taking one for your mathematically eliminated team

February 2nd, 2011 by pbr

Getting hit by a pitch is, of course, a major offensive tool and an important way to help your team win baseball games. But, there comes a time in most team’s seasons when they no longer have any reason except pride in winning games. When a team is mathematically eliminated, do their players still feel a need to get hit by pitches? Or – do they really have any choice in the matter?

In 2010, there were 239 team games where the batting team was eliminated (team games meaning that if both teams were out of the mathematically eliminated, that counts as two). Batters on eliminated teams got hit by a pitch once every 126.7 plate appearances, which is 5.8% less often than the one plunk every 119.3 plate appearances that were experienced by teams that were still alive. But, if we include the entire wildcard era, non-eliminated team’s batters only took plunks 1.8% more often than eliminated teams. Looking back to the 1969 to 1993 divisional (excluding the freak strike years), those teams got hit 9.5% more often when they were still alive for the playoffs, compared to when they were eliminated. The wild card era plunk rate is about 72% higher than the pre-wild card division era in general, but it seems like those 70s and 80s players were really turning off the plunks if they could suddenly start getting hit 9% less often just because they’re out of the playoff race.
In the wild card era, there have actually been 5 seasons in which eliminated teams got hit MORE frequently after they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. This could have something to do with the September roster expansions and the practice of bringing up minor league pitchers to get experience when a team is out of contention – presumably some of those games would be against teams still in contention. But, the overall plunk rate from September on (1995-2010) is only 0.9% higher than the rest of the season, so there must be more to it than just the end of season call ups. Either that or my math is just wrong, but it’s easier to just ignore that possibility.

The following are the players who have taken the most HBPs for teams that had already been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (since 1974). The number in parenthesis is their total career HBP (since 1974).
Jason Kendall – 18 (254)
David DeJesus – 12 (71)
Jose Guillen – 11 (145)
Damion Easley – 11 (132)
Jason LaRue – 11 (107)
Craig Wilson – 11 (90)
Juan Samuel – 10 (74)
Dave Valle – 10 (63)
Carlos Delgado – 9 (172)
Alex Rodriguez – 9 (152)
Chuck Knoblauch – 9 (139)
Larry Walker – 9 (138)
Jeff Bagwell – 9 (128)
Matt Lawton – 9 (94)
Randy Bush – 9 (49)
Edwin Encarnacion – 9 (47)
Jeromy Burnitz – 8 (78)
Gene Tenace – 8 (75)
Jerry Hairston – 8 (74)
Mike Sweeney – 8 (74)
Sal Fasano – 8 (47)
Dave Collins – 8 (38)
Chet Lemon – 7 (151)
Carlton Fisk – 7 (129)
Miguel Tejada – 7 (118)
Geoff Jenkins – 7 (96)
Gary Gaetti – 7 (96)
Frank Catalanotto – 7 (78)
Matt Stairs – 7 (57)
Jeff Conine – 7 (41)

Here’s the list of players with over 100 plunks since 1974 (because that’s how far my individual hbp database goes):
Brian Downing – 6 (129)
Melvin Mora – 6 (115)
Luis Gonzalez – 6 (111)
Reed Johnson – 6 (102)
Don Baylor – 5 (244)
Andres Galarraga – 5 (178)
Gary Sheffield – 5 (135)
Scott Rolen – 5 (120)
Mark Grudzielanek – 5 (105)
Mo Vaughn – 4 (108)
Jason Giambi – 3 (170)
David Eckstein – 3 (143)
Aaron Rowand – 3 (117)
Andre Dawson – 3 (111)
Craig Biggio – 2 (285)
Fernando Vina – 2 (157)
Brady Anderson – 2 (154)
Jeff Kent – 2 (125)
Manny Ramirez – 1 (109)
Barry Bonds – 1 (106)
Derek Jeter – 0 (152)
Chase Utley – 0 (125)

Jeter, of course, has only played in 2 career games after his team was eliminated – you know, because the Yankees cheat. Utley has only played in 9 such meaningless regular season games.

And here are the 20 guys who have gotten hit at least 50 times since 1974, but never got plunked after being eliminated from the playoffs:
Derek Jeter – 0 (152)
Chase Utley – 0 (125)
Rondell White – 0 (88)
Jorge Posada – 0 (72)
Ray Durham – 0 (72)
Greg Luzinski – 0 (72)
Bret Boone – 0 (69)
Kevin Youkilis – 0 (68)
Tim Salmon – 0 (67)
Robby Thompson – 0 (66)
Josh Willingham – 0 (64)
Carney Lansford – 0 (64)
Kirk Gibson – 0 (61)
Charlie O’Brien – 0 (60)
Nomar Garciaparra – 0 (59)
Lloyd Moseby – 0 (58)
Ivan Rodriguez – 0 (57)
Olmedo Saenz – 0 (56)
Dave Parker – 0 (54)
Roberto Alomar – 0 (50)

(Note: there may be some 1981-related weirdness in the individual player totals here, for players who played that year)

Leave a Reply