Saturday, June 11, 2011

Do Red Sox pitchers hit batters intentionally more than other teams?

June 10, 2011 a friend sent this link:

http://bigbadbaseball.blogspot.com/2011/06/return-of-beantown.html

Boston hurlers are on a spree of hitting opposing batters with pitches that has them on a record-setting pace ... 40 HBP in 62 games, putting them on pace now to plunk 104 hitters in 2011. This would set--in fact, shatter--a modern record ... Right now the Tampa Bay Rays hold the modern record for pitcher HBPs (in a season), with 95.

Hit batsmen don't even out over the course of a few years; they don't appear to be random. Since Terry Francona has taken over as the Red Sox skipper, his squads have hit 616 batters.

That gives them a lead of just under 50 HBPs over the second place team (the Texas Rangers, with 567) ... the Atlanta Braves ... hit only 358 batters over the past 8.4 seasons.
Red Sox pitchers have hit Yankee batters more than anyone else over this time span. A total of 98 Yankee batters have been plunked by Sox pitchers. The Yankees have hit 79 Red Sox hitters over that same time span.

The article states that the Yankees have hit 516 batters in 8.4 seasons, 100 fewer than Boston.

Unfortunately, it does not list the number of Base on Balls (BB) allowed.  A ratio of BB and HBP indicates intent.  If a pitching staff has a lot of both the pitchers are just wild.  If there's a high rate of HBP to BB, the pitchers are hitting batters intentionally.  I call this the meanness factor.

A few years ago I applied the meanness factor to individuals.  Among post WWII (after 1946) pitchers the meanest were Don Drysdale and Pedro Martinez with Jim Bunning third.  There are two biases: sidearm pitchers who tend to miss in or out rather than up or down (see Sandy Koufax) and pitchers who walk so few batters that their meanness factor is skewed (see Mariano Rivera).

If I had the data I'd apply the meanness factor to teams.  A glance at 2011 team stats shows that Boston leads AL in HBP and is third in BB.  Here are the 2011 meanness factors for the BB leaders as of June 10:

Boston: 40/216 = 0.185185185185
Toronto: 29/238 = 0.121848739496
Texas: 23/211 = 0.109004739336
Yankees: 21/211 = 0.0995260663507
Kansas City: 19/237 = 0.0801687763713

Boston is much meaner so far in 2011.

In 2010 Cleveland led AL with 66 HBP; Yanks 4th: 62; Boston 7th: 53.  Boston led AL with 580 BB, then Cleveland 572; Yanks 6th 540.  I don't see a pattern in 2010 to support the contention that Boston hit batters intentionally more than other teams.  Without BB to provide context, simply looking at HBP is interesting but not compelling.

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