Why this ex-Jays pitcher says the new no-pitch intentional walk rule doesn't make sense
There won't be any wild pitches, or anything unexpected, with MLB's new no-pitch intentional walk rule this season, much to the chagrin of Paul Spoljaric, former pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jay and Kansas City Royals.
The players' association has agreed to MLB's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year. There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are sometimes walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.
While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting manager's trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.
But Spoljaric — who has played with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Seattle Mariners, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Kansas City Royals — thinks it's a bad call. He spoke with As It Happens Helen Mann about the controversial decision. Here is a portion of their conversation.
Helen Mann: What did you first think when you heard the MLB was making this change?
Paul Spoljaric: Honest, I was a little taken back by it. I was shocked.
How is this going to be implemented? Are there gonna be some certain rules and circumstances where this applies? I had more questions than answers.
Intentional walks are down across the board over the last few years so the amount of savings across the league is minimal.- Paul Spoljaric, former pitcher
HM: What's the strategy, when do you do this?
PS: Usually it's done to avoid a dangerous or hot hitter or to set up a double play.
HM: You say this is not the kind of thing you train for. I have to say, watching the game sometimes, it looks kinda silly. Do you ever feel embarrassed doing this?
PS: No, because it's all part of strategy, right?
HM: Can you think of times where you've expected that there's no way that it's gonna get a hit and it has?
PS: I have seen it before. I remember when I was playing in Myrtle Beach, I had a no-hitter going and ended up getting pulled because of pitch count. And the guy in extra innings, we got into a situation where we were walking a guy with a runner on third and he threw a wild pitch and we lost the game. So yeah, it does happen.
HM: It's been said that Hall of Famer Don Drysdale thought that intentional walks were a waste of pitches, that if he wanted to out someone on base, he'd go ahead and hit them with the ball. What do you think of that?
PS: I would argue that that's not a bad strategy — though painful for the hitter. [laughing] You know, like I said, they don't count against your pitch count. They do count against your stats. So, you know, I don't really think that's a viable argument.
HM: Did you ever bean a batter just to do that?
PS: Uhh, I'd rather not comment on that. [laughs] Of course! Everybody does. It's part of the game. I don't like throwing at people but sometimes you just gotta protect your own teammate.
HM: Do you save that for certain players?
PS: Yeah, I mean there's guys you just don't like, and there may not be a real reason why, but you don't like facing them or maybe they hit you really well and it's just better to avoid them getting a base hit than putting them on base and having a chance at double play.
HM: How is this plan to not have these four pitches going to change the strategy of the game?
PS: I don't think it will at all. The strategy's not changing, it's the execution of the strategy that's changing. You know, you're still gonna walk the guy in the situation, so not having to throw a ball to speed the game up and save a minute, if that's what they want to do then that's what they're going to do.
Intentional walks are down across the board over the last few years so the amount of savings across the league is minimal.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Paul Spoljaric.
With files from Associated Press