About Me

I am a long time baseball fan who became interesting in documenting the "missing" batter strikeouts a few years back as an outgrowth of my interest in the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. Grew up w/ the Big Red Machine. I now follow them and my new hometown, Detroit Tigers. Member of SABR off and on since 1979.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Intentional BB's - did Fielder/Cabrera do something special?

Living up here in Detroit, I have had a chance this season to see quite an enjoyable, albeit frustrating at times, Tigers team.   They did win the AL Central and got to the World Series, which is awesome, but like most all teams, they have you scratching your head during the season.   Part of what makes being a fan so much fun, I guess.

As most folks know, Prince Fielder was added to the team this season w/ a huge long term contract, bringing over his wonderful power to go with his good eye and nice hitting ability (we won't talk about running or fielding here, ok? :) ).

Stories have already been written about how the combination of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera was going to and did form a formidable duo in the middle of the lineup.   This duo did produce as Cabrera batting 3rd, produced a Triple Crown season - .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI, while Prince Fielder, batting 4th, produced a .313, 30, 108 line. 

What has not been talked about too much is the Intentional Walks that they were issued - Fielder, 18 and Cabrera, 17.   This gave them the #1 & #2 positions in the AL. 

This got me thinking as to how often this has occurred in MLB history.   Well, first of all, IBB's have only been "officially" recorded since 1955 (based on what I see in B-R), so I had to limit myself to 1955 to date - no checking on Crawford/Cobb; Ruth/Gehrig, though these and other combos may well have been 1-2 in their leagues.

After going through all of the leader boards from 1955 to present, I found 4 other seasons in which the top 2 players in IBB's were from the same team:

Note - I have not researched the  pitching hand of the pitcher/batter in this research,which can be a  significant factors for a manager in deciding to issue an IBB.

1.   1964 - NY Yankees:  Mickey Mantle (18), Elston Howard (14)

Team finish:  1st in AL

Primary Batting Positions:
Mantle -  4th (109 of 132 starts)
Howard - 7th (56), 5th (40), 6th (32) of 141 starts

Times batting back to back - 54 times

Men on Base:
Mantle: -2-, 9; -23, 5 (-2- means runner on 2nd only, -23, means runners on 2nd & 3rd only)
Howard: -2-, 8 -23, 5
 Batting Position and hitter after on IBB:
 Mantle (18) (.303, 177 OPS+)
4th, Tom Tresh (.246, 105 OPS+, SwHit) - 8 times
4th,  Howard - 8
Howard (14)  (.313, 127 OPS+)
7th, Clete Boyer (.218, 58 OPS+) - 5
5th, Joe Pepitone (.251, 90 OPS+, bats L) - 4 (1 other time w/ EH batting 5th)

Side note -  B-R total shows 12 IBB for Howard, but game logs add it up to 14 - error request has been sent to B-R

About half of Mantle's IBB were followed by a much more inferior hitter in Tresh, while Howard was the next hitter in the same number - some of these may have been matchup walks, but I think that it had mostly to do w/ an open base and a 177 OPS+ staring at the opposing pitcher.
As for Howard, who moved around the lineup a bit, both Boyer and Pepitone definitely represented much lesser threats.   The 54 times that Mantle & Howard hit back-to-back was 2nd in this "survey" to the Cabrera/Fielder combination.

2.  1973 -  SF Giants:  Willie McCovey (25), Dave Rader (23)

Team finish:  3rd in NL West

Primary Batting Positions:
McCovey -  4th, 116 of  116 starts (130 total games)  
Rader- 8th all 135 starts

Times batting back to back - 0

Men on Base:
McCovey: -2-, 10; -23, 9
Rader: -23, 9; -2-, 8; --3, 6

 Batting Position and hitter after on IBB:
 McCovey (25) (.266, 162 OPS+)
4th, Ed Goodson (.302, 112 OPS+, LH) - 15 times
Rader (23 (.229, 84 OPS+)
8th, Pitcher

The first of 2 1-2 IBB leaders in which one of the 2 hitters was the 8th place hitter.   Willie McCovey was IBB'ed a lot in his career, in fact he held the season total record (since 1955) of 45 in 1970 until Barry Bonds came along.   Ed Goodson hit behind him and actually was hitting pretty good for the 1st part of the season.  A young 3b by the name of Dave Kingman also hit behind McCovey on a few occasions and in fact had 5 rbi's on a 3 run homer and 2 run single after 2 IBB's in a May 6th game.
As for Rader, your typical NL #8 hitter - good field, no hit, catcher or ss.

