NWLA: Walking Problem

Let me start this off with a disclaimer: I’m probably going to offend someone. My point is to put this whole “walks are bad” thing to rest. I’m not going to use advanced stats or anything, I’m just going to show you why walks are a NECESSARY commodity for the NWLA Tournament.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard multiple sources complaining that there are too many walks at the NWLA Tournament. They claim that walks are boring and just show that some teams have no intention of swinging. I agree with this notion. There’s also another side that says that you need to throw strikes. I agree with this notion as well. However, I tend to side more with the “throw me a strike” people than the others.

Why? As much as I love high scoring games with amazing home runs and the need for defense, I’m a guy that loves good pitchers. Good pitchers can throw a strike 3 times out of 7. Take Ryan Bush for example: he’s struck out 180 batters all while walking 57, which is just over a 3:1 K/BB ratio over three tournaments. That’s not bad. Chris Harley is another one of this breed, striking out 123 and walking 50, roughly 2.5:1 K/BB. These numbers are pretty good, especially when using fresh wiffleballs, which tend to be less consistent than a scuffed ball.

So here’s my first point: do you really want to give guys like Bush, Harley, and Farkas more balls or less strikes to work with? They’d never walk anyone! And if you say “well it puts more pressure on the batter to swing, then he can get hits”, let me just point you to the fact the Harley has let up nine hits in three tournaments. NINE. So giving him two strikes or more balls basically just results in more K’s. That brings me to my next point: do we really want to put more pressure on the batters? We aren’t exactly lighting up scoreboards with our bats. Last tournament, can you guess what the collective batting average was? If you said “.249” without looking it up I’ll give you $20. That’s LOW for wiffleball, but don’t blame it on the walks. Blame it on the fact that out of 2,338 at-bats, 888 ended in strikeouts, while only 534 ended in hits. There were 637 walks. So hitters are getting out via strikeout more than they walk. They do both more than they hit. Which brings me to my third and final point: adding balls or taking away strikes takes away a huge part of the game. I’m not diving into looking at game film or anything, but I imagine that with a 6-3 count, more of those walks end in K’s. We might even approach 1000 K’s. IN ONE WEEKEND. That’s an insane amount of striking out. Games would last forever. Remember the 12 inning game between OCWA and TBW? Imagine every game taking that long. It would be a nightmare. We might as well expand the innings to nine. Walks are an integral part of the game, and trying to limit them by committing rules blasphemy is an absurd idea.

I would like to see some more excitement in games, so how do we fix the problem? I’d say its not really a rules problem as much as it is a roster problem. This is coming from a guy on a team with two lights out pitchers, but even me, with my mediocre pitching, threw a two hit shutout against one team. That’s the strength that all of the front-running teams have: pitchers who can throw strikes. Because as we’ve talked about before, the tournament average was .249, so for every four batters a pitchers throws strikes to, one gets a hit. So if you just throw a few strikes in there instead of trying to power past everyone and walking the bases loaded, you could get out of an inning without any base runners. I’m not saying to make this a slow pitch tournament, but I am saying that if you aren’t capable of throwing a 80-mph slider for a strike, then maybe you shouldn’t throw a 80-mph slider every single pitch. If you want the batters to swing, you have to make them. Don’t get mad at the batter for taking five straight balls. It’s not his fault if you don’t give him anything to swing at. Get upset at the pitcher for throwing five straight 80-mph sliders that missed the zone by six inches every time. Don’t get mad at managers for telling their guys to take walks if they are given to them. I understand that we go to Ohio to have a good time, but as Herm Edwards once said “You play to win the game!” So if you want to win the game, throw some strikes. It’s that simple.