentional bases on balls (as of the start of the 2008 season). The next most is Hank Aaron with 293.

Major League Baseball leaders

Career

Top 100 MLB leaders in base on balls (walks)
through September 30, 2008

Active

All-time rank Player Base on balls
9 Frank Thomas 1,667
15 Jim Thome 1,550
22 Gary Sheffield 1,435
46 Chipper Jones 1,242
47 Ken Griffey, Jr. 1,240
50 Manny Ramirez 1,212

Single-season

Rank Player Year Base on balls
1 Barry Bonds 232
2 Barry Bonds 198
3 Barry Bonds 177
4 Babe Ruth 170
5 Mark McGwire 162
Ted Williams 162
Ted Williams 162
8 Ted Williams 156
9 Barry Bonds 151
Eddie Yost 151

See also related lists

Notes and References

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