The Intentional Walk of Fame
April 13, 2010
Last Friday, UT-Arlington center fielder Michael Choice tied the school record with his seventh intentional walk of the season. Sunday, he broke the record with number eight.
That pitchers are working around Choice is no surprise. He's a top-flight prospect on a team without very many of them. Choice is slugging .778 this season, while Preston Beck, the man hitting behind him, barely has an OPS that high.
Still, it's impressive that anybody is breaking any single-season records on April 11th. We're barely past the halfway mark of the regular season.
Choice isn't just setting a new school record with each intentional walk he draws for the remainder of the year, he's establishing the pace for all of college baseball. Here are the 2010 leaders so far, including players from small-college programs in our database:
Player School IW Michael Choice UT-Arlington 8 Evan Jones Trinity (TX) 8 Anthony Rendon Rice 7 A.J. Kirby-Jones Tennessee Tech 7 Chris Edmondson Le Moyne 6 Case Rigby Fresno Pacific 6 Kyle Roller East Carolina 5 Matt Koch Loyola Marymount 5 Robbie Monday UNC Wilmington 5 Mike Murray Wake Forest 5 Jedd Gyorko West Virginia 5 Craige Lyerly Catawba 5 Austin Goolsby Embry-Riddle 5
There's plenty of evidence that for both Choice and Rendon, the IW total doesn't tell the whole story. Choice's OBP is more than 150 points higher than his batting average. His walk rate is a staggering 26 percent, second only to Rendon's 29 percent.
(We're not writing about Rendon today, but...whoa. Rendon is getting pitched around despite batting in the middle of a potent Rice lineup.)
Last year, Choice didn't strike nearly as much fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, collecting only three intentional passes all year. But he's more than making it up in 2010. To wit, here's the leaderboard for 2009.
Player School IW Dan Black Purdue 11 Jon Alia CSU Dominguez Hills 11 Michael Rockett Texas San Antonio 10 Nate Freiman Duke 9 Jeremy Gillan Jacksonville 9 Bryce Brentz Middle Tennessee 9 Steve Parker BYU 8 Dustin Ackley North Carolina 8 Jeremy Cruz Stetson 8 A.J. Kirby-Jones Tennessee Tech 8 Paul Goldschmidt Texas State 8 Kyle Conley Washington 8 Casey McGrew Wright State 8 Matt Duffy Vermont 8
This is pretty good company, and these are the only 14 players who got to eight for the entire season! (Jason Kipnis, Tom Mendonca, and Diego Seastrunk were among those tied at 7.) Like RBIs, intentional walks are largely context-based. Put Dustin Ackley in Choice's lineup and he'd break every record in the books. But also like RBIs, if you're at the top of the list, you're doing something right.
Given Choice's performance so far and his surroundings at UTA, the single-season school record is going to go a lot higher than eight, and it could well be his for a long, long time.