Archive for September, 2009

Plunks at the movies

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

You probably already knew, if you’ve been reading this website, that Chase Utley leads the major leagues with 24 HBPs this season. But did you know, that the total revenue of the #1 movies on the days Chase Utley has been hit by pitches is $264,892,743? That’s what you get if you look at how much the number 1 movie on each day he got hit made that day, and add them all up. He’s the only player over the $200 million mark, although the #1 movies on days when Miguel Tejada has been hit have made $194,974,437 on those nights – which is pretty good for just 11 dates. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” made $62,016,476 on the day Chase Utley got hit while it was #1 at the box office, but Juan Pierre got hit on three different days while the Transformers sequel was number 1, for a box office total of $123,131,506. That’s the most for any plunked player/#1 movie combination this season. So, if baseball contracts were somehow written so that players who got hit by a pitch received a percentage of the box office take of the number one movie from the day they got plunked, this would somehow make some sense. And what a wonderful world that would be.

16 different movies have been #1 on dates when Chase Utley has been plunked this season – he got hit twice while “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”, “G-Force”, “Obsessed”, “The Final Destination”, “Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself”, “Angels&Demons;” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” were number 1, and once each when “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “Funny People”, “Star Trek”, “District 9″, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”, “Up”, and “Hannah Montana the Movie” were number 1 at the box office.

Utley has been plunked 7 times on days when a movie from Sony Pictures was the top box office film, which ties Jason Kendall for the most plunks during one studio’s days on the top of the hollywood numbers. Kendall was also plunked 7 times this year while Sony had the top film. Utley was hit most often while movies labeled as Comedies were number 1, with a league leading 7 plunks under those circumstances. However, Kelly Shoppach got hit 8 times while action movies were number one, and Ryan Garko has been hit 8 times while people were at Adventure movies, instead of watching baseball.

Overall, batters were hit the most this season on days when “Up!” was number 1, with a total of 99 plunks, although current number 1 movie “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs” is up to 96 plunks already (through Monday, September 28th). 95 batters got plunked while Star Trek was number 1, and 92 plunks occured while Transformers was on top.

The Indians were hit 10 times on days when “Up!” was number 1, making them the only team to get hit 10 times this year while a single film was number 1. Of course there’s no connection between the name of that movie and the Indians franchise trajectory this season. The Marlins have been hit the most often during the reign of “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs”, with 8 plunks, but they’d probably prefer more meatballs thrown to them than beanballs. Also interesting is that the Red Sox have been hit the most while “Obsessed” was number one, and the Cubs have been hit most often while “I can do bad all by myself” was number 1.

The Brewers tied for the most plunks with the Phillies while “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” was number 1, although Prince Fielder was not plunked on a day when that movie was #1.

(box office numbers are from www.the-numbers.com and are through Monday, September 28th)

Blog Jinx

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

HBPs of note: September 29, 2009

Yesterday, some blog posted that the Atlanta Braves were 9-0 when Yunel Escobar has been hit by a pitch this season, and that the Oakland A’s were 7-0 when Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch. Last night, Yunel Escobar was hit by a pitch, and the Braves lost, and Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch in an A’s loss. That’s a little weird. On the plus side, that was career plunk number 20 for Escobar, and his 10th of the season.

Mark Ellis and Nate McLouth both reached the 40 career HBPs milestone yesterday – Ellis’ 40th plunk was thrown by Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, and McLouth got his from Marlins starter Josh Johnson. Ellis is the first batter born in South Dakota to reach 40 plunks. He passed Dave Collins for the South Dakota record on his last plunk (July 24th).

Blue Moons, Green Clovers, Purple Horseshoes, and… Yunel Escobar HBPs

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Football coaches and football broadcasters love to point out the stats surrounding turnovers, and how much more likely a team is to win when they turn over the ball less often than their opponent. Well, in baseball this year, the team that gets hit by the most pitches wins 58.9% of games. That’s pretty good, but certain players are really good at improving their team’s chances of winning when they get hit by pitches. The best this year has been Yunel Escobar. The Atlanta Braves are 9-0 when Yunel Escobar gets hit by a pitch. That seems like something they might want to know.

