What is an Intentional Walk in Baseball (Rule Explained)

A. Coatess

Written by

A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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what is an intentional walk in baseball

Do you know what is an intentional walk in baseball? Picture a crucial moment on the field, a star batter waiting in anticipation, and then, an unexpected turn of events – the defending team decides to let the batter stroll to first base without even trying to get them out.

It’s a strategic move that adds an element of suspense to the game, like a move on a chessboard. In this article, we’ll unveil what is intentional walk in baseball and explore its purposes, timing, and those who hold records for the most and fewest numbers of this intriguing maneuver.

What is a Baseball Intentional Walk?


In baseball, an intentional walk is a strategy in which the defense chooses to let a batter go to first base without throwing any pitches to him. It is also known as an intentional base on ball (IBB) in scorekeeping.

This is often done when the batter is exceptionally skilled or poses a significant threat, and the defensive team believes it’s more advantageous to face the next batter instead.

During an intentional walk, the pitcher intentionally throws four pitches outside the strike zone, usually signaled by the catcher standing far off to one side of the plate. However, MLB implemented a rule change starting in 2017. There’s no need to throw pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Managers in MLB, high school, college, and most Little League have a couple of ways to communicate an intentional walk to the home plate umpire. They can either gesture for the batter to go to first base or display four fingers.

Why Do Teams Use Intentional Walks?

Teams use intentional walks in baseball for several strategic reasons:

1. Avoiding a Threatening Batter


One of the primary reasons is to avoid facing a particularly skilled or powerful batter. When facing a power hitter, the team or the manager may gave the intentional walk signal.

This may be a hitter with a high batting average, a history of hitting home runs, or a knack for driving in runs.

2. Setting Up a Double Play

In situations where there are runners on base and less than two outs, an intentional walk can set up a potential double play. By putting a slower runner on base, the defensive team increases the chances of turning two outs with a ground ball.

3. Pitcher-Batter Matchup


Managers may opt for a no-pitch intentional walk to create a more favorable pitcher-batter matchup. For instance, they might prefer a left-handed pitcher to face a left-handed batter or vice versa, increasing the chances of an out.

4. Preserving a Lead

In late-game situations, teams with a lead might intentionally walk a batter to set up a force play at any base. This can be a safer strategy to protect their lead.

5. Strategic Game Plan


Teams may employ the intentional walk rule as part of their overall game strategy, aligning with their analysis of the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses.

Employing intentional walks per game can help load the bases strategically, setting up potential double plays or force plays to gain an advantage in crucial situations.

Most Intentional Walks in History:

Now, let’s find out the MLB players who hold records for the most intentional walks in the history of baseball

1. Barry Bonds


He holds the record with 688 intentional walks. His combination of power and plate discipline made him an intimidating presence at the plate.

2. Albert Pujols


He ranks second on the list with 309 intentional walks in his career. He is known for his consistency and power.

3. Hank Aaron


He received 293 intentional walks during his illustrious career. His incredible power and ability to hit for average made him a prime candidate for intentional passes.


Understanding what is intentional walk in baseball is unveils a strategic facet of the sport where careful decision-making comes into play. It is a deliberate tactic the defensive team employs to navigate crucial game situations, such as avoiding dangerous hitters or setting up double-play opportunities.

While it may seem like a simple act of letting a batter walk to first base, intentional walks in baseball demonstrate the sport’s rich history and evolving strategies.

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