Archive for July, 2008

leftovers

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

A few items that didn’t need to be their own posts:

Cubs record broken: In the 9th inning on May 24th, Kerry Wood hit Doug Mientkiewicz, breaking the Cubs franchise record for hitting batters. That was number 86 for Wood, breaking Ed Reulbach’s record which stood for 95 years. I’m assuming Mientkiewicz kept the ball and is refusing to give it back to Wood or the Cubs.

Angels reach milestone: On May 25th, John Lackey hit Carlos Quentin with a pitch, making that the 2,000th time an Angels pitcher hit a batter. The Rockies are 8 plunks away from hitting 1,000 batters in club history.

A lot of unnecessary swinging: Kevin Kouzmanoff has swung at 15 pitches in plate appearances that ended with him being hit by a pitch. That leads the league in that made up category. Josh Hamilton has swung at 988 pitches this season, but he’s only been hit twice. Hamilton has swung his bat 88 more times than anyone else in the league.

Sacrifices that don’t involve getting hit by pitches: Frank Thomas is 8 sacrifice flies away from breaking Eddie Murray’s record of 128 in that category, but he’s also 35 plate appearances from becoming the first player ever to reach 10,000 plate appearances without hitting a sacrifice bunt. Harmin Killebrew is official leader at not bunting, with 9,831 plate appearances, but Thomas will eclipse that mark as long as he retires before he successfully bunts. He’s due to rejoin the A’s soon, after missing June and July with an injury.

The race to be the HBP king of beers: Chris Iannetta of the Rockies and Rickie Weeks of the Brewers are tied for the league lead in getting hit by pitches at parks named after beer, with 5 each. More surprisingly though, Nate McLouth of the Pirates is tied for 4th. Jonny Gomes leads in parks named after orange juice, and Conor Jackson has a slim lead over Chase Utley in parks named after banks. These splits are now available on the interactive bruise board, under the individual batting leaders. That gets updated daily, so you can keep track of such important things.

Parks, Stadiums and Fields

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

32 different sports venues have hosted major league baseball games this season, including sites in Tokyo and Orlando, and it’s hard to tell by looking at them which are Stadiums, which are Fields, and which are Parks. The best way to tell is to look at what they call themselves, even though that can also be confusing. Tropicana Field looks like a dome, but they call it a field. Minute Maid Park has a roof, but it’s not really dome shaped, and it used to be a Field before the Enron collapse, but now it’s a Park. Chase Field has a similar roof, but it used to be a Park. The place they play in Toronto used to be a Dome but now it’s a Centre. But the easiest way to tell is this – if you’re getting hit by a lot of pitches this season, you’re probably at a Field.

In 421 games played at Fields this year, batters have been hit about once every 100 plate appearances, and there have been an average of 0.77 hit batters per game. Centre’s are the next most likely place to get plunked, per plate appearance, but there’s only one of those. Rogers Centre. Games there average 0.69 hit batters, at a rate of one every 111 plate appearances, but they’ve only had 52 games. Stadiums have hosted 380 games, and had 253 batters plunked in them, for an average of 0.67 per game.

Here’s the full list, by venue type:

Venue Type # of Venues HBP Games PA HBP/G PA/HBP
Field 8 323 421 32,419 0.77 100
Centre 1 36 52 3,985 0.69 111
Stadium 8 253 380 29,041 0.67 115
Park 12 405 632 49,324 0.64 122
Coliseum 1 32 58 4,397 0.55 137
Dome 2 23 57 4,295 0.4 187

Left handed first basemen in New York sure get hit by a lot of pitches

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Jason Giambi is currently leading the league in getting hit by pitches, but you know whose been hit more times than him? Carlos Delgado. Delgado is 2nd among active players in career HBPs, and he’s the leader among left handed batters. The list of left handed batters who have been hit by as many pitches as Carlos Delgado is pretty short – there’s Carlos Delgado at 166, and there’s Jake Beckley at 183. But Jason Giambi is moving up the list quickly – he’s third among after players with 149 plunks, and behind only Delgado among lefties. Delgado and Giambi both play first base, they both play in New York, they’re both left handed, they might both be free agents after this season, they’re nearly the same age, they’ve both been plunked 7 times by pitchers born in Pennsylvania, and there’s a good chance one of them will finish his career as the best left handed plunk magnet ever. But which left handed New York first baseman is best?

