Monday, June 17, 2013

Beaning and Fisting

On Monday afternoon, Jacob Peterson of @JunkStats pointed out an anomaly with Doug Fister's propensity to hit batters this season. As some of you may know, Doug Fister leads the league with 12 HBP. Jacob pointed out the historic territory Fister approaches in terms of total HBP and HBP/BB ratio.




To take an even closer look, in 1922, Detroit Tigers pitcher Howard Ehmke hit 23 batters. Ehmke definitely liked to throw inside. Across an 8-year span, from 1920 to 1927, by most hit batsmen Ehmke ranked: 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 4th, 1st, 2nd and 1st.

Howard Ehmke had some interesting Career Stats. He was almost perfectly average. His career Win-Loss record was 160-160, along with a career 3.3 BB/9, 3.3 K/9, and 0.99 K/BB ratio.

All time great Walter Johnson hit 20 batters in 1923, but baseball didn't see a pitcher approach these numbers for almost 40 years, when Don Drysdale hit 20 batters in 1961.

It makes sense that a legendary pitcher who threw inside, Don Drysdale, ended up on this list. Bob Gibson was known for throwing inside, but he surprisingly never hit more batters than 13 in 1963.

Don Drysdale's legacy may have been enriched by the fact that after he and a few contemporaries made their mark in the early 60's, high-volume HBP pitchers disappeared from the big leagues for 20-30 years. Batters in the 70's and 80's got out of the way.

Bob Gibson never hit more than 13 batters in one season. Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan each only hit more than 12 batters in a season once in their long careers. Ryan hit 15 in 1971, and Clemens hit 14 in 1995.

Is body armor to blame?
Randy Johnson hit 18 batters twice, in 1992 and 2001. Curiously, 2001 was a banner year for HBPs; Chan Ho Park and Jamey Wright hit 20 batters, and Chris Carpenter beaned 16. Original Devil Rays fans may remember when Victor Zambrano hit 20 batters in 2003. Carlos Zambrano and Bronson Arroyo joined the 20 HBP club in 2004.

The most hit batsmen we've seen in Major League Baseball since Howard Ehmke in 1922 are 21 by the Tom Murphy of the '69 Angels and Kerry Wood, of the doomed 2003 Cubs.

Doug Fister's HBP pace is one to keep an eye on, but regression will limit his season total to the 16-20 range.

His next few games could make things really interesting (in a not interesting at all unless you're into baseball stats kind of way), if he doesn't walk anyone and beans a few more guys.

Not that Fister is choosing to do this, but I've always been a fan of bean-balls over bases-on-balls. At least it doesn't count against your WHIP.

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