Saturday, January 24, 2009

batting with plunked runners (2008 leaders)

Craig Biggio once said, on the subject of HBPs, "they don't hurt as bad if you score". Lucky for him he had Jeff Bagwell around to help him out with that, among others. But neither of them are still playing the game so it's left to others to hit the ball after the ball has hit one of their teammates. In 2008, major league batters averaged .273 hits per at bat with a runner on first base, but if that batter got their by getting hit by a pitch, they batted .282. They only batted .274 when the guy on first got their on a single, and just .246 when they got there on an intentional walk. When there was a runner on any base who initially reached on an HBP, batters hit for a .278 average and slugged .465 in the 2008 season.

If you're the kind of batter who gets hit by a lot of pitches, and you'd like to turn those plunks into runs, you might want to get yourself into a batting order with Vernon Wells behind you. Wells had 11 plate appearances in 2008 where there was at least one batter on base who had been hit by a pitch. The plunked runner was driven in for a run on 6 of those occasions. Wells hit 3 singles and 2 sacrifice flies to drive in plunked runners, and knocked in one more on a force out. Wells had the best success rate in the league for knocking in plunked base runners, at 54.5%.

Ryan Garko only knocked in 40% of the plunked runners on base when he stepped to the plate, but he had 20 such opportunities, playing for the frequently-plunked Cleveland Indians. The allowed him to drive in 8 runners who reached base on an HBP. Pat Burrell drove in the bruised base runner 7 times in 18 opportunities, and his teammate Ryan Howard drove in a plunked runner 6 times. But, Howard had a league high 35 plate appearance with at least one runner on base who had been hit by a pitch, so he was only successful in making those plunks hurt less, like Biggio said, 17.1% of the time.

In a lot of those plate appearance for Howard, it was Chase Utley who was on base after being plunked, but Utley wasn't very helpful to other batters who got plunked in front of him. Utley had 20 plate appearances with a plunked runner on base, and didn't drive in any of them. He batted .278 and was plunked once in those situations, but never put a ball in play that allowed his runner to score. Vlad Guerrero was similarly unhelpful, failing in all 14 opportunities to drive in the plunked runner, and batting .181 in the process.

As a team, the the Texas Rangers had the best success at driving in plunked base runners, doing so in 19% of the plate appearances they had in those situations. The Indians drove in 31 such base runners, but had a league high 187 plate appearances with a runner on base, which makes sense since they broke the post-1900 record for team HBPs in 2008. On the other end were the Cincinatti Reds, who had 77 plate appearances with a plunked runner on base, and only drove him in 6 times - just 7.8% of the time. That's not so good.

The Florida Marlins led the league in slugging percentage with plunked runners on base at .717. Overall, they slugged .411 with runners on base, so having runner who got hit by pitches really helped them out. They led the league with 11 home runs with runners who had been plunked. On the other end, the Braves slugged .410 with runners on base in 2008, but when you narrow it down to specific instances where at least one of those base runners was plunked, they only slugged .308 with no home runs.

Here are the top 10 in 2008 batting average with runners on base who had been plunked (minimum 10 plate appearances):
Ben Francisco - .700 (12 PA, 10 AB)
Ty Wigginton - .600 (11 PA, 10 AB)
Prince Fielder - .556 (13 PA, 9 AB)
Mike Jacobs - .529 (19 PA, 17 AB)
Jason Michaels - .500 (12 PA, 10 AB)
Ryan Garko - .500 (20 PA, 18 AB)
Franklin Gutierrez - .467 (16 PA, 15 AB)
Austin Kearns - .462 (13 PA, 13 AB)
Stephen Drew - .455 (12 PA, 11 AB)
Marco Scutaro - .455 (12 PA, 11 AB)

And the bottom 10 (with ties):
Bobby Crosby - .000 (10 PA, 9 AB)
Andy Marte - .000 (10 PA, 8 AB)
Melky Cabrera - .091 (11 PA, 11 AB)
Hunter Pence - .100 (10 PA, 10 AB)
Luis Rivas - .111 (10 PA, 9 AB)
Derrek Lee - .111 (11 PA, 9 AB)
Mike Lowell - .111 (11 PA, 9 AB)
Chris Young - .111 (12 PA, 9 AB)
Miguel Cabrera - .125 (10 PA, 8 AB)
Jacoby Ellsbury - .143 (17 PA, 14 AB)
Rich Aurilia - .143 (14 PA, 14 AB)
Khalil Greene - .143 (12 PA, 7 AB)
Geovany Soto - .143 (10 PA, 7 AB)
Jason Kendall - .143 (10 PA, 7 AB)

