Friday, August 22, 2008

spectator sports

One of the great things about batters who get hit by a lot of pitches is that most of them don't slow the game down by standing around at the plate and watching a lot of pitches go by. The average plate appearance that ends in an HBP takes just 3.13 pitches, while the average number of pitches in a non-HBP plate appearance is 3.80. For the plunk-ending plate appearances, those 3.13 pitches break down to 0.78 pitches that get swung at, 1.35 pitches that the batters watches go by, and 1 pitch that strikes the batter. By contrast, the non-HBP plate appearances include an average of 1.71 pitches that get swung at and 2.09 pitches that just get looked at by the batter and fans alike. So that means, on average, when a batter goes up to the plate and doesn't get hit, he's doing about 55% more of absolutely nothing than a batter who takes one for the team - and the fans. (In this case I refer to getting hit by a pitch as doing something, though at other times I may refer to it as standing still... but at least more is happening on those pitches than on a called strike or a ball.)

If you're into that sort of thing, and like to watch batters who do nothing but stand there and watch pitches go by, you might want to check out the Boston Red Sox sometime. 259 times so far this season, a Red Sox batter has stood at the plate and watched at least four pitches go by without swinging at anything. And that DOES NOT include intentional walks. They lead the league in that category, just ahead of the Mets at 258 and the Cardinals at 253. For the Red Sox, that's about 5% of their plate appearances where they just don't do anything, although 2 of those 259 did end up with the batter getting hit by a pitch. The Red Sox are also dead last in swings per pitch, swinging at only 42.5% of all pitches. The major league average is 45%. Really, if they're not going to use those bats they should donate some of them to a less fortunate team who will put them to good use - like the Royals - they swing at 47.4% of pitches thrown to them. They're just happy to HAVE bats, and show their appreciation by swinging them.

Among the top pitch-watchers in the league, only one (Jason Giambi) has been hit by a decent number of pitches. Here's the top 10 list, including ties, in order of excessive time wasting, which I define as plate appearance with 4 or more pitches and no swings, that are not intentional walks:
BatterEWT*HBPsswings per pitch
Nick Markakis4620.404
Bobby Abreu4510.353
Jason Giambi44160.389
B.J. Upton4300.397
Jason Bay4130.387
J.D. Drew4040.37
Joe Mauer4000.351
Carlos Beltran4000.402
Ryan Theriot4030.384
Troy Glaus3930.385
Pat Burrell3910.402
Adam Dunn3960.389
Lyle Overbay3930.393
*You didn't read the paragraph above this chart did you? EWT stands for Excessive Wastes of Time, defined as plate appearances with 0 swings and at least 4 pitches, not including intentional walks.

As you can see, the Red Sox really had to make that Jason Bay deal to keep pace with the Yankees, since they have Abreu and Giambi at the top of the list of batters who like to watch the game go by from the batters box. If this trend continues the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry will just turn into a staring contest. Giambi is the odd case on the chart though, being hit by so many pitches and still finding time to stand around and watch a lot of other pitches. His average number of pitches per plate appearances when he gets hit is 3.25, but when he doesn't get hit they last 4.29 pitches on average. He swings an average of 0.69 times and watches 1.56 pitches go by before getting hit, but when he doesn't get hit by one he's watched 2.59 and swung at 1.70 pitches.

On the other end of the spectrum, the guys who really like swinging a lot get hit slightly more often. Here are the players with the fewest excessively time wasting plate appearances, with a minimum of 300 total plate appearance.
BatterEWT*HBPsswings per pitchtotal plate appearances
Howie Kendrick340.521322
Jason Bartlett450.469368
Ivan Rodriguez530.571368
Kenji Johjima560.490322
Kevin Kouzmanoff5120.554519
Alexei Ramirez510.594367
Alfonso Soriano530.529362
David Dellucci580.462321
Joe Crede640.523347
Freddy Sanchez630.498488
Rod Barajas660.513310
Vladimir Guerrero640.570495
Yuniesky Betancourt620.522444

* - see above if you got this far down the post without picking up what EWT has been defined as.

It will be interesting to see how Ivan Rodriguez fits in with the Yankees, since he's averaging a league leading 2.1 swings per plate appearance.

Kevin Kouzmanoff is the leader in getting hit among this group, and interestingly when he gets hit by a pitch it seems to be because he's been at the plate longer than normal. His HBP plate appearances average 4.0 pitches, while he only sees 3.57 pitches when he doesn't get hit. In his non-plunk PAs, he averages 2 rips of the lumber, but only gets around to 1.25 when he gets hit. Before he gets hit he watches 1.75 pitches without swinging, while he only sees 1.57 pitches he doesn't want to swing at in his non-plunk plate appearances.


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