Archive for March, 2010

Spring Preview – NL Central (Lightening Round)

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Cubs

What to watch: Carlos Zambrano needs to hit 8 batters to pass Kerry Wood for the Cubs franchise hit batters record. That would also be the NL Central Division plunk record. Aramis Ramirez needs 93 more to catch Frank Chance for the HBP record, but that’s probably out of reach this year. It would be an amazing feat to watch though.

Brewers

What to watch: Despite the loss of Jason Kendall, the Brewers could once again contend for the National League HBP title, particularly with a strong comeback year from Rickie Weeks. Dave Bush led the NL in hit batters last year, and he’ll probably not be any more shy about pitching inside this year, even though he no longer has Kendall behind the plate to encourage such things.

Cardinals

What to watch: Albert Pujols is 18 plunks behind Steve Evans for the Cardinals franchise HBP record, but that would be 8 beyond his career high. That one may have to wait until next year. Chris Carpenter needs to throw one more plunk to pass Stan Williams for sole possession of the record for most hit batters thrown by a pitcher born in New Hampshire.

Pirates

What to watch: Someone else. If you must, you can watch for when the combined career HBP totals of the Pirates entire spring training roster (160) catch up to Jason Kendall’s HBP total for his time with the Pirates (177).

Astros

What to complain about: The Astros have only gotten 9 HBPs out of the 2nd base position since the last time Craig Biggio got hit by a pitch, and only 7 since his retirement.
What to watch: Roy Oswalt needs to hit 7 more batters to break Darryl Kile’s franchise hit batters record (72).

(The Red’s got a real preview before I realized I didn’t have time for that sort of thing).

Spring Preview – NL East

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Atlanta
Matt Diaz got hit 13 times last year, Yunel Escobar had 10, and Nate Mclouth had 9 between Atlanta and Pittsburgh. None of their pitchers hit more than 6 batters. So, we’re not expecting much HBP news or action from Atlanta this year.

Florida
Dan Uggla needs 14 more HBPs to tie Alex Gonzalez for the Marlins franchise record. He could get there this year if he really applied himself. But, there’s not much else to get excited about on the HBP front with the Marlins.

The Mets
The departure of Carlos Delgado leaves no big threat to get hit by a lot of pitches in the Mets lineup, although Francour, Bay, Cora, Tatis, and Chris Coste have all been hit 10 times in a season at least once. Maybe with a team approach they can improve on last years last place finish in the HBP standings. David Wright is 13 plunks away from the Mets career HBP record, but don’t expect him to put up more than 5 or 6 this year.

Philadelphia
Chase Utley has lead the majors in HBPs for the past three seasons, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t do it again this year. The big change in the pitching staff from Cliff Lee to Roy Halladay probably won’t make much difference in a pitching staff that led the majors in plunks last year. Although, they’ll miss the HBP threats of Pedro Martinez and Chan Ho Park. Jamie Moyer, and his 138 career HBPs are still with the team though, which ranks 2nd among active pitchers with the retirement of Randy Johnson, and the unemployed status of Pedro.

Washington
Nick Johnson was the team’s main HBP threat last year, but he’s gone, leaving Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Willie Harris as the most likely batters to get hit by a significant number of pitches. Any of them could lead the team with 10 to 12 HBPs this year. On the pitching side, Livan Hernandez could break the club record for career plunks thrown if he 18 this year. That would move him ahead of Dennis Martinez’s 52. Hernandez also needs 1 more plunk to gain sole possession of the Cuban hit batters record.

Wheel of spring training previews – Reds

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Since I never manage to get through spring training previews for every year, I’m just picking them at random. So, the Reds!

The Big Question

First off, the most important question on every Reds fan’s mind this spring has to be “How soon will Aroldis Chapman hit a Major League batter, and how many could he potentially hit?”. At least that’s what all the Reds fans I know are asking. But, there isn’t much evidence to build a prediction on. The Cuban defector’s main body of know work was last year’s WBC, when he faced 27 batters. He threw 117 pitches at them, but he didn’t plunk anyone. But, with a little bit of major league training, I’m sure he can figure it out. But, if you want to make sweeping statistical generalizations based on place of birth, Cubans pitchers tend to hit a lot of batters. Over the past 15 seasons, Cubans have hit batters at a rate of 1 per 94.8 batters faced. That leads all countries over that span of time, whose pitchers faced at least 20,000 batters. Over the past 5 years, they’ve hit 1 out of every 90.4 batters, but that ranks behind pitchers from the nations of New York and New Jersey (10,000 batters faced minimum). Livan Hernandez will be beginning the 2010 season tied for the Cuban hit batters record, at 68. He needs one more to move ahead of Pedro Ramos for sole ownership of that record.

Those other guys on the pitching staff

Last season, the Reds finished tied for 5th in the majors, and tied for 2nd in the NL in the category of hitting batters.  They hit 65, but there general trend has been downward over the past few years.  The Reds hit 67 in 2008, and 73 in 2007.  In 2006 they only hit 60 batters, but that was coming off a 2005 year when they broke the team record and hit 80 opposing batters.   Johnny Cueto hit 14 batters last year, finishing just 1 behind Dave Bush for the major league lead and the Phil Knell Award (it’s like the Cy Young award, but for hitting a lot of batters instead of, you know, being a good pitcher).  Cueto also hit 14 in 2008, so it’s probably safe to pencil him in for another 14 in 2010.  That’s what the number crunchers call “extrapolation”.  Also, according to Disco Stu, disco record sales were up 400% in 1976, and we can expect that trend to continue.    Like all trends.