Here's the top 10 in slugging pct, with at least one runner on base who had been plunked:
Ben Francisco - .700 (12 PA, 10 AB)
Mike Jacobs - .529 (19 PA, 17 AB)
Mike Cameron - .375 (10 PA, 8 AB)
Jeremy Hermida - .429 (10 PA, 7 AB)
Prince Fielder - .556 (13 PA, 9 AB)
Ty Wigginton - .600 (11 PA, 10 AB)
Mark Teahen - .300 (10 PA, 10 AB)
Jason Giambi - .444 (14 PA, 9 AB)
Manny Ramirez - .286 (10 PA, 7 AB)
Jack Cust - .364 (11 PA, 11 AB)

And the bottom 10:
Bobby Crosby - .000 (10 PA, 9 AB)
Andy Marte - .000 (10 PA, 8 AB)
Melky Cabrera - .091 (11 PA, 11 AB)
Hunter Pence - .100 (10 PA, 10 AB)
Luis Rivas - .111 (10 PA, 9 AB)
Derrek Lee - .111 (11 PA, 9 AB)
Mike Lowell - .111 (11 PA, 9 AB)
Rich Aurilia - .143 (14 PA, 14 AB)
Khalil Greene - .143 (12 PA, 7 AB)
Geovany Soto - .143 (10 PA, 7 AB)
Jason Kendall - .143 (10 PA, 7 AB)

And here's the full list of 2008 teams, sorted by batting average in situations with at least on plunked runner on base:
Blue Jays
White Sox
Red Sox

Thursday, January 22, 2009

presidential plunks

With the book closed on the Bush administration, it sounds like it's about time to take stock of the historical significance of his presidency, and of course around here we judge things not by approval ratings, or scandals, or foreign policy failures, but by HBPs. And by THAT measure, George W. Bush had the most successful term in office of any president.

During the 8 baseball seasons of the Bush administration, 14,376 batters were hit by pitches in major league games. That is the most HBPs ever during the term in office of a single President of the United States. Clinton's 8 year term spanned 10,886 HBPs, so the Bush administration expanded that total by 32%. Some of that improvement was due to expansion of the league, since Bush had 30 MLB teams during his entire 8 years in office, but there was also a 21% increase in HBPs per plate appearance during the Bush administration over the rate of plunks during the Clinton years. Batters were hit about once every 104 plate appearances during Bush's years, which is the highest frequency of plunkings since the McKinley administration. I would think it's safe to say that the presidents had something to do with this, under the widely used media theory that everything that ever happens can be attributed, positively or negatively, to either the President or the quarterback, depending on what we're talking about. One could argue that due to the Bush administrations foreign policy, a pitcher might assume that he could get away with hitting a few more batters, because the batter's reaction to being hit by a pitch would be to follow the administration's example and charge the third baseman. Especially if the third baseman is kind of jerk and might deserve it. This doesn't explain things very accurately because the rate of HBPs peaked, and set a post 1900 record, in the 2001 season, most of which occurred before the nation was thrown the savage bean ball on 9/11, and the subsequent charging of third base by the US military, which was easier to find than that elusive pitcher. But this kind of thinking could certainly have helped the high plunk rates since 2002, even if they haven't quite matched that 2001 season.

Jason Kendall gets the title of the most plunked player during the Bush years, with 127 HBPs, but David Eckstein was close behind him with 125. Jason Giambi was third with 122, and Craig Biggio was fourth with 116 HBPs, even though he retired a season before Bush's term ended. Kendall's 127 plunks is well short of the record for most HBPs during one presidency - Ron Hunt had 165 while Nixon was in office, and Biggio had 151 during the Clinton years. Also ahead of the Kendall/Bush team are Don Baylor's 149 plunks under Reagan, Minnie Minoso's 132 during Eisenhower's term, and Hughie Jennings total during the McKinley administration, which was somewhere between 131 and 145 depending on how many of Jennings 12 HBPs in 1901 occurred before September 14th when McKinley was assassinated. Probably by Yankees fans.

Speaking of the Yankees, they were hit by 600 pitches during the Bush presidency (despite his sense of patriotism). That was second only to the Pittsburgh Pirates who got hit 613 times. The Milwaukee Brewers were third with 566, and the Indians got hit 556. Toronto got hit 546 times, but since they're Canadian, that might not be relevant here. The Houston Astros, whose games were often attended by Bush's parents, got hit 542 times during the W. presidency.