Among batters with 10 or more HBPs this season, Shin-Soo Choo has increases his team’s win percentage the most when he gets hit by a pitch. The Indians are 12-4 when he gets hit by a pitch, for a .750 win pct, but when he doesn’t get plunked they’re a .374 team. Clint Barmes has the best win percentage in his games with at least one HBP, at .900. But the Rockies are still 79-67 for a .541 win percentage when Barmes doesn’t get hit, so he hasn’t improve his team’s chance with a plunk quite as much as Choo has. But still, if you want to win a game against the Rockies, plunking Clint Barmes appears to be a bad idea.

On the other end of the scale, the Dodgers seem to have trouble when a couple of their players get plunked. They’ve won at a .592 clip this season, but when Andre Ethier gets hit, they’ve won 5 and lost 8. When Russel Martin gets hit, they’ve won only 45.5% of their games. If Ethier had just stayed out of the way of all pitches, and the team had won their games at their rate during non-Ethier-plunk games all year, they’d have 3 more wins. Aside from those two Dodgers, Kelly Shoppach, Jason Kendall and Josh Willingham are the only three players with at least 10 HBPs whose teams do worse when they take one for the team. Kendall’s Brewers are .461 when he gets hit and .500 when he doesn’t. Willingham’s Nationals are .300 when he gets hit, and .348 when he doesn’t. Making the Nationals lose more is no easy feat. Shoppach’s Indians win 40% of the time when he gets hit, but when he doesn’t get plunked they’re a .414 team.

Here are all this years players with 10 or more plunks, and how their team does in games when they get plunked:

Batter HBP Team Record when
batter has at least one HBP
Team Record when
batter doesn’t get hit
Difference
Shin-Soo Choo (CLE) 16 12-4 (.750) 52-87 (.374) +.376
Marlon Byrd (TEX) 10 8-1 (.889) 77-69 (.527) +.361
Clint Barmes (COL) 10 9-1 (.900) 79-67 (.541) +.359
Aaron Rowand (SF) 13 11-2 (.846) 71-71 (.500) +.346
Paul Konerko (CWS) 10 6-3 (.667) 69-78 (.469) +.197
Brandon Inge (DET) 17 11-5 (.688) 71-67 (.514) +.173
Kevin Youkilis (BOS) 16 11-4 (.733) 78-59 (.569) +.164
Kevin Kouzmanoff (SD) 10 6-4 (.600) 66-80 (.452) +.148
Milton Bradley (CHC) 11 7-4 (.636) 72-70 (.507) +.129
Matt Diaz (ATL) 13 8-4 (.667) 77-66 (.538) +.128
Carlos Quentin (CWS) 13 7-5 (.583) 68-76 (.472) +.111
Ryan Garko (CLE) 10 5-5 (.500) 59-86 (.407) +.093
Chase Utley (PHI) 24 15-8 (.652) 74-57 (.565) +.087
Miguel Tejada (HOU) 11 6-5 (.545) 67-78 (.462) +.083
Mark Teixeira (NYY) 11 7-3 (.700) 94-53 (.639) +.061
Chris Iannetta (COL) 10 6-4 (.600) 82-64 (.562) +.038
Ryan Braun (MIL) 12 6-6 (.500) 71-72 (.497) +.003
Kelly Shoppach (CLE) 18 6-9 (.400) 58-82 (.414) -.014
Jason Kendall (MIL) 16 6-7 (.462) 71-71 (.500) -.038
Josh Willingham (WSH) 12 3-7 (.300) 49-92 (.348) -.048
Russell Martin (LAD) 11 5-6 (.455) 88-58 (.603) -.148
Andre Ethier (LAD) 13 5-8 (.385) 88-56 (.611) -.226

As mentioned above, Yunel Escobar has the most wins for a player who hasn’t lost a game he’s been plunked in. He’s 9-0 when he gets hit. Kurt Suzuki has the next most plunks among the undefeated, with 7. Oakland is 7-0 when Suzuki gets plunked. The Phillies are 6-0 when Ryan Howard gets an HBP and the Rangers have not lost any of the 6 games in which Ian Kinsler has been plunked. Florida is 5-0 when John Baker gets hit by a pitch, and the Angels are 5-0 when Erick Aybar registers an HBP.

