Plunks that could have been walks

So far this season 930 batters have been hit by a pitch. 188 of them were hit by the first pitch of their plate appearance, but only 50 have been hit after already taking three balls. 20.2% of plunks occur on 0-0 counts, but there are a lot of 0-0 counts – 109,456 of them so through July 23rd this year. Pitches thrown on 0-0 counts have hit batters 0.17% of the time, while for some reason 0.24% of pitches thrown on 3 ball counts have hit the batter. And, since there have been 930 HBPs this year, on a total of 419,450 pitches, that means 0.22% (CORRECTION BELOW) of all pitches hit the batter they’re thrown toward, but they hit the batter slightly more often when the guy already has 3 balls in the count. That is not exactly what you’d expect to find if you worked under the assumption that batters have more incentive to get out of the way when the pitch that’s going to hit them is going to otherwise be ball 4. I can only assume this means batters have adopted the HBP as a way to prove their grittiness to the opposing pitcher, and they don’t care if they’re getting hit by ball 4 if it gets their message across. I like that theory better than the idea that maybe pitchers make more mistakes under the pressure of a 3 ball count, or the argument that it could just be a fluke of the data this year, and it’s not that significant a difference.

50 batters have been hit on 3 ball counts this year, but only Josh Willingham has done it twice – both times on 3-2 counts. Last year Chris Iannetta failed to avoid getting plunked 3 times on 3 ball counts.

UPDATE 7/27/09: Turns out I had a problem in my original query to determine the number of pitches thrown on 3 ball counts, which foolishly excluded pitches that were the 4th ball. So, the real answer as of today is that only 0.13% of pitches thrown on 3 ball counts hit batters this season, which makes a whole lot more sense. I’ve fired my proofreader and fact checker, but they’ve obtained a court order forcing me to allow them to keep their jobs, sighting discrimination, which doesn’t make any sense since they’re all just me.

2 Responses to “Plunks that could have been walks”

  1. dan says:

    Come on dude, it's pretty simple. Pitchers ALWAYS start with a 0-0 count, so that's a representative sample of all major leaguers. Who is more likely to get themselves into a 3-0 count, Greg Maddux or Daniel Cabrera? The wilder pitchers get into more 3-0 counts and they are also the ones who hit more batters. If you look at all at bats in which the count is 3-0, it is not the same sample of guys who had at bats with the count at 0-0.

  2. pbr says:

    It's a valid point, but Daniel Cabrera would be more likely to hit a batter before getting to a 3 ball count, than to throw 3 balls and finally get around to hitting the batter.

    Also, I'm including all 3 ball counts – 3-1, 3-2 and 3-0. So while there are a hand-full of really good control pitchers who never throw 3 balls to the same batter, I don't think it's that easy. I was looking at it more from the perspective of the batter because I was curious about what degree of control they have over which pitches they get hit by – which was the idea behind looking at plunks that would have been walks. And it amuses me to work under the assumption that getting hit by pitches is a batting skill, so I continue to look at it from that direction rather than the atrociousness of pitching.

    Now you're going to make me go look to see which pitchers are hitting guys on the 3 ball counts. I'm guess Greg Maddux has done it more than Daniel Cabrera, but that's just out of longevity and opportunities.

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