On the pitching side of things, the pitchers for the Boston Red Sox threw the most pitches at opposing batters during Bush's term, with a total of 632. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays hit 593, and the Texas Rangers hit 551 batters (possibly feeling they could get away with it more while their former owner was in the White House). Tim Wakefield was the leading plunk thrower under the Bush administration, with 93, but Wakefield's knuckleballs echoed the Senior President Bush's call for a kinder, gentler HBP. Vicente Padilla hit 90 batters during the term of the 43rd US president, and Jeff Weaver hit 86. Randy Johnson hit 81 batters.

So, despite it's many other flaws, which can be picked apart by bloggers and historians for years, one thing is clear - during the presidency of George W. Bush, more major league batters were hit by pitches than ever before, and at rates not seen since the golden age of HBPs at the end of the 19th century. The art of getting hit by pitches has taken a big step forward in the past 8 years. Perhaps the Obama administration can do even better, inspiring a new generation of players to ask not what a home run swing can do for them, but what refusing to get out of the way of an inside fastball can do for their team.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Padres upgrade their get-hitting.

The Padres have had a somewhat odd offseason - they got rid of Khalil Greene, when he was just 4 HBPs away from breaking the franchise career record, but now they've brought in David Eckstein, who greatly increases their potential to get hit by pitches. Eckstein has been hit once every 8.5 games over the course of his career, which means if he could stay healthy for two seasons, and play 298 games at that rate, he'd own the Padres career HBP record (currently just 35). But, the Padres only signed him to a one year deal.

Among players who have ever spent time with the Padres, only Gary Sheffield has more career HBPs than Eckstein, but Eckstein is only 8 plunks behind Sheffiled, 133 to 125. No player who ever spent time with the Padres and played over 100 big league games has had a games per plunk ratio lower than 12, compaired to Eckstein's 8.5. The best prior Padre in this category is Kevin Kouzmanoff, who's been hit once per 12.6 games so far, and broke the team's single season record last season, when he got hit 15 times. Could the Padres be bringing in the veteran Eckstein specifically to mentor Kouzmanoff in the fine art of staying in the way of pitches? We shall see.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter league update - pitchers

While many baseball fans have been busy enjoying freezing weather, snow, ice storms causing power failures, and other joys of winter, a lot of baseball players have been hanging around the various Caribbean leagues playing winter ball and getting hit by pitches. Which means it's time to take a look at who's been hitting the most batters in the winter leagues.

Arizona Fall League
The Arizona Fall League wrapped up their season in November, with Braves prospect Tommy Hanson winning the league MVP. But, Hanson only hit 3 of the 124 batters he faced in AFL play, which was good for only 8th place on the hit batters list. Sergio Perez was the biggest threat to batters safety in the league, hitting 6 batters, and only not hitting 100. He works for the Astros and could be plunking opposing batters for them in spring training soon.

Arizona Fall League hit batter leaders
NameTeamHBBatters FacedHB per BF
Sergio PerezScottsdale Scorpions61060.057
Rowdy HardySurprise Rafters51030.049
Gaby HernandezPeoria Javelins41360.029
Joe WoermanPeoria Javelins3620.048
Jeff SuesScottsdale Scorpions3710.042
Shane LindsayPhoenix Desert Dogs3960.031
Phil HughesPeoria Javelins31240.024
Tommy HansonMesa Solar Sox31240.024
Dan CortesSurprise Rafters31320.023
Kevin PucetasScottsdale Scorpions31460.021
Jeff ManshipPhoenix Desert Dogs31670.018

Hawaii Winter League
The Hawaii Winter League also finished play in November, despite the name, and their leader in throwing baseballs at opposing hitters was Chris Salberg of the Orioles farm system. He hit 7 of the 136 batters he faced. But, right behind him was Steve Edlefson of the Giants system. He drilled 6 batters, but only needed 72 attempts, meaning he hit one out of every 12 batters.

Hawaii Winter League hit batter leaders
NameTeamHBBatters FacedHB per BF
Chris SalbergWest Oahu CaneFires71360.051
Steve EdlefsenWaikiki Beach Boys6720.083
Jason GodinNorth Shore Honu51370.036
Rob HarmonWaikiki Beach Boys4730.055
Scott ShawHonolulu Sharks41240.032
Austin ChamblissHonolulu Sharks3450.067
Cody ScarpettaWest Oahu CaneFires3710.042
Josh StinsonHonolulu Sharks3990.03
Johnny VentersHonolulu Sharks31360.022
Daiki KiyoharaWest Oahu CaneFires2640.031
Moises RoblesWest Oahu CaneFires2810.025
Matt MeyerNorth Shore Honu2860.023
Christopher KissockHonolulu Sharks2870.023
Timothy BascomWest Oahu CaneFires2910.022
Shawn NottinghamNorth Shore Honu2970.021
Roy MerrittHonolulu Sharks2980.02
Jose CapellanNorth Shore Honu21090.018
Fumikazu KimuraWest Oahu CaneFires21310.015
Jun Hyeok HeoNorth Shore Honu21360.015
Mitsuo YoshikawaWaikiki Beach Boys21610.012