Carlos Delgado has played 159 more games than Giambi, and he’s had 741 more plate appearances. In terms of plate appearances per hbp, they’re nearly even – Delgado’s been hit once every 50.0 plate apperances and Giambi’s been hit once every 50.7 plate appearances. Carlos Delgado has been hit by 28 different franchise to only 26 for Giambi, but Giambi has had 6 games in which he got hit twice, to only 2 for Delgado. Giambi has been hit by pitchers from 10 different countries and 27 US states, but Delgado has been hit by pitchers from 11 countries, and 35 different US states.

Jason Giambi has never been hit by a pitcher whose last name begins with the letter I or V, but Delgado has. Delgado has never been hit by a pitch thrown by someone whose last name starts with N, but Giambi has. Neither has been hit by a pitcher with the last initial Q, U, or X. Giambi has been hit 81 times by pitchers with an even number of letters in their last names, but Delgado has 88 such plunks.

Jason Giambi only really started getting hit by a lot of pitches after he joined the Yankees – he only had 38 with the A’s and he’s had 101 since selling out to the Yankees. He’s only in his 7th season with the Yankees, but he’s already in third place on their franchise career plunk list, behind only Derek Jeter and Frank Crosetti (neither of whom are left handed). Delgado did most of his getting hit by pitches before moving to New York – he already had 139 plunks before joining the Mets, and he still owns the Blue Jays franchise record with 122 HBPs for them. He’s now in his 3rd season their, with only 27 plunks for the franchise, but that’s still good for 8th on the Mets career plunk list. Delgado’s move to the National League is a big reason why he’s only been hit by 9 pitches while Jason Varitek was the catcher, and Giambi has been hit 15 times with Varitek behind him, calling pitches. Also, both Giambi and Delgado have led the American League in HBPs in one season, but Giambi has led all left handed batters in both leagues in 3 seasons. Neither has ever led the majors in plunks for a season.

Here’s a breakdown of some of their most important plunk splits:

Giambi Delgado
Bases Loaded 6 3
Run Scored 33 34
Full Moon 7 6
vs Varitek 15 9
vs pitchers with an
even number of letters
in their last names
81 88
on Thursdays 24 19
vs Lefties 82 53
vs Pitchers from
Pennsylvania
7 7
Total 149 166

So you can see from that list that Giambi has 3 more RBI plunks, but Delgado has come around to score a run one more time on occasions he’s reached first on a plunk. But with all these numbers, we still can’t overlook the fact that Giambi’s numbers are tainted by his admitted use of BALCO brand performance enhancing drugs. I think it’s pretty obvious how much steroid use can increase a batters ability to get hit by major league pitching, but on the other hand he’s having an excellent season this year under the scrutiny of the MLB drug testing policy. The other important factor here is that both Giambi plays for what is clearly the most evil team in baseball, and Delgado only plays for, arguably, the second most evil team in baseball. That gives a big edge to Delgado in my book.

most plunked match-ups

Monday, July 28th, 2008

We’re up to 1,050 HBPs in the major leagues this year, and 971 of those have taken place in a situation where the batter had never before been plunked by that pitcher. 69 Were thrown by a pitcher who had plunked that batter once before, and 8 occurred in a match-up where the pitcher had hit that batter in two previous meetings. There has been just one plunk so far this year that marked the 4th time a pitcher his hit that particular batter, and one where the batter got plunked for the 5th time by the same pitcher.

The end of the 2007 season saw the retirement of one half of the batter-vs-pitcher match-up which was the active leader in HBPs – and it wasn’t Craig Biggio. David Wells hit Jason Giambi 8 times in his career; just ahead of the 7 times Pedro Astacio hit Craig Biggio. Now that neither of those combinations is available to produce another plunk, their is a tie for the top active lead. Jason Kendall has been hit by 6 pitches thrown by Jamey Wright – but they won’t be seeing each other this season unless one of them is traded. Shannon Stewart has been hit 6 times by Tim Wakefield, but Stewart is on the Blue Jays disabled list at the moment. If he returns to face Wakefield again this season, he probably won’t be too worried about taking a 7th knuckle-plunk. Mark Buehrle has hit Travis Hafner 6 times, but Hafner is also on the disabled list, so it’s unknown whether or not he’ll be back to get hit again when the Indians face the White Sox in September. And, AJ Pierzynski has been hit 6 times by Jeff Weaver, but Weaver has spent this season in the minor leagues… which will make it somewhat more difficult to strike again in that match-up.

The most plunk-intensive match-up that’s been contributed to this season is Jason Giambi vs Scott Schoeneweis. Schoeneweiss hit Giambi for the 5th time ever, on May 18th this year, taking over the active lead in hitting Jason Giambi with pitches.

