Friday, August 21, 2009

Do foul balls increase your chances of being plunked?

So what do foul balls have to do with HBPs anyway? Probably no much. But it would be understandable if a batter who fouled off a lot of pitches during a plate appearance frustrated the pitcher enough to get him to throw one that can't be easily fouled off, just to keep the game moving. Just hit the guy and move on.

Well, it appears that pitchers show a little more patience than that. So far this season, batters have been plunked at a rate of once per 116.1 plate appearances, but when they foul off at least one pitch that rate drops to 1 plunk per 131.5 plate appearances. Plunk rates decline with each additional foul ball hit during the plate appearance - after 3 foul balls, batters have been hit once per 172.1 plate appearances, and the 879 batters who have hit 5 or more fouls in a plate appearance have only been hit once. None of the 105 batters who have hit 7 or more fouls in a single plate appearance have been plunked.

62.4% of HBPs this year have occured in plate appearances in which the batter didn't hit any foul balls, but only 57.4% of all plate appearances have been ones with no balls hit foul.

Okay, so it doesn't appear that fouling off a lot of pitches irritates pitchers enough to just hit the batter to get rid of him, but what about the next time the batter comes up? Well, there is a slight increase in HBP rates for batters who fouled off 3 or more pitches in their previous plate appearance. Players who have batted once before in the game already, and didn't hit any foul balls in their prior plate appearance have been plunked once every 109.4 plate appearance, but batters who fouled off 3 or more pitches have been hit about 1.4% more often - about once every 107.9 plate appearances. Fouling off a truely annoying number of pitches like 5 or more doesn't seem to encourage anyone to hit a batter more often the next time they come to the plate either. (These numbers include cases where the batters faced a different pitcher, because I figure the catcher would have a part in the decision too... if we limit it just to instances where the pitcher is the same, the batter is actually less likely to be plunked if he hit some foul balls in his previous trip to the plate.)

So in summary, it appears that hitting foul balls does not increase a batter's likelyhood of being hit by a pitch - at least not base on this season's data. But, at least now you know this.

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