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Five Walks in a Game

By Richard Cuicchi

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Note - This article first appeared in the IBWAA's newsletter Here's The Pitch and is shared here with permission from the author. A friend of this site, Richard Cuicchi has penned articles for SSTN;s use as well.

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Batters With 5 Walks in a Game: Have We Seen the Last of Them?


According to Baseball-Reference.com, there have been only 120 occurrences of batters drawing five or more walks in a game since 1901. (Four involved six walks.) Averaging one instance per season, it’s rarer than some other significant individual batting accomplishments. But unlike those other feats, there is a question of whether drawing five walks in a game is the result of the batter’s skill or just a matter of happenstance. With recent changes and trends in the game, have we seen the last occurrence of five walks in a game?


There have been 655 instances of batters hitting three or more home runs in a game. There have been 300 instances of batters hitting for the cycle in a game. There have been over 2,000 occurrences of three doubles in a game and over 250 occurrences of four or more stolen bases in a game. For the most part, achieving those feats is the result of a player’s offensive skills.


But that’s not necessarily the case for a player with five walks in a game.


Let’s look at some factors for a batter drawing a walk.


· The pitcher is not particularly effective in getting his pitches over the plate.


· The pitcher respects powerful hitters and would rather give a batter a dose of off-the-plate pitches and potentially walk the hitter (sometimes intentionally), versus giving up an extra-base hit.


· The batter is patient at the plate, not willing to swing at pitches outside the strike zone. For On-Base Percentage (OBP) zealots, “a walk is as good as a hit.”


Other factors contributing to the number of walks a batter collects in a game include opportunities for additional plate appearances (and thus more chances to draw a walk) such as games that go into extra innings and games where a team wins in a blowout.


Below is a breakdown of games with occurrences of five or more walks, using three categories of games. Extra-inning and blowout games represent 69% of the 120 total. One could argue that a batter’s five walks in those games is less about his skill and has more to do with additional plate appearances.


· Extra-inning games (56)


· Blowout games (27)


· Nine-inning, non-blowout games (37)


Four players had six walks in a game. Foxx recorded six of his team’s eight walks in a nine-inning blowout. The other three did it in extra-inning games.


· Jimmie Foxx (Red Sox) on June 16, 1938


· Andre Thornton (Indians) on May 2, 1984


· Jeff Bagwell (Astros) on August 20, 1999


· Bryce Harper (Nationals) on May 8, 2016


Only 40 players had five walks in exactly five plate appearances of a game. Mel Ott and Barry Bonds did it twice.


Historically, pitchers have worried about third and fourth-place hitters in the batting order, since they usually represent the biggest threats to hit for power. Pitchers are careful to avoid giving them good pitches to hit and are often willing to give up a free pass in some circumstances. A breakdown of the number of occurrences of five or more walks by position in the batting order appears to bear this out.


  • 1 (21)

  • 2 (12)

  • 3 (34)

  • 4 (30)

  • 5 (11)

  • 6 (6)

  • 7 (2)

  • 8 (4)

Power hitter Mel Ott had the most games (4) with five or more walks. All-time home run leader Barry Bonds was second behind Ott, with three.


However, it wasn’t always the power hitters who accomplished the feat. Rickey Henderson (twice), Vince Coleman, Brett Butler, and Bill North were among the speedsters who batted leadoff and walked five times in a game. Getting on base frequently was part of their normal game.


Fifty-two players had at least one Intentional Base on Balls among their five walks in a game, suggesting they were feared by the pitcher in certain game situations. Players with the most IBBs in a game include:


· Roger Maris (Yankees) had four on May 22, 1962, in 6 plate appearances

· Andre Dawson (Cubs) had five on May 22, 1990, in 8 plate appearance

· Barry Bonds (Giants) had four on June 12, 2004, in 6 plate appearances

· Nine other players with three in a game


Four batters also hit a home run in addition to their five walks (all in extra-inning or blowout games). Apparently, they weren’t satisfied with just walking in every plate appearance.


· Henry Aaron (Braves) on July 11, 1972

· Mark McGwire (A’s) on April 26, 1997

· Edgar Martinez (Mariners) on June 24, 2004

· Rougned Odor (Rangers) on August 2, 2018


The following players with five or more walks in a game had career walks comprising 17% or more of their plate appearances. Patience at the plate, often considered a skill, was part of their normal hitting plan.


· Ted Williams (20.6%)

· Barry Bonds (20.3%)

· Max Bishop (20.0%)

· Eddie Yost (17.6%)

· Mark McGwire (17.2%)

· Charlie Keller (17%)


Following are players whose career walks comprised 5% or lower of their plate appearances, suggesting they were among the most unlikely candidates for drawing five walks in a game.


· Tim Foli (4.0%)

· Hughie Critz (4.5%)

· Vic Davalillo (4.9%)

· Ivan Rodriguez (5%)


Tony Campana (Diamondbacks) had five walks on August 24, 2013, but only 27 in his entire career involving 477 plate appearances. His case was likely one of mere happenstance.

The last batter to draw five walks in a game was Matt Chapman on August 12, 2021.


With the recent “automatic runner in extra innings” rule limiting the potential for marathon extra-inning games, the chances for five-walk games by a batter are reduced. Since the new rule was implemented in 2022, there haven’t been any instances of five walks in a game. There were eight instances of four walks in a game in 2022 and 12 in 2023.


Furthermore, the trend towards batters “barreling up” (hitting a pitch hard with the sweet spot of the bat) for extra-base hits tends to contribute to lower odds of batters walking five times, or even four, in a game.


Who knows? Chapman may end up being the last one.

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Richard Cuicchi has been a SABR member since 1983. He has contributed to over 25 SABR BioProject and Games Project books. He writes about New Orleans baseball history for CrescentCitySorts.com. He maintains the Baseball Relatives website where he posts annual compilations of baseball’s family relationships in the majors and minors. He writes a weekly blog post for his TheTenthInning.com website.


1 Comment


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Jun 02

"· Henry Aaron (Braves) on July 11, 1972

· Mark McGwire (A’s) on April 26, 1997

· Edgar Martinez (Mariners) on June 24, 2004

· Rougned Odor (Rangers) on August 2, 2018"


Now I have the Sesame Street "One of these things is not like the other ones. One of these things doesn't belong" playing in my head!


Fascinating piece, thanks!

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