The active lead for the most teams involved in plunks by a single batter-vs-pitcher match-up belongs to Gary Sheffield and Julian Tavarez. Tavarez has only plunked Sheffield 4 times, but he’s done it while pitching for 4 different teams, and Sheffield has been plunked by Tavarez while playing for 3 different teams. So their one-on-one battle has managed to involve 7 different clubs. By comparison, David Wells plunked Jason Giambi while pitching for 4 different teams, but Giambi has only played for 2 different – and since Giambi got hit by Wells while playing both for and against the Yankees, they only managed to involve 5 teams in their 8 plunkings.

New member of the 100 plunk club

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Congratulations (or condolences) to Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, who recorded his 100th HBP yesterday. He’s the 64th player ever to get hit by 100 or more pitches, and he’s the 4th batter this season to cross into triple digits in the plunk category.

Mark Grudzielanek got hit for the 100th time on March 31st this season. Jason Larue reached plunk #100 on May 31st, and Scott Rolen crossed this important milestone on June 6th.

So, with 4 players reaching the 100 plunk mark this season, 2008 is now tied with 2005 for the season with the most batters recording their 100th HBPs. There are still 5 active batters who have at least 90 plunks at the moment so the 100 plunk club could grow by the end of the season.

With 64 members and counting, the 100 plunk club doesn’t really sound like a very exclusive club, but lets compare that to the top 64 in others stats. In total hits, 64 players is equal to the number of players with as many career hits as Ted Williams. That sounds pretty good, right?

Guys who can hit you with pitches every day of the week

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Yesterday, Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera hit Joe Inglett of the Blue Jays, to improve his league leading total of batters plunked to 14. That pitch was also Cabrera’s first plunk thrown on a Thursday this season, and it makes him the first pitcher in 2008 to hit a batter on every day of the week. Last season, only 2 pitchers hit a batter on every day of the week – Bronson Arroyo and Jeff Suppan – but in 2006, 10 pitchers accomplished that feat. This is the first season Cabrera has hit a batter on every day of the week, and he’s the 39th pitcher to do so this century. Since 2000, 5 pitchers have hit batters on every day of the week in 2 different seasons, but none have done it more than twice.

Jeff Bennett, Aaron Laffey, Roy Halladay and Micah Owings are all one plunk away from joining Cabrera, with at least one batter hit on every day of the week. Owings and Laffey are only missing a Thursday plunk, while Hallady hasn’t hit anyone on Monday and Bennett has missed every batter he’s faced on Tuesday. It hasn’t helped that none of them have pitched on those days – so each of them has hit a batter on every day of the week that they’ve actually had the opportunity.

On the batting side, the only players who have been hit on every day of the week this year are Jason Giambi and Kevin Kouzmanoff. Giambi completed his set of days with an hbp on July 2nd, but Kouzmanoff had been hit on every day of the week by June 8th.

In other news, espn.com has this article about a plunk fueled brawl in the minors between the affiliates of the Cubs and the Reds. It does not, however, adequately explain how a pitcher tried to throw a pitch into the opposing dugout and missed it entirely, striking a fan. Nice work, Julio Castillo – you displayed a total lack of sportsmanship and pitching ability at the same time, and you managed to get arrested for it. As usual, if everyone would just take their base and shut their mouths, we wouldn’t have this problem.

the unplunkables

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Last weekend, Juan Castro made his return to the major leagues, joining the Baltimore Orioles. He still hasn’t been hit by a pitch. Castro is now up to 2,415 career plate appearances without ever being hit by a pitch. That’s by far the most plate appearances of any active player whose never been plunked, and it’s also the longest active streak of unplunked plate appearances.

Garrett Anderson hadn’t been hit by a pitch since August 12, 2004 before this season. He had 1,825 consecutive plate appearances without being hit by a pitch, and he got up to 2,102 plate appearances before Adam Eaton hit him on June 20th. Sure, he’s the Angels franchise leader in hits, and Chipper Jones is the only player in the league whose played more games while still with the team that drafted him than Anderson has, but Garrett sure hasn’t taken one for the team very often. But better late than never.

Brian Roberts had the next longest active streak coming into the season. He hadn’t been hit by a pitch since June 27, 2005, but Scott Feldman ended his streak on July 5th. He got up to 2,056 un-plunked plate appearances.

