In baseball statistics, an intentional base on balls (denoted by IBB), often called an intentional walk, is used in baseball to count the number of times a walk was issued with no intent of ever allowing a hit. Since most managers call for the intentional walk by holding up four fingers, representing four intentional balls, some announcers and journalists call the intentional walk the four-finger salute.
When a batter receives an intentional base on balls, he is entitled to walk to first base. Receiving an intentional base on balls does not count as an official at bat for a batter but does count as a plate appearance, and a base on balls. When pitching an intentional base on balls, the pitcher will generally throw to an area several feet outside the plate, where it would be physically impossible for the batter to hit the ball. A ball that is thrown intentionally for the purpose of giving up an intentional base on balls is called an intentional ball. A base on balls counts as an intentional base on balls if and only if the final pitch thrown in the at bat is an intentional ball, even if not all the pitches are intentional balls.
The purpose of an intentional walk is to allow a good hitter to get on base in order to face a batter that the team in the field feels they have a better chance at getting out or set up a double play ball with a runner on first base. The danger of pitching the intentional walk is that an extra batter is now on base for the following hitter. Often times, however, there is an additional danger that the batter who the opposing team thought would be an easier out would feel slighted and work harder to get a hit.
Barry Bonds holds almost every Major League Baseball record in existence for intentional walks with four in a nine-inning game (2004), 120 in a season (2004) and 604 in his career (more than the next two players on the all-time list, Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey, combined). Bonds, a prolific home run hitter, is an easy choice for an intentional walk by opposing teams, and this was exacerbated in 2004 as the rest of the Giants team were not a great offensive threat. In the first month of the 2004 baseball season, Bonds drew 43 walks, 22 of them intentional. He broke his previous record of 68 intentional walks, set in 2002, on July 10, 2004 in his last appearance before the All-Star break.