Bronson Arroyo is the staff’s most experienced plunk thrower, with a career total of 76.  He hit a career high 20 batters in his 2004 season with the Red Sox, including a particularly famous one to Alex Rodriguez, which touched of a brawl on July 24, 2004 – a brawl which many claim inspired Boston to turn their season around and win the World Series that year.  If Arroyo could throw another plunk as magical as that this season, the Reds could really exceed expectations.  Edinson Volquez has been troubled by injury, but he hit 14 batters in 2008, and could come back to throw some pitches that might hit batters in August or September.   Arroyo, Volquez, and Cueto have all finished in the top 5 in plunks at least once in their careers, as has Micah Owings.  Owings looks as though he’ll be spending most of his time as a relief pitcher this season, so he might not be able to contribute as many plunks as his career high of 14.  Also fighting for a spot on the team is Non-Roster Invitee Kip Wells, who has a career total of 69 hit batters.

The Targets Batters

Last season, the Reds got hit 53 times, which was the 14th best total in the majors, but it was 14 plunks below the average for major league teams in the state of Ohio.  However, it’s an improvement over the 2008 season, when they only got hit 50 times and finished 26.5 plunks below the state average.  (Cleveland wrecked the curve by breaking the all time record that year).   They should be better though.  Scott Rolen has a respectable career total of 112 HBPs, and holds the title of the most plunked man ever born in the State of Indiana (although he needs to learn to get out of the way of the ones going toward his head – concussions aren’t good for your OBP).  Jonny Gomes holds the Rays career plunk record, as well as their single season record.  Ramon Hernandez is the 6th most plunked Venezualan of all time, with 62.  That’s 234 plunks between the three of them, so that ought to be a pretty good core for an HBP focused offense – even if it is 14 less than Jason Kendall.   All of those guys have had double digit HBP seasons, but none have taken that many for the Reds yet (though Rolen hasn’t had a full season to try), leaving Brandon Phillips as the only current Red who has taken over 10 plunks for the team in a season.

For extra help, they may look to a pair of infield non-roster invitees currently in camp – Miguel Cairo and Chris Burke.  Cairo is the only player ever to get hit 4 times in a single postseason series (2004 ALCS).  Burke apprenticed under the modern master of the HBP, Craig Biggio, with the Astros and got hit 14 times for them in 2006 – though he has not lived up to that potential since.  Or, they may look to the minor leagues where one promising option might be first baseman Daniel Dorn.  He got hit 5 times in Venezualan Winter League action this past offseason.  And, he’s Excellent for 1989 movie jokes, having the same last name as the Indians third baseman from Major League, and being actually born in San Dimas California, home of Waterloo, the most excellent water slide park.  Where Bob Genghis Khan totally ravaged Ashman’s sporting goods, but should have done so with a proper wooden bat rather than aluminum.

Predictions

Based on not much of anything, lets just say the Reds will get hit 56 times this year, and throw a total of 68 at opposing batters.   And that Jonny Gomes will lead the team in getting hit, with 15.  And Scott Rolen will avoid plunk related injuries. And Aroldis Chapman will hit somewhere between 1 and 15 batters.

Baseball Prospectus projects Chase Utley at 27 HBP for 2010

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

As you may know if you follow baseball closely, and especially if you’re a big fantasy baseball player, the website Baseball Prospectus has an elaborate system for forecasting upcoming baseball seasons player stats which they call PECOTA. I’m not sure how much time they spend working out the HBP category of these projections, but at least they spend enough time to project HBPs. For 2010 they predict Chase Utley will lead the major leagues with 27 HBPs, matching his career high from 2008.
They also project Carlos Quentin to be the 2nd most plunked player in the majors, which is certainly not a stretch of the imagination, and that he’ll be hit 20 times in 2010 – also matching his career high from 2008. Kevin Youkilis, however, is projected to be the third most plunked player, and just to prove that they’re not just calculating these numbers based on players career highs, or 2008 totals, Youk is projected to get hit 17 times this year, which will break his career high of 16 set last season. That would give Youk the Red Sox franchise record – he needs 13 to tie Mo Vaugh for the team reacord at 71. Behind Youk on the PECOTA 2010 projected plunk standing, is the exciting return of Ricky Weeks to the world of getting hit by pitches. After just 3 HBPs last year, due to injury, BP predicts Weeks will be back up to 15 HBPs this year – which would certainly be nice to see.
Also notable among their projections is Jason Kendall, who got hit 17 times last year, and is chasing history as he attempts to climb to the top rungs of the all time HBP list. They only think Kendall will get hit 9 times this season, which is not the kind of total he needs to keep up the pressure on Hughie Jenning’s total of 287 career plunks.

Unfortunately, PECOTA does not appear to include hit batters for pitching statistics, which seems like a major oversight. It’s clear that this process can be improved upon by focusing it specifically on HBPs, and I hope to make efforts in that direction in the upcoming weeks. Or years.