That brings us to Jose Cruz Jr. He last got plunked since June 19, 2004 and he hasn’t gotten hit since. He’s up to 1,445 consecutive plate appearances, and he’s playing for the Houston Astros – the team captained by Craig Biggio until last year. The only other active player whose gone over 1,000 plate appearances without being plunked is Kaz Matsui – the guy who’s playing Craig Biggio’s position in Houston. Matsui is up to 1,039 plate appearances without being hit by a pitch.

On the pitching side, the leading example for pacifism in the majors is Rafael Betancourt of the Indians. He hasn’t plunked the last 1,385 batters he’s faced, and has only hit one in his career – Marcus Thames on August 3, 2003. Behind him on the active list for consecutive batters faced without hitting them is LaTroy Hawkins, who has missed every one of the last 984 batters he’s faced. He’s hit 16 batters in his career, but none since August 19, 2004.

The mark for the most batters faced by a pitcher whose never hit anyone in the majors is currently just 367 by Reds rookie Johnny Cueto. That’s particularly forgiving of him, since he’s one of only 3 pitchers who have been hit themselves this season.

Is that not what the “take sign” means?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Over on the right-hand side of this website, there’s a leader board with a menu which readers can use to keep up to date on things like who’s leading the league in getting hit by pitches on tuesdays, and which pitchers have hit the most batters when the count is 1 ball and 2 strikes (Roy Halladay and Braden Looper are tied at 4). But, if you look further down that menu and select the 3-0 count, you’ll get nobody. This is not a data error – it’s just a weird fact of the 2008 baseball season. Nobody in the Majors has been hit by a pitch on a 3-0 count.

Obviously not a lot of people want to stay in the way of a 3-0 pitch that’s headed right for them, since it’s going to be a ball anyway, resulting in a free pass whether it hits the batter or not. But that same logic exists on 3-1 and 3-2 counts, we’ve had 48 plunks this season with those counts. But none on 3-0. 11 batters got hit on 3-0 counts last season. Chase Utley got hit by 3-0 pitches twice in 2006. It’s not a common outcome, but it does happen – except this year.

Maybe there just haven’t been as many 3-0 counts this season? That might explain it. But for the 2005 through 2007 seasons combined, 4.4% of plate appearances started out with a 3-0 count. In 2008, it’s been 4.5%, so there’s been virtually no change in the frequency of 3-0 counts, and the percentage of plate appearance that end on the 4th pitch after 3 balls is nearly identical this year to the combined total of the last three seasons.

Batters are also swinging their bats about as often this season as they have for the past three. You’ll see a batter swing at a 3-0 pitch in only 6.9% of the times that count comes up. This year they’re putting the 3-0 pitch in play slightly more often – 1.5% more often, but that’s barely enough to notice. Swinging strikes on 3-0 counts are down 23%, so that’s an improvement for batters, but the bigger change is the frequency of plate appearance where pitchers give up on the fourth pitch and throw an intentional ball. There have been 62 intentional walks this season that only turned intentional on the 4th pitch, after 3 balls un-intentional balls. The past 3 seasons have seen an average of just 74 instances of that pitchers bailing out with an intentional ball after getting behind 3-0. It’s possible that these are the same situations that produced some of the plunks in the past – when the pitcher gets behind 3-0 to a good hitter, and he and his catcher decide a free pass is safer than attempting to hit the strikezone – but maybe this year they’re going to the intentional walk instead of saying “let’s just hit him”.

There have only been 2 plunks this season on plate appearances that began with three consecutive balls – on April 26th, Jim Thome got ahead 3-0 against the Orioles Dennis Sarfate, but then whiffed on pitch 4, fouled off pitch 5, and got hit by pitch 6. On July 6th, Jeremy Hermida of the Marlins got ahead 3-0 against Rockies pitcher Cedrick Bowers, then took a called strike and got hit by an 89mph fastball. 3-1 counts have been the second most unpopular count to get plunked on this season, with a total of only 5. Only 13 batters have been hit by a pitch on a 2-0 count. On the other end of the list, 183 batters have been plunked on the first pitch of their plate appearances, and 165 have been hit with an 0-1 count.

439 of the 995 plunks taken by batters this season have come when the batter was behind in the count, compared to just 150 while the batter was ahead.

last initials and first names

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

As you may have noticed, Jason Giambi is leading the major leagues in getting hit by pitches this summer, and he’s also led the group of players whose last name starts with G to the to of the HBP charts by last initial this season. Players filed under G have been hit 89 times this season, with the letter B in second place at 80 plunks. If the Gs hold on to the lead, it will break a 9 season streak of B players being plunked the most. The players whose last names start with B have also been hit by the most pitches in 26 of the last 28 seasons. This would be the first season ever in which G was the most plunked last initial. It’s worth noting in this seasons race that there have been 36 players with the last initial B who have been plunked in 2008, while the Gs have only had 24 – so the Bs have the numbers advantage but the Gs are getting it done with hustle. (Holding still while a pitch hits you is hustle, right?)