The most anyone has been hit this season without winning a game is 5 times, by Jonny Gomes. The Reds are 0-5 when Gomes gets plunked. The Indians are 0-4 when Grady Sizemore has been hit, and the Yankees playoff opponents might be interested to hear that the Yankees have lost all four games in which Hideki Matsui has been plunked.

Chase Utley and the 24 plunks

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

HBPs of note: September 28, 2009

Once upon a time there was a baseball player in the far away land of Philadelphia. His name was Chase Utley and he got hit by a lot of pitches. In the long ago year of 2009, he got hit by 23 pitches… until, September 28th when he faced Tim Byrdak in the 8th inning of the Phillies game against the Houston Astros when he got hit by his 24th pitch of the season, and his 107th overall. Utley has now been hit 47 times at Citizen Bank Park. If he can get one more this year he’ll join Hughie Jennings, Tommy Tucker and Ron Hunt as the only players with three consecutive 25 plunk seasons. He’s already the only left handed batter with three consecutive seasons over 20 plunks.

That was the 2nd time this month that Tim Byrdak has plunked Chase Utley – he threw Utley’s 20th plunk of the year back on September 4th.

In other action yesterday, Ervin Santana threw his 45th career plunk, and became the first major league pitcher to plunk Julio Borbon. Lastings Milledge collected his 30th career HBP, and Hunter Jones threw his first big league plunking. He’s the 497th pitcher to hit a batter this season. Aaron Laffey’s plunking of Dewayne Wise in Cleveland was the 799th HBP recorded in park history at Jacobs-Progressive Field.

Dave Bush back in the lead

Monday, September 28th, 2009

HBPs of note: September 27, 2009

Dave Bush started the day tied with Johnny Cueto for the major league lead in hitting batters, yesterday, but just to show he was serious in the race for the 2009 plunk title, he hit opposing starter Joe Blanton. Bush may have thought that Blanton was planning to hit 8 more batters himself to jump into the race, but one plunk from Bush put any such thoughts out of his head. That’s how you send a message. Bush has now hit 15 batters this season, and 73 for his career. Joe Blanton did hit Mike Cameron later in the game, but not until Dave Bush had left. Blanton has now hit Cameron twice in his career, but has only hit 8 batters this season.

Shin-Soo Choo was plunked for the 16th time this season, putting him within 2 HBPs of the American League lead. He’s in a tight race with Kevin Youkilis, Brandon Inge and Kelly Shoppach for the AL most plunkable player award.

Kendall gets 247th among 15 plunks around the league

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

HBPs of note: September 26, 2009

Jason Kendall appears to be making a real push to showcase himself in the last few weeks of the season, going into his impending free-agency. He’s now been hit 3 times in his last 4 games, including his 247th career plunk last night, of Kyle Kendrick who had not previously hit anyone this year. Kyle Kendrick is the first pitcher whose first and last name both start with a K to klock Kendall. But, Kendall has been hit 22 times overall by 16 pitchers with double initials. Matt Morris hit him 3 times, Antonio Alfonseca, Danny Darwin, Mike Maddux, and Woody Willaims twice each, and Kendall has one plunk from Brian Bannister, Brian Boehringer, Boof Bonser, Chris Capuano, Gary Glover, Jose Jiminez, Jeff Juden (say it with the Js pronounced like Jose Jiminez, it’s more fun), Kyle Kendrick (most recently), Mike MacDougal, Mike Mussina, and Ramon Ramirez.

In New York, Kevin Youkilis broke the all-time record for career plunks against Mariano Rivera, with his third career HBP of Rivera. That moves him ahead of Kevin Millar, Ty Wigginton and Rickie Henderson, who have all managed to get hit twice by Rivera. That was Youk’s 2nd plunk of the game after being plunked earlier by CC Sabathia. That gives him 16 on the season and tightens up the race for the American League Most Plunkable Player award, with Kelly Shoppach at 18, Brandon Inge at 17, Youkilis at 16 and Shin-Soo Choo at 15.

Rivera had not hit anyone this season, and he and Kyle Kendrick were among 5 pitchers who threw their first plunk of the season last night. Billy Wagner, Kyle Farnsworth, and Lenny DiNardo also got out of the “haven’t hit anyone in 2009″ club. 496 pitchers have hit a batter this year, so we’re 4 pitchers away from the first season ever with 500 different pitchers throwing a plunk.