Dominican Winter League
In the Dominican Winter League, there are some big names in the field of hitting batters. The 2008 MLB leader in plunks, Daniel Cabrera, is pitching there this winter, along with Reds pitchers Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, who tied for 3rd in the majors. But, it's Julio Depaula who is showing them all how it's done - or how not to do it, with 7 hit batters out of 110 batters faced. It looks like the Rays were impressed enough to sign him.

Dominican Winter League hit batter leaders:
NameTeamHBBatters Faced
HB per BF
Julio DePaulaGigantes del Cibao71100.064
Ramon OrtizTigres del Licey51540.032
Dustin NippertTigres del Licey41500.027
Matt WrightTigres del Licey41510.026
Julian TavarezAguilas Cibaenas41940.021
Carlos MarmolTigres del Licey3320.094
Jose AcevedoTigres del Licey3360.083
Anderson GarciaEstrellas de Oriente3510.059
Samuel GervacioTigres del Licey3520.058
Elizardo RamirezLeones del Escogido3590.051
Juan FelicianoAguilas Cibaenas31000.03
Omar BeltreAzucareros del Este31840.016
Jorge SosaTigres del Licey33240.009

Mexican Pacific League
In the Mexican League, major league veteran Oscar Villarreal has hit 6 batters in 252 attempts, but Rays farm hand Pablo Ortega and someone named Alfredo Caudillo have hit 7 each. Meanwhile, 41 year old former all-star Scott Erickson has hit 5 batters in 81 attempts, for a rate one plunk per 16.2 batters faced. Don't call it a comeback - he's been here for years. Game 4 of the Mexican League semi-finals is today.

Mexican Pacific League hit batter leaders
NameTeamHBBatters Faced
HB per BF
Alfredo CaudilloAguilas de Mexicali72980.023
Pablo OrtegaVenados de Mazatlan74000.018
Oscar VillarrealAguilas de Mexicali62520.024
Miguel RamirezNaranjeros de Hermosillo62960.02
Scott EricksonAguilas de Mexicali5810.062
Hugo CastellanosYaquis de Obregon51750.029
Hansel IzquierdoMayos de Navojoa41810.022
Sergio ValenzuelaVenados de Mazatlan42010.02
Mauricio LaraMayos de Navojoa42280.018
Edgar GonzalezNaranjeros de Hermosillo42440.016
Mario MendozaMayos de Navojoa42520.016
Humberto MontemayorAguilas de Mexicali43340.012
Francisco CamposNaranjeros de Hermosillo43890.01

Puerto Rican Winter League
The Puerto Rican Winter league has reached its postseason, and you can read all about it here if you can read spanish. I can't. But I can tell you that Josue Matos has led the league in hitting batters, so far, with 6, but Angel Garcia has only needed to face 112 batters to hit 5. Garcia is in the Royals farm system, and Matos has played in the farm systems for Seattle, Toronto and Philadelphia.

Puerto Rican Winter League hit batter leaders
NameTeamHBBatters Faced
HB per BF
Josue MatosGigantes de Carolina62200.027
Angel GarciaCangrejeros de Santurce
Chris KellyLobos de Arecibo51470.034
Orlando RomanCriollos de Caguas
Hector MercadoLeones de Ponce
Roy MerrittIndios de Mayaguez
P.J. WaltersGigantes de Carolina41610.025
Tomas SantiagoIndios de Mayaguez
Josh RainwaterLeones de Ponce
Dillon GeeLeones de Ponce

Venezuelan Winter League
In the Venezuelan League, Major League Free Agent Tony Armas Jr. is showcasing himself to potential employers by leading the league in hit batters. He's hit 6, tied for the league lead with Tracy Thorpe, who has been invited to Mariners training camp. Meanwhile, Felix Arellan only faced 32 batters, but at the rate he was going, he'd have hit 10.7 batters if he'd faced 100.

