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The Leadoff Walk

We’ve all heard a broadcaster comment on the impending doom of a leadoff walk and yet they fail to seem to apply the same sort of fateful outcome for a single. I thought it would be interesting to find the outcomes of each of the ways a player can leadoff an inning by getting on first base and see if it affects whether or not the runner goes on to score. I took the retrosheet data sine 1952 (but not including this year) that I have as a MySQL database and created a quick python script to determine these results. I took it further and examined if the breakdown were any different in late game situations, as I’m always hearing “You never want to walk the leadoff batter but especially late in close ball games”. I was also curious if even in general more solitary runs get manufactured once a leadoff runner gets on base in late game situations.

Total times batter lead off an inning by getting to first: 508312
Total times runner scored: 192150

So a leadoff batter who starts on first base scores 37.80% percent of the time, here is the breakdown via the means they get aboard

Any inning

Single      325455 Scored 122662   37.69%
Walk        150570 Scored  57189   37.98%
HBP          11865 Scored   4600   38.77%
Error        19260 Scored   7270   37.74%
Strikeout     1007 Scored    375   37.24%
Catcher's Int. 155 Scored     54   34.84%
Totals      508312 Scored 192150   37.80%

So it appears as though it’s not much of a statistically significant difference between the walk and the single. The HBP numbers seems to be a bit of an outlier, I’m wondering if that is just sample size or if such an outcome rattles the pitcher to the point of that much more runs being produced.

Lets now examine the breakdown based upon the stage of the game.

6th inning or earlier

Single      217421 Scored  83243 38.29%
Walk        100587 Scored  38798 38.57%
HBP           7879 Scored   3070 38.96%
Error        12778 Scored   4880 38.19%
Strikeout      645 Scored    244 37.83%
Catcher's Int. 107 Scored     36 33.64%
Totals      339417 Scored 130271 38.38%

7th inning or later

Single     108034 Scored 39419 36.49%
Walk        49983 Scored 18391 36.79%
HBP          3986 Scored  1530 38.38%
Error        6482 Scored  2390 36.97%
Strikeout     362 Scored   131 36.19%
Catcher's Int. 48 Scored    18 37.50%
Totals     168895 Scored 61879 36.64%

Interesting how 1.74% more leadoff runners reaching first score in the earlier innings.  Is this a comment on the failure of manufacturing runs or pitching being different in the later stages of the game?  Perhaps a deeper look based upon “close game situations” is in order for that.