In the all time standings, the last initial B is second only to M in total HBPs, while G is a distant 6th. Despite the best efforts this year of Chase Utley and Carlos Quentin, U and Q still rank at the bottom (though they’re both still ahead of X, because no one with a last name beginning with X has ever played in the majors). It’s possible that by the time Utley and Quentin are done, they might have over half of the HBPs ever recorded by players with there last initial.

On a related note, April 5th of this year was an important day for batters named Mike. Mike Sweeney got hit by a pitch a CC Sabathia pitch, which moved players named Mike into the top spot on the list of most plunked first names. Mikes took over the lead from Bills, who had held the top spot since 1898. 110 years of Bills holding the top spot in the HBP standings were ended with that one pitch. As of this morning, Mikes had been hit 2054 times to 2041 by Bills. Mikes have been hit 17 times this season to just 3 by Bills (all by Bill Hall), but it’s Jasons (38) who are leading the league this season, with Carlos (34) and Ryan (32) close behind them. Ryan was the leading name in getting hit by pitches in the 2007 season, and players named Jason accumulated the most plunkings in 4 straight seasons prior to that. Mikes haven’t led the league since 2002, but that was the end of a stretch when Mikes were the leader in 15 of 16 seasons.

The name Joe is third all-time, and they’re 17 plunks away from 2000.

(Note: all these all-time major league numbers by names and initials include stats from old timey leagues like the Federal League and the American Association, and whatever else Retrosheet.org tends to include as major leagues, and has stats available for)

The “new” Astros – now, with a lot less HBPs

Monday, July 21st, 2008

As you probably know, Craig Biggio retired last year after 20 seasons with the Houston Astros, and it’s fairly obvious to say they’re a much different team without his presence. They’ve been hit by just 24 pitches this season, which ties them for 22nd in the majors – but since they’re tied with 5 other teams, that also means they’re tied for 5th from last. The last time they finished so low in the HBP standings was 1991, which was the year Jeff Bagwell showed up as a rookie, and introduced the team to the idea that maybe they shouldn’t dive out of the way of all those pitches that could easily put them on base. Biggio, of course, perfected that lesson and got hit 285 times in all. 1991 was also the last time the Astros finished the season under 40 hbps, which they are in danger of doing again this season. The Astros currently have the longest streak in the majors of seasons with 40 or more HBPs, but it looks like that could end this year if they don’t pick up there pace a little bit. They’re currently on pace to get hit just 39.7 times. This is a long way from the 1997 Astros, which was the only team since before 1900 to get hit by 100 pitches.

The situation is even worse at the positions Biggio used to play – JR Towles is doing a respectable job by being hit 6 times at catcher, but the team has a total of 1 HBP from the 2nd base and center field positions combined. Mark Loretta is the only Astro to get hit by a pitch while playing either position. Kaz Matsui, who has started 63 of the Astros 98 games, has not been plunked at all this year, in 286 plate appearance. He also wasn’t hit at all last year. Or the year before that. He hasn’t been hit since September 11, 2005 when he was the Mets and has managed 758 consecutive plunk-free plate appearances since then. But at least he’s been hit before – Astros center fielder Michael Bourn has never been hit by a pitch, in 500 career plate appearances. Among active position players, only David Murphy and Juan Castro have had more plate appearances in a plunk free career. (Castro is the active master of plunk avoidance, with 2,411 plate appearances and 0 HBPs in his career – the next closest is Curt Schilling with only 901).

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Bourn has been the lead-off batter in the Astros order 63 times this year, and Matsui has led off in 9 more games – as a result, the Astros have 0 hbps from their lead-off batters. Biggio recorded 182 career plunks while batting in the lead-off slot, but this years collection of Astros haven’t had any. The Mets and the Giants are the only other teams who haven’t had there lead-off batter reach base on an HBP.

After so many years of HBPs being the key to the Astros offense, isn’t it time the team did something about this? Obviously they need a proper getting-hit coach to join the staff, though I’m not sure who they could get.

By the way, the Astros are 21 plunks away from getting hit for the 2000th HBP in franchise history. The Astros only reached 1000 plunks 14 years ago, on July 27, 1994. It’s a lot easier to guess who got the 1000th plunk, than who will get the 2000th in Astros history.