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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.