Inside The Numbers: A Look at Sinkler's Incredible Intentional Walk

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Renae Sinkler's intentional walk still has people shaking their head.
Courtesy: Eric Francis

A day later, the facts surrounding the intentional walk issued to Renae Sinkler last night continue to amaze.

First the situation.

In an elimination game of last night's State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Softball Tournament, Wichita State and Creighton were deadlocked in a tightly-contested battle. Wichita State had scored two unearned runs in the second inning, only to have CU's Sara Loeffelholz answer with a two-run homer to tie. The Shockers went ahead 3-2 in the fifth inning on another unearned run, only to see CU's Lauren Larson tie the game with a homer. WSU went ahead 4-3 in the sixth inning, but once again the Jays tied it up when Sinkler extended her MVC record with her 23rd homer of the season.

As the sun set on Buel Field on the Drake University campus, the game would go to extra innings, tied at 4.

Wichita State would be held scoreless in the top of the eighth inning, and the heart of Creighton's line-up (2-3-4) would be coming up to bat in the bottom of the eighth.

Kasha Kolb, the Shocker ace who had thrown a shutout 107-pitch shutout earlier in the day to eliminate host Drake and 122 more pitches in the first seven innings of this game against Creighton, was in the circle.

And into the batter's box stepped Sinkler.

Granted, Sinkler's no ordinary hitter. She's one of four players in league history to repeat as MVC Softball Player of the Year. Owner of the single-season (23) and career (49) home run records in the MVC. Owner of a .383 batting average, a .896 slugging percentage and a .510 on-base percentage this season. It's not a stretch to say she's one among the top sluggers in conference history, and a likely All-American when those teams are announced later this month.

With those facts at hand, Wichita State coach Mike Perniciaro made the curious decision to intentionally walk Sinkler, instantly putting the winning run on base.

You can understand the logic; not wanting to let the best player in the league beat you with one swing of the bat. But as the numbers below will prove, that doesn't mean it's something that is common.

Intrigued by the intentional walk, the Creighton Sports Information office did some research, with the help of the Retrosheet project on http://www.Baseball-Reference.com. Among the simply amazing facts that the research discovered was the following:

-The last time there was an intentional walk in the Major Leagues with no one on and no one out was June 11, 2007 to Barry Bonds in the 6th inning of a game vs. Toronto. There have been 3,539 intentional walks in the Majors since that free pass issued to Bonds.
 
-The last time there was an intentional walk in the Major Leagues with no one on, no one out and in extra innings was August 11, 2004 to Barry Bonds. However, that was in the top of the 10th inning of a game vs. Pittsburgh. There have been 7,093 intentional walks issued since the last one to start an extra inning.
 
-Since 1952, there have been 67,968 intentional walks issued in Major League Baseball. Only 10 of those were with no outs and no one on base (including 5 to Barry Bonds, 2 to Frank Howard and 1 each to Monte Irvin, Daryl Spencer and Missouri State alum Ryan Howard). Only two of those came in extra innings (both to Bonds), but both came in the top of that inning.
 
-In other words, in Major League Baseball since 1952 (which is as far back as the IBB stats are compiled on Retrosheet), there is NO RECORDED INSTANCE of a home team receiving an intentional walk to start any extra inning.

-Need a comparison on just how rare this is? In the history of Major League Baseball, there have been six players that have been issued intentional walks with the bases loaded, thus giving the batting team an automatic run. Six times! Yet, never a leadoff walk in the home half of an extra inning.


Admittedly, college softball is not Major League Baseball. Often times one or two runs will win a game. Pitchers can throw almost every day. Bunting is at a premium. Pinch-runners and re-entry are a key part of the game. This isn't to say there hasn't ever been an intentional walk to start the home half of an extra inning in college softball. But the database of box scores and play-by-plays for college softball simply isn't available like it is for Major League Baseball. And if it hasn't happened in the last 58 years in Major League Baseball, then chances are it could be a long time before we ever hear of something like this ever again.

And as for Sinkler? After a sacrifice bunt by Amy Baker and an intentional walk to Michelle Graner, Creighton would go on to win the game on a single by Larson, plating Sinkler and moving Creighton into a 1:30 pm game today against Illinois State.

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