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In asking this question, I am not referring to exceptional cases like Yovani Gallardo, Madison Bumgarner, or Jake Arrieta, who hit about as well as position players. But I am referring to "most" pitchers, whose batting averages are in the .100s, about half as high as average position players.

I read somewhere that there is a theoretical batting average below which it was right to always throw strikes because the chances of getting the person out was so high that it was worthwhile not to give him a chance to walk, and as a practical matter, there was a somewhat higher threshold below which it made sense to throw mostly strikes, thereby giving the batter a minimal chance to walk.

My best recollection is that the rule is that one should "never" walk a batter (incurring a sure loss) whose average was below .075 even if he all home runs, and that it made sense to never walk a batter with an average as high as .225 if he never made extra base hits.

Don't most National League pitchers fall beneath these thresholds as batters? (Or if I have stated them wrongly, the "corrected" ones?) So why do pitchers often throw enough balls to walk them, when they could get them out by throwing mostly strikes?

Put another way, why does practice differ from theory in this instance?

  • So is your question "why are pitchers walked?" or is your question "at what average should a player always be thrown strikes, as there is a low chance of them getting on base?" – New-To-IT Apr 18 '17 at 15:36
  • @New-To-IT: The "composite" question is "why are pitchers walked, when (in most cases), their averages are low enough so that there is a low chance of their getting on base? Are other pitchers aware of the latter? – Tom Au Apr 18 '17 at 17:53
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Pitchers don't try to walk anyone, most walks come from poor execution on the pitchers part/ bad calls by the umpire. Also, pitchers (while hitting) walk less frequently than positions players, indicating that the pitchers throwing are aware that the pitchers hitting can't hit.

  • Pitchers don't try to walk ALMOST anyone of course (see intentional walks). I'd say that there's a variable ratio of willingness to walk vs willingness to throw a hitable pitch for each batter, and for a poor hitter, it's almost 0, while for a player like Mike Trout with no one on base, it's quite high. But think you hit the notable point at least in suggesting that they aren't trying to. – JeopardyTempest May 25 '17 at 19:53
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    @JeopardyTempest That's a good point. Pitchers have to balance not giving a meatball with not walking. – Frank Anderson May 25 '17 at 21:44

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