Also in New York, Daisuke Matsuzaka hit Derek Jeter, making that his 2nd plunking of Jeter. Jeter has now been hit 143 times in his career, which is just over half a Biggio if accept the use of The Biggio as the standard unit of measurement of HBPs. One Biggio = 285 plunks. Jeter continues to be the Yankees all time HBP record holder, but he’s still 2nd among active players in being plunked by the Red Sox with 18. Jason Giambi has been hit 19 times by Boston, and is still active, even though he no longer plays in the American League East. But, the Red Sox have a two plunk lead on the Orioles as the team who has hit Jeter with the most pitches.

Foul balls by… home run difficulty?

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Wednesday, I put up a post about rating plunks by difficulty, and what batters have had the most HBPs by difficulty. The theory being that we could rank plunks by how frequently the thrower of each plunk throws plunks, and then add up the scores to see which batters have been hit the most by the pitchers who don’t hit that many batters. So, reader KL Snow was intrigued by that, but more interested in applying the same method to home runs. The only problem is, I’m not a huge fan of home runs and usually try not to write about them, but I do like to answer questions when people take the time to leave a comment and ask them. Home runs just still have a certain ‘roidiness surrounding them, aside from their being somewhat overrated as a stat in the first place, and generally taking too much focus away from HBPs. So, in a very confusing compromise, here’s a post about home runs by difficulty, badly disguised as a post about foul balls.

As we know, lots of people are good at hitting foul balls. And some batters are good at hitting home runs. But it’s a lot easier to hit home runs off some pitchers than others, and some pitchers hardly ever give up homers. So what happens if we can find a way to confuse the matter rate home runs by difficulty for those batters who have hit the most foul balls? Or look at who has hit the most foul balls among those who have hit the most difficult home runs?

There are a lot of factors that go into the difficulty of the home run, and among the top of the list are the ball park and the weather. But we’ll ignore those for now and just look at which pitchers have given up homers at the highest rate this year. If we take each homer and assign it a score based on the pitchers’ Batters Faced per Home Run Allowed, we can add those up for each batter and get their total home run difficulty. So, since Carlos Marmol has given up only 1 homer to the 324 batters he’s faced, that homer is worth 324 points to the guy who hit it (John Baker). Chris Sampson has given up 2 homers to the 248 batters he’s faces, so those homers are worth 124 points each – although both were to Alfonso Soriano so he gets 248 points for the 2 of them. Zack Greinke has given up 11 homers to 860 batters, so each of those homers is worth 78.18 points to the batters who have hit them. And, since Braden Looper has given up 37 homers in his 859 batters faced this year, his homers are only worth 21.86 difficulty points to the batters who hit them. Makes sense, right?

Here are the home run difficulty scores for the top ten foul ball hitters this season, and their HBPs, just because:

Batter Foul Balls Home Run Difficulty Home Runs HBP
Brian Roberts (BAL) 535 519 15 2
Todd Helton (COL) 509 530 14 2
Carl Crawford (TB) 509 502 14 8
Pablo Sandoval (SF) 505 871 22 4
Andre Ethier (LAD) 501 1055 31 13
Derek Jeter (NYY) 501 580 17 4
Aaron Hill (TOR) 481 1060 33 5
Ryan Howard (PHI) 477 1784 42 6
Shin-Soo Choo (CLE) 475 569 17 15
Jayson Werth (PHI) 472 1275 34 8

And here are the top 20 batters in home run difficulty, with their foul ball and HBP totals as a side order:

Batter Home Run Difficulty Home Runs Average HR difficulty Foul Balls HBP
Mark Reynolds (ARI) 1988 43 46.23 422 4
Ryan Howard (PHI) 1784 42 42.49 477 6
Prince Fielder (MIL) 1651 42 39.3 447 9
Albert Pujols (STL) 1620 47 34.47 390 9
Adam Dunn (WSH) 1448 38 38.1 444 4
Adrian Gonzalez (SD) 1432 39 36.72 432 5
Carlos Pena (TB) 1326 39 34 375 9
Raul Ibanez (PHI) 1298 33 39.32 332 4
Jayson Werth (PHI) 1275 34 37.51 472 8
Chase Utley (PHI) 1247 31 40.24 393 23
Evan Longoria (TB) 1237 31 39.89 399 8
Derrek Lee (CHC) 1226 35 35.03 380 3
Ryan Zimmerman (WSH) 1220 31 39.36 392 2
Russell Branyan (SEA) 1219 31 39.34 377 9
Mark Teixeira (NYY) 1217 37 32.88 388 11
Kendry Morales (LAA) 1213 31 39.14 410 2
Dan Uggla (FLA) 1202 30 40.06 406 ="center">7
Justin Morneau (MIN) 1194 30 39.8 401 3
Jason Bay (BOS) 1166 36 32.39 354 9
Paul Konerko (CWS) 1145 28 40.89 350 10

