Archive for April 27th, 2010

Dear batters, stop being patient at the plate.

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Maybe it’s my imagination, but there seems to have been an increased focus in the past few years, on batters seeing a lot of pitches, or taking a lot of pitches, or wearing down the pitcher, driving up the pitch count, being patient at the plate, and so forth.  But wouldn’t it be easier and more effective to just get hit by more pitches?  The problem is, when guys get too into this plate patience thing, they get into bad habits like getting out of the way of pitches so they can take more pitches.  That’s not a good thing, and I can prove it.  (sort of)

From 2005 to 2009, a batter saw about 3.8 pitches during an average plate appearance.  In games in which a team saw pitches at under 3.8 per plate appearance, they got hit once every 104.6 plate appearances, but if they took pitches at or above the 3.8 pitch average, their plunk rate fell to 1 every 112.5 plate appearance.  So see less pitches than average per plate appearance throughout a game increased their plunk rate in that game by 7.5%.  This matches up pretty well with the fact that 62.5% of plunks occur in the first 3 pitches of a plate appearance.  Once you get to that 4th pitch, you’re less likely to get plunked at an individual rate, and if your team is watching over 4 pitches per plate appearance you’re plunk rate is going down.  Teams who take 4.2 pitches or more per PA in game get plunked once every 123.4 plate appearances.  Teams over 4.5 pitches per PA get HBPs once every 133.9 plate appearance.

However, some amount of patience is necessary to maximize a team’s rate of being plunked.  Teams that see 3 pitches or less per plate appearance get hit in those games about as infrequently as teams at 4.2 pitches per PA or more – about one HBP every 123.4 plate appearance.  There’s a sweet spot in the middle there, from about 3.2 to 3.6 pitches per PA.  If a team stays in that range for a game, they’ll get plunked about once every 103.6 plate appearances.  In the 1,117 team games where batters saw pitches at 3.3 per plate from 2005 to 2009, those teams got hit 13.5% more frequently than the overall average of that 5 season span.

So, hopefully you can see how excessive plate patience leads to diminished rates of plunks, but you may still be inclined to point out that the goal is to win the game, not get plunked the most – and I would grudgingly agree with that.  But then you might say that being more patient at the plate has a better chance to cause winning than getting hit by a lot of pitches.  Perhaps this statistic will change your mind – from 2005 to 2009, in games when one team got hit by more pitches than the other, the team with more HBPs won 59.2% of those games.  During that same span the team whose batters saw the greater number pitches per plate appearance won 45.8% of the time.  That’s right*, the team showing more patience at the plate loses more often than it wins.  But people will look at teams like the 2009 Yankees, who won 103 games and the World Series, and there batters finished 5th in the majors in pitchers per plate appearance.  But they only actually took more pitches per plate appearance than there opponent in 80 of 162 regular season games, and they won those games at a .613 rate.  When they were less patient than their opponent they won at a .659 rate.  It’s probably safe to say their success had more to do with hitting a billion home runs than being patient at the plate.  (but don’t tell them, they don’t need the help)

*- when I say “That’s right”, I just mean as far as I can tell that’s right.  I’m working with retrosheet’s play by play data from 2005 to 2009.  If anyone can duplicate or refute my results I’d love to see it.  Maybe my math has gone astray.

Utley gets back into the HBP game

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

HBPs of note: April 26, 2010

There were only 3 plunks in yesterday’s Major League Baseball action, and they were all notable.  Chase Utley broke out of his spring HBP slump, and got his first plunk of 2010 after 85 plunkless plate appearances.  That moves his Phillies record total to 108, which ties him for 56th place on the all time plunk list, with Bill Joyce and Mo Vaughn.  This has to have been a disappointing start for Utley after Baseball Prospectus projected him to get hit 27 times this year.  Hopefully this will be the first step toward turning his season around in the HBP category.

Speaking of Mo Vaughn, Kevin Youkilis moved a step closer to his Red Sox HBP record by getting hit by the 60th pitch of his career.  Youk is now 11 plunks behind Mo Vaughn in career plunks for the Red Sox, and Vaughn, Youkilis and recent Hall of Fame inductee Jim Rice are the only players in Red Sox history to get hit 60 times.  The moves Youkilis ahead of Carlton Fisk and 80s HBP legend Don Baylor on the franchise list.  (Baylor only played 268 games for the Red Sox, but it took Youkilis 708 games to get hit more times).

Youkilis’s 60th plunk was thrown by Blue Jays pitcher Casey Janssen, and that pitch turned out to be the 1,500th plunk ever thrown by the Blue Jays.  Janssen plunked Youkilis once before, on May 8, 2007.

Finally, the 3rd notable plunk of yesterday’s games landed on the substantial target known as Prince Fielder of the Brewers.   Fielder leads the Majors with 7 HBPs now, which breaks the Brewers franchise record for April plunks.  Jeremy Burnitz got hit 6 times in April of 2000.   The Brewers lead all teams with 15 plunks, and that matches there highest total in franchise history as of April 26th.  They got hit for the 15th time on April 26th of the 2003 season, and that year they got 17 HBPs in April.  It looks likely that this years Brewers will at least match that start.  Prior to yesterday, Fielder had only been hit 5 times on Mondays, making that his least plunked day of the week, but now he’s been hit 6 times on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.   He’s been hit 11 times on Wednesday and Friday, and 8 times on Sunday.

Zach Duke threw that one, and it was the 2nd time Duke has plunked Fielder.  Fielder joins Reed Johnson and Yadier Molina on the list of batters that have been plunked twice by Zach Duke.