Venezualan Winter League hit batter leaders
NameTeamHBBatters Faced
HB per BF
Tony ArmasLeones del Caracas61090.055
Tracy ThorpeCardenales de Lara61870.032
Marcel PradoAguilas de Zulia5680.074
Darwin CubillanLeones del Caracas51050.048
Harold EckertTiburones de La Guaira51730.029
Kasey OlenbergerBravos de Margarita4930.043
Yorman BazardoTigres de Aragua41890.021
Mike RomanoCardenales de Lara42790.014
Henry BonillaTiburones de La Guaira43130.013
Felix ArellanLeones del Caracas3320.094
Luis TorresTiburones de La Guaira3420.071
Justin BergTigres de Aragua3600.050
Carmen CaliTigres de Aragua3690.043
Eduardo PerezAguilas de Zulia31010.030
Elio SerranoNavegantes del Magallanes31090.028
Rich HillTigres de Aragua31090.028
B.J. LaMuraAguilas de Zulia31190.025
Ivan BlancoCardenales de Lara31220.025
Francisco ButtoTigres de Aragua31270.024
Rosman GarciaTigres de Aragua31280.023
Yusmeiro PetitNavegantes del Magallanes31520.020
Jesus DelgadoTigres de Aragua31890.016
Horacio EstradaTigres de Aragua32120.014
Heath TottenAguilas de Zulia33140.010
Chris JakubauskasCardenales de Lara33300.009


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Electoral College Plunks

Every election year, the Electoral College gets debated once again, because let's face it - it's weird, and confusing, and people like to make a big deal of the "popular vote" and so forth. But, I think the real problem with the Electoral College is that it apportions votes based on congressional representatives, which are based on state populations. When you base something as important as the electing of the US President on state populations, all you're doing is rewarding the ability to grow your population. Is that really still an important goal at this point? I think not, and I'm basing that assumption mostly on the number of people in cars between me and where ever I'm going. There are too many of them. This population growth also has the effect of driving up the price of baseball tickets, parking at baseball games, and the length of lines at concession stands at baseball games. All because states want to have more people in them so they can have more electoral votes.

So, what if we base our system of electing the President on something important, like each state's ability to produce baseball players who can get hit by a lot of pitches? This encourages more baseball, and the selflessness and team-first attitude that we'd like to see in those who are elected into higher office. Maybe this would convince the occasional politician to put the countries interests ahead of their own once in a while, the way some baseball players put their team ahead of their own well being by letting a speeding baseball strike them in the body, just to get on base.

I propose that instead of the current system, we apportion electoral votes based on how many HBPs have been collected in the Major Leagues by players born in the last 50 years in each state.

Here's a table showing the old system and the proposed system of votes:
StateCurrent Electoral VotesTotal HBPSNew Electoral Votes
Alabama 92667
Alaska 3381
Arizona 102717
Arkansas 61624
California 556546149
Colorado 9441
Connecticut 72677
Delaware 31323
Florida 27202946
Georgia 1594122
Hawaii 4822
Idaho 441
Illinois 21123228
Indiana 1151912
Iowa 71514
Kansas 62025
Kentucky 83689
Louisiana 93448
Maine 471
Maryland 1046211
Massachusetts 123829
Michigan 1744511
Minnesota 101253
Mississippi 63488
Missouri 112326
Montana 341
Nebraska 5832
Nevada 5582
New Hampshire 4261
New Jersey 1554913
New Mexico 5221
New York 31184942
North Carolina 153448
North Dakota 31103
Ohio 2085320
Oklahoma 73579
Oregon 745811
Pennsylvania 2156513
Rhode Island 41223
South Carolina 82486
South Dakota 3462
Tennessee 111424
Texas 34105424
Utah 5121
Vermont 3191
Virginia 132857
Washington 1154613
West Virginia 591
Wisconsin 102767
Wyoming 3762
Washington, D.C.3452

Each state's new electoral vote total was based on the states percentage of total US player HBPs, multiplied by the current electoral total of 538 votes. However, all fractions were rounded up to prevent Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia from being left vote-less. But if any state goes 50 years without producing a player who gets hit by at least one pitch, I think we can all agree that we know longer care about that state's opinion of who should run the country. It's only logical.

Obviously the big winner in the new system is California - they stand to gain 94 more electoral votes over their current total. 27.5% of all plunks recorded by players born in the US in the last 50 years were recorded by Californians, so it's only fair that they should get that big a say in who is elected president. Obviously this will be recalculated every election year, so as soon as other state's players start stepping up, they can gain more influence over the election process. And, if you think one player can't make a difference, look at New York. They gain 11 electoral votes under the proposed system, but 6 of those are entirely due to the contribution of Craig Biggio, and his 285 career HBPs.

If this new HBP based system had been in place for the 2008 elections, Barack Obama would have one by an even wider margin - 431 to 133 votes, instead of the 365 to 173 margin he really won by. But, however you feel about that outcome, you shouldn't allow it to influence your opinion on this proposed new system - because really, it just makes too much sense not to do. Right?

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