As you can see, Mark Reynolds is leading the league in home run diffuculty, by a pretty wide margin (but he’s not in the top 20 in foul balls, and has only 2 HBPs). His most difficult plunk was off Joel Pineiro, who has only given up 7 homers while facing 815 batters. Reynolds is also the only batter to homer off of Cristhian Martinez, Boone Logan, and Josh Wilson, although only two of those rate as difficult, because Josh Wilson has only faced 10 batters this year. Reynolds has the highest average difficulty per homer of any batter with 15 or more homers, but he has 43. He also has struck out 208 times this season, breaking his own single season strikeout record, and he’s the only batter ever to strike out 200 times in a season, as well as the only batter to strike out 200 times in back to back seasons, so he’s got that going for him.

Among the top 20 batters in total difficulty, Prince Fielder has the highest score on a single homer. He hit the only homer this season off Blaine Boyer, and Boyer has faced 230 batters. That’s the third highest difficulty score of this season behind John Baker’s homer of Carlos Marmol (324 batters faced per homer), and Ryan Sweeney’s homer off Robinson Tejada (269 batters faced per homer).

Albert Pujols leads the majors with 47 homers, but he’s kind of feasted on cupcakes, relatively speaking. He’s tied with Jason Bay for the most home runs off pitchers who give one up more often than once every 30 batters, with 18 each. Pujols most difficult homer scored just 58.8 points, off Sean Green.

As you can see from the next list, Mark Reynolds also leads the league in home run difficulty among those with at last 400 foul balls hit:

Batter Home Run Difficulty Home Runs Average HR difficulty Foul Balls HBP
Mark Reynolds (ARI) 1988 43 46.23 422 4
Ryan Howard (PHI) 1784 42 42.49 477 6
Prince Fielder (MIL) 1651 42 39.3 447 9
Adam Dunn (WSH) 1448 38 38.1 444 4
Adrian Gonzalez (SD) 1432 39 36.72 432 5
Jayson Werth (PHI) 1275 34 37.51 472 8
Kendry Morales (LAA) 1213 31 39.14 410 2
Dan Uggla (FLA) 1202 30 40.06 406 7
Justin Morneau (MIN) 1194 30 39.8 401 3
Michael Cuddyer (MIN) 1138 29 39.25 418 3

But, Chase Utley leads the league in home run difficulty among players with at least 10 HBPs (which is really the standard all stats should be qualified by – if you haven’t been hit by ten pitches, your season just shouldn’t count):

Batter Home Run Difficulty Home Runs Average HR difficulty Foul Balls HBP
Chase Utley (PHI) 1247 31 40.24 393 23
Mark Teixeira (NYY) 1217 37 32.88 388 11
Paul Konerko (CWS) 1145 28 40.89 350 10
Andre Ethier (LAD) 1055 31 34.03 501 13
Brandon Inge (DET) 1047 27 38.79 383 17
Ryan Braun (MIL) 1044 29 36.02 416 12
Clint Barmes (COL) 1015 23 44.14 456 10
Josh Willingham (WSH) 884 23 38.45 315 12
Kevin Youkilis (BOS) 813 25 32.51 411 14
Kevin Kouzmanoff (SD) 662 17 38.91 391 10

And lastly, just because it might be interesting, here are the ten lowest average difficulty scores among players with 30 or more homers:

Batter Home Run Difficulty Home Runs Average HR difficulty Foul Balls HBP
Miguel Cabrera (DET) 913 31 29.45 451 5
Aaron Hill (TOR) 1060 33 32.12 481 5
Jason Bay (BOS) 1166 36 32.39 354 9
Mark Teixeira (NYY) 1217 37 32.88 388 11
Carlos Pena (TB) 1326 39 34 375 9
>Andre Ethier (LAD) 1055 31 34.03 501 13
Troy Tulowitzki (COL) 1027 30 34.23 415 2
Nelson Cruz (TEX) 1101 32 34.41 305 2
Albert Pujols (STL) 1620 47 34.47 390 9
Derrek Lee (CHC) 1226 35 35.03 380 3

Andre Ethier, Ryan Braun and Clint Barmes are the only players this season with at least 10 plunks, at least 400 foul balls hit, and over 1000 total home run difficulty points.