3.  1980 - Montreal Expos:  Warren Cromartie (24), Chris Speier (18)

Team finish:  2nd in NL East

Primary Batting Positions:
Cromartie -  5th, 80; 6th, 45; 7th, 34 of  160 starts 
Speier - 8th, 115 of 122 starts

Times batting back to back - 18 times

Men on Base:
Cromartie: -2-, 16; -23, 5; --3, 4
Speier: -2-, 9; -23, 7
 Batting Position and hitter after on IBB:
Cromartie (24) (.288, 116 OPS+)
6th/5th - Larry Parrish (.254, 104 OPS+) - 11
5th/6th - Gary Carter (.264, 126 OPS+) - 7
Speier (18) (.265, 92 OPS+)
8th, Pitcher

I was very surprised to see Cromartie as the leader in IBB's.   I do remember the name and that was about it (they were all up North in that ugly place called Olympic Stadium).  He had a decent year, but nothing that would shout out IBB!   And look at the hitters behind him, both names that you have heard of.  Granted Parrish's numbers are nothing special, but still.   I did a little more digging on Cromartie and saw that he hit .353 in June and .321 in July, surrounded by mostly sub .270 numbers.  What happened in June & July for Cromartie, I am not sure, but he received half of his 24 IBB's in those 2 months,  He received 9 more in Sept/Oct when he had an OPS of .713.

As for Speier, see Dave Rader above.  Ironically, Speier was on the '73 team w/ McCovey and Rader.  He was IBB'ed 4 times that season.

4.  1988 - Boston Red Sox:  Wade Boggs (18), Mike Greenwell (18)

Team finish:  1st in AL East
Primary Batting Positions:
Boggs -  1st, 91; 3rd, 63 
Greenwell - 4th, 99; 5th, 55 of 158 starts

Times batting back to back - 18 times

Men on Base:
Boggs: -23, 9; -2-, 5; --3, 4
Greenwell: -2-, 11; -23, 4
 Batting Position and hitter after on IBB:
 Boggs (18) (.366, 168 OPS+)
1st - Marty Barrett (.283, 85 OPS+) - 10
3rd - Jim Rice (.264, 102 OPS+) - 4
Greenwell (18) (.325, 160 OPS+) (BL)
4th, Ellis Burks (.294, 132 OPS+) - 12

The Boggs/Greenwell combination represents the best duo OPS+ of the 5 teammates with Boggs at  168 and Greenwell at  160 (2nd and 4th).  Both Boggs and Greenwell sat in 2 different lineup positions during the season. pretty much revolving around Ellis Burks.  Boggs batted 3rd in the lineup for a good deal of the 1st 2 months while Burks was batting 1st.  When Burks switched out of the top spot, Boggs became the primary leadoff hitter, Burks moved down to 5th and shifted Greenwell from 5th to 4th.   Boggs led the AL in IBB's 6 straight seasons from 1987-1992, something that I guess I didn't expect since he is not a "slugger", but when you think about it, Boggs was as dangerous as any slugger if a runner was in scoring position in this time period.  And needless to say, Marty Barrett represented a much smaller threat to the pitcher.   Interestingly a veteran Jim Rice, in his penultimate season was up next after Boggs' IBBs 4 times.  Greenwell raised another type of situation.  He was in his peak season, although he had some other nice seasons and 1 year younger and sophomore player in Burks batted after him.   For those that are familiar with the 1988 Red Sox, they were a solid team all the way through and lead the league in BA, OBA, SLG, OPS+.   In addtion to Boggs and Greenwell, Dwight Evans (136) and Burks (132) had OPS+'s over 130.   Unfortunately, they ran into a superhot A's team and were swept 4 straight in the ALCS.

5.  2012 - Detroit Tigers:  Prince Fielder (18), Miguel Cabrera (17)
Team finish:  1st in AL Central
Primary Batting Positions:
Cabrera -  3rd, 161
Fielder - 4th, 162

Times batting back to back - 161 times

Men on Base:
Cabrera: -2-, 9; --3, 5
Fielder: -2-, 10; -23, 5
 Batting Position and hitter after on IBB:
 Fielder (18) (.313, 152 OPS+) (BL)
4th - Delmon Young (.267, 89 OPS+) - 10
4th - Brennan Boesch (.240, 77 OPS+) - 5
Cabrera (17) (.330, 165 OPS+)
3rd, Fielder - 17

To me, what makes the Cabrera/Fielder feat unique this year is that they batted back-to-back ALL season.   Without looking up the actual numbers, I know that the main reason (if not for all of the occurrences) that Cabrera was IBB'ed, was to set up a lefty-lefty matchup.   Fielder's Lefty-Righty splits seem to bear out the relative wisdom as his slash lines were:

vs. RHP: .328//439/.579 - 1.017
vs. LHP: .289/.363/.445 - .808

Still not bad, but definitely worth the risk to Int walk Cabrera.
BTW, Fielder has been the IBB leader now in both leagues, having led the NL in 2011 w/ 32 IBB's
Cabrera led the AL in IBB's in 2010 w/ also 32.

Not sure, but this may be the only time that 2 teammates have both had 30 IBB seasons on the same team (different seasons of course).  I haven't checked, so if anyone else knows if there are others, please let me know.


One project I would love to explore in the future (unless someone else has already) is the result after the IBB is issued.  Who were the best and worst hitters in that spot;  which managers had the best/worst "luck" w/ issuing an IBB. 


  1. Fielder also lead the league in the number of times he was called by his father's name, as above.

  2. Thanks for the catch, Mr(?) A!
    Reference to the daddy corrected.


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