Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How many will you see?

After Craig Biggio's 280th plunk on Sunday, reader DM noted that there were a total of 4 batters hit by pitches in the game, and wondered how rare it is to see so many batters hit in the course of a game. In 2005, there were 24 games in which the total plunk count was 4 or more. There were 2,431 regular season games last year so that means about 1 in 100 games in 2005 had 4 or more batters hit. The most hit batters in a game last season was 5, and that only happened twice.

In the 1988 through 2005 seasons, there were 40,373 games played, and 264 of them - about 0.66% - had 4 or more batters get hit by pitches. The most hit batters in a game in that span was 7 during an Oakland vs Anaheim plunk fest on June 7, 2001, and on September 3, 1989 in a game between Kansas City and Texas.

The Astros were involved in 20 games between 1988 and 2005 in which 4 or more batters were hit, out of 2,852 total games, but only 9 of them included an HBP by Craig Biggio. 4 of those 9 saw Biggio plunked twice, but the Astros game in that span in which the most batters were hit - 6 on September 16, 2000 - was played while Biggio was on the disabled list. Biggio has never been hit by a pitch in a game with more than 4 total HBPs.

The whole issue of lots of batters being hit may sound fun in theory, but lots of batters lack Craig Biggio's ability to get hit without being seriously hurt (most of the time). So from a fans perspective, plunks aren't really great fun to watch unless their's a record chase and/or your sure nobody's been hurt. Just a reminder, this site does not support or endorse intentionally throwing at Craig Biggio or anyone else... although we acknowledge that some circumstances may demand it. For the most part, major league players wisely leave the getting hit to the professionals - Biggio has been the only batter hit in a game 131 times, including 11 games in which he was hit twice. 142 of his 280 career HBPs have come in games when no one else got hit.

Over the past 5 seasons, on your average trip to the ball park, you'd see about .75 batters hit by pitches. Since most teams keep there fractional players in the minor leagues, it would be hard to hit .75 batters, so it would be more likely that you'd see 3 (whole) batters hit for every 4 games you attended. It would be equally probable over that span to see a home batter get hit (.373 per game) or a visitor get plunked (.378 per game).

Total hit batters per game was on the rise throughout the 1990s but seems to have peaked in 2001 at 0.778 and more or less plateaued since then. This season, batters have been getting hit about 0.777 times per game, nearly equal to the 2001 high mark, but oddly visitors have been hit 0.402 times per game with just 0.375 HBPs hitting the home team. I don't quite have the data to prove it, but this might be the highest rate of road team HBPs per game in over 100 years. Visiting teams are getting hit more often per game this year than both teams combined were being hit in all but 1 season in the 1980s.

Here are the home, road and total HBP per game rates since 1988:

For total HBPs per game data going back to 1884, check this post from last season.



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