(all stats are through September 24th)

Kendall achieves 246th career plunk

Friday, September 25th, 2009

HBPs of note: September 24, 2009

Jason Kendall was hit by yet another pitch last night, bringing his career total to 246. Plunk 246 was thrown by Tyler Walker of the Phillies in the 8th inning. That was Kendall’s 214th plunk by a right-handed pitcher, and his 34th plunk in the 8th inning. The only inning in which he’s been hit more often in his career is the 1st inning, when he’s been hit 37 times.
Also, it was Kendall’s 4th career plunk on September 24th – he had previously been plunked by Julian Tavarez (2001), RA Dickey (2005), and Ervin Santana (2006) on September 24th. He’s been hit 4 times on 5 other days of the year, but he’s been hit 5 times on April 30th and August 9th. He’s now been hit 116 times on even days of the month and 130 times on odd numbered days. And he’s been hit 114 times in odd numbered months and 132 times in even numbered months. That probably means something important.
On the downside for the Brewers, they lost the game and are just 5-7 this season when Jason Kendall gets hit by a pitch. Prior to last night, they were 2-0 when he got plunked in the 8th inning, but now they’re 2-1.
Tyler Walker became the 194th pitcher to plunk Kendall. Pitchers whose last name starts with W have now tied those with M last initials for the most plunkings of Kendall, with 26 each. Kendall had not previously been plunked by a Walker, (but he has been hit 8 times by the Texas Rangers).
Kendall is up to 15 plunks this season, making this the first time since 2005 that he’s reached that number. He was hit 20 times in 2005. Also, it was his 20th plunk at Miller Park. He joins Andres Galarraga as the only players who have been hit 20 times in three different ballparks since 1986 (the Jamie Moyer era).

That’s a lot of stuff about Jason Kendall – good thing there were only 4 plunks yesterday (three were thrown by Californians). Manny Ramirez was hit for the 103rd time in his career, and Ricky Romero threw his 10th plunk of the season, and the 10th of his career, which puts him 3 hit batters ahead of Jeff Niemann for the season lead in hit batters by a rookie pitcher.

Major League pitchers set new record – and Chase Utley hit again

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

HBPs of note – September 23, 2009

Prior to yesterday, only 488 pitchers had hit a batter in the major leagues this year, and that wasn’t as many pitchers as there were in 2007 who hit at last on batter. 489 different pitchers hit a batter that year, but that was the record. Never before had 490 different pitchers hit at least on batter in a single major league season. Until yesterday. Ian Kennedy hit Howie Kendrick to become the 489 pitcher to throw a plunk in 2009, and Kevin Mulvey of the Diamondbacks hit Eli Whiteside to break the record and be the 490th pitcher with a plunk this year. Only 1,478 total plunks have been thrown this year, which is 372 plunks short of the single season record and could be the lowest total since 1997, but every year we seem to need more arms to throw all those plunks. Overall there have been 660 different players who pitched this season, and only170 of them have pitched without hitting anyone. The record for most pitchers used in a season is 666.

The Phillies were visiting Florida for a game last night, and Chase Utley was among 4 batters hit by a pitch. He was also one of two batters to be plunked by a Dutchman, making that his first HBP by a pitcher from the Netherlands. Utley has now been plunkd by pitchers from 10 different countries among his 106 career plunks and his league leading 23 plunks this season.

Nick Johnson got his 11th HBP of the season, and Carlos Quentin got his 13th of the year yesterday. Dustin Pedroia got his 20th career HBP, and CJ Wilson threw the 20th of his career.

