World Cup preview (about HBPs)

June 8th, 2010 by pbr

The FIFA World Cup kicks off this Friday – a time when the attention of much of the world is focused on a ball that is kicked, rather than one that hits batters. National pride is at stake for 32 teams competing in South Africa, and there will no doubt be controversy, drama, and referees making dumb calls enraging entire continents. But one thing it won’t have is people getting hit by pitches. And for some reason, baseball will have less people getting hit by pitches too.

Since 1960, the major league rate of plunks per plate appearance is 3.5% lower in years when a World Cup is held than it is the rest of the time. And, within the last 6 World Cup years (the ones played during the Jamie Moyer era), the plunk rate dips an additional 2.4% on days when World Cup matches are actually played.

But, a few batters have still been able to rack up an impressive number of HBPs on World Cup game days. Andres Galarraga has been the most impressive on World Cup days, with a total of 16 HBPs spanning 5 consecutive cup years from 1986 to 2002. Only Galarraga and Barry Bonds managed to get on a game day in 5 of the last 6 World Cup years, but Bonds 5 were not consecutive, since he failed to get plunked on the day of a World Cup match in 1992.
Aside from Galarraga, Craig Biggio is the only player to get hit 10 times on the days of World Cup matches. He and Galarraga each got hit 7 times on match days in 1998. That’s a lot of plunks in one year’s cup dates, but no as many as Don Baylor in 1986. He got hit 9 times on the days of world cup games that year, on his way to the American League record season of 35 plunks. Only two other players have collected 5 plunks on World Cup game days in one season – Sal Fasano had 6 in 1998, and Rickie Weeks had 5 in 2006.

Here are the top 20 batters since 1986 in HBPs on the dates of World Cup Matches:
Andres Galarraga – 16 – 1986 (1), 1990 (1), 1994 (3), 1998 (7), 2002 (4)
Craig Biggio – 10 – 1998 (7), 2002 (2), 2006 (1)
Don Baylor – 9 – 1986 (9)
Fernando Vina – 9 – 1994 (3), 1998 (4), 2002 (2)
Tony Fernandez – 8 – 1990 (2), 1994 (2), 1998 (4)
Sal Fasano – 7 – 1998 (6), 2006 (1)
Barry Bonds – 7 – 1986 (1), 1994 (1), 1998 (3), 2002 (1), 2006 (1)
Tim Wallach – 6 – 1986 (3), 1990 (2), 1994 (1)
Matt Lawton – 6 – 1998 (4), 2002 (2)
Alex Rodriguez – 5 – 1998 (1), 2002 (2), 2006 (2)
Rickie Weeks – 5 – 2006 (5)
Larry Walker – 5 – 1990 (1), 1998 (2), 2002 (2)
Craig Wilson – 5 – 2002 (4), 2006 (1)
Bret Boone – 5 – 1994 (4), 2002 (1)
Jeff Bagwell – 5 – 1994 (1), 1998 (2), 2002 (2)
Carlos Delgado – 5 – 1998 (2), 2002 (1), 2006 (2)
Cliff Floyd – 5 – 1998 (2), 2002 (1), 2006 (2)
Jason Giambi – 5 – 1998 (2), 2002 (1), 2006 (2)
Brian Giles – 5 – 2002 (4), 2006 (1)
Derek Jeter – 5 – 2002 (2), 2006 (3)

Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Miguel Tejada, and Jose Guillen have all been hit at least once on a match day in the last 3 World Cups, and can extend that record to 4 with a plunk this year.

At a team level, the Pirates have been hit the most in the last 6 Cups. They have 51 HBPs since 1986 on days when World Cup matches have been played. The Royals and Mets are behind with 48, followed by the Nationals/Expos with 46, and the Astros with 44. At the other end, the Rays have been the least plunked team, with only 19 HBPs on World Cup dates. But, they’ve only been in existence for the last 3. The Dodgers have no such excuse for their 22 HBPs on those dates, 2nd worst to the Rays. They don’t call them Dodgers for nothing. The Indians are 3rd worst with just 23, the Diamondbacks have 24 in 3 Cup years, and the Tigers have 29.

Since 1986, there have been no HBPs where the pitcher and batters countries were playing each other on the same day as the plunk. However, in 1998, Chan Ho Park hit Vinny Castilla 8 days after Korea lost to Mexico by a 3-1 score. And in 2002, after the US team upset rival Mexico 2-0 in the elimination round of the tournament on June 17th, Jose Silva hit John Olerud on the 18th, and Eric Byrnes on the 22nd. Mexican pitchers hit 17 U.S. born batters between June 17th and the end of 2002, while they only hit 18 American batters in all of 2001.

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