Plunks by difficulty

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

It’s easy to find out what batter has been hit by the most pitches in a given season, by just counting the bruises, but how can we figure out who is truly skilled at the art of the HBP and who is just getting a lot of plate appearances against the criminally insane? Okay, there probably aren’t more than a few pitchers who are actually criminally insane, but the truth is that it’s much easier to get hit by Johnny Cueto or Joba Chamberlain this season, than by James Shields or Clayton Kershaw. So, what happens if we weight each plunk by level of difficulty?

To establish a level of difficulty for each plunk, we can just look at the season rate of batters face per plunk thrown for each pitcher. So, when Kevin Youkilis got plunked by Rick Porcello this year, that plunk was worth 323 difficulty points, because Porcello has only hit one out of every 323 batters he’s faced this year. But when Youk go hit by Brandon League, that only counts for 49 points because league has hit 6 out of the 294 batters he’s faced, or one out of every 49. Then once we assign difficulty scores to each plunk we can see that Youkilis has a season difficulty total of 1850 – which is third best in the league.

Obviously these number are subject to change, because each pitcher’s plunk rate will change every time they pitch, and we’re basing the difficulty scores on the pitcher’s plunk rate for the whole season. But, here are the leaders in 2009 plunks by total difficulty score:

Batter Total HBP
Difficulty
HBP
Chase Utley (PHI) 2,605 22
Jason Kendall (MIL) 2,025 14
Kevin Youkilis (BOS) 1,850 14
Shin-Soo Choo (CLE) 1,734 15
Carlos Quentin (CWS) 1,669 12
Brandon Inge (DET) 1,620 17
Andre Ethier (LAD) 1,608 13
Ryan Braun (MIL) 1,597 12
Kelly Shoppach (CLE) 1,540 18
David Eckstein (SD) 1,312 9

As you can see, Utley still tops the league, and pulled off some notably difficult feats of plunkery like being hit twice by Chris Volstad, who has only hit one other batter among his 663 batters faced. He’s still helped the most by shear volume of plunkings though, and his average difficulty per plunk was just 118.4 – 9th best among batters with 10 or more plunks.

Kelly Shoppach is 2nd in the majors in total HBPs, but when we rank them by difficulty he drops down to 9th, due to the number of high volume plunkers he’s been hit by. The pitchers who hit Shoppach have hit, on average, one out of every 85.5 batters they’ve faced this year, and he’s been hit by 4 different pitchers who hit at least one batter for every 50 they’ve faced – Dave Bush (34.6 BF per HBP), Luis Ayala (45), Jamey Wright (47.1) and Johnny Cueto (48.6). Shoppach’s been hit by a lot of pitchers who have hit a lot of batters.

Among batters who have been hit at least 10 times this season, Jason Kendall has the highest average difficulty per plunk, at 144.6. He was helped greatly by receiving Aaron Cook’s only plunk of the season, amon 627 batters faced. Clint Barmes had the lowest difficulty score among batters with 10 plunks, at just 65.4. Seven of the ten pitchers who plunked Barmes this year have plunked batters at a rate better than one plunk every 50 batters. So, don’t go picking up Barmes for your HBP fantasy league next year, just because he had a career high this season.

Also of note, as of today, Shin-Soo Choo has been hit by 5 different pitchers who have only thrown 1 plunk this year. If none of those pitchers hits another batter (Damaso Marte, Fu-Te Ni, John Bale, Juan Cruz, and Marc Rzepczynski), Choo will be the first batter to get hit by 5 different one-plunk-wonders since 2000 when Fernando Vina did it. Nobody in the Jamie Moyer era has been hit by 6 pitchers who only threw one plunk in the season. The only others to do that 5 times in a season are Craig Biggio in 1998, FP Santangelo in 1997, Dave Hollins in 1992 and Don Baylor in 1986.

If Utley were to finish the season with his current HBP Difficulty score, it would rank 23rd among season scores in the Jamie Moyer era (since 1986). Don Baylor’s ’86 season is the highest, with a 6,314 score on 35 plunks. Baylor has the 2nd best season too, with a 4,479 in 1987 on 28 HBPs, but Jason Kendall’s 31 plunk season in 1998 takes third place with a score of 4,284. Chase Utley’s best season was last year, when he got a 2,707, but he could easily beat that if he just gets one more plunk from someone who hasn’t hit many people.