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April 15, 2013

Baseball Therapy

Boys Will Be Boys?: The Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke Story

by Russell A. Carleton

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Last Thursday night, in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Dodgers-Padres game—which the Dodgers led 2-1 at the time—Zack Greinke hit Carlos Quentin with a 3-2 pitch. Words were exchanged, and Quentin (6'2", 235 lbs) charged the mound. Greinke (6'2", 195 lbs) tried to mosh with Quentin, leading with his left (non-pitching) shoulder, but Quentin had a 60-foot running start and 40 pounds’ worth of advantage. In the classic physics equation, force equals mass times acceleration. Quentin had the advantage on both counts.

Tempers flared, benches cleared, the mosh pit got bigger, and then a few players started yelling at the guys wearing the other uniforms. Greinke got a broken collar bone for his efforts, and will spend at least six weeks in timeout thinking about what he did. Quentin will sit out eight games with a suspension. And to make things even more fun, guess who's playing against each other tonight at Dodger Stadium... on Jackie Robinson Day.

It's rather telling that a good chunk of the discussion after the fact was an analysis of whether Greinke intended to hit Quentin, because while "He started it!" certainly doesn't work as an excuse at my house, it's apparently okay to use in a baseball game. Jonah Keri, formerly of BP, pointed out that if this event had taken place outside of a baseball stadium, Quentin's actions might have earned him an assault charge. But let's be clear: both men acted inappropriately and neither should be cleared of blame over what happened.

When asked about the melee, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in Chicago at the time, gave the standard societal response for when one wants to avoid confronting inexcusably stupid male behavior: "Boys will be boys." I disagree with Bochy's rather dismissive attitude, but he is indirectly bringing up an important point. A lot of what happened on Thursday night does come down to men behaving badly, and shines the light on some parts of baseball (and masculine culture) that perhaps we all don't want to confront.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article examining how managers react when a runner on their team is thrown out on a stolen base attempt. It turns out that, far from being "once bitten, twice shy," managers actually attempt to steal more often. All of them. In that column, I made this observation:

If there's something that I've come to understand about baseball, it's that it's impossible to understand the game without understanding the psychology of the human male. Yes, over time, the rational mind will see that if a strategy isn't working, you should stop using it. However, the human male is not known for feats of rationality, particularly in a case where he has challenged another man and come up short. Men, in general, don't take that sort of thing well, and are more likely to try again.

In another article, when I pointed out that pitching out was an irrational strategy, I suggested that the pitchout did have one benefit. It allowed the manager pitching out the chance to have a moment where he could claim some sort of small (and Pyrrhic) victory over his opponent. In that article, I said:

If there's a common thread that runs through a lot of the inefficiencies in baseball, it's the male pack animal tendency to try to display dominance behaviors over other males.

The Greinke-Quentin incident isn't the first time that a player has charged the mound or that a real fight has started as a result. It is, however, the first time that a pitcher making in excess of $20 million a year has been sidelined for a significant amount of time because of one. There are apparently some lines that shouldn't be crossed. I propose we look at the matter through the lens of understanding the human male and masculinity in United States culture.

You and What Army?
I don't know whether Greinke was intentionally throwing at Quentin (and again, it's irrelevant). Unless Zack Greinke comes out and says "Why, yes, I was aiming right for him..." we'll never really know. If Greinke was aiming for Quentin, it wouldn't be the first time in MLB history—nor the last—that a pitcher threw at a hitter.

Pitchers will sometimes throw inside to try to get the hitter to back off the plate (and sometimes, they come too far inside). That at least makes sense strategically, and you could argue that being hit by a pitch is just an occupational hazard of standing too close to the plate. Sometimes the ball just gets away. But then there are the "message" bean balls. Pitchers will retaliate for the bean ball that happened in the last half-inning. Some pitchers have admitted to throwing at hitters in retaliation for hot-dogging it after a home run, or to simply knocking down the next guy up after a home run. Sometimes two men have some personal grudge against each other.

Intentionally hitting a batter as retaliation for some perceived slight seems to be a counter-productive strategy. The batter gets first base for free out of the deal. In recent years, MLB has moved to a system where the umpire will warn both benches after one incident, and any further shenanigans will be met with an ejection (and probably a fine and suspension) for the pitcher and his manager. The pitching team will lose the services of that pitcher for a few days and need to bring in another reliever. It certainly doesn't make the game any easier to win. Despite those stakes, you still see pitchers choosing vengeance. What gives? (For those who are really interested in this topic, may I recommend the first chapter of J.C. Bradbury's book, The Baseball Economist.)

After these sorts of events happen, teammates often talk glowingly—in code words—about a pitcher who is willing to "protect his teammates." It's not that hard to figure out what's going on. The retaliating pitcher might need to answer a few questions to the league, but he'll be a hero in the clubhouse.  If he doesn't retaliate, there are often code words about that pitcher not being very well-liked.  You might argue that the benefits of promoting a "we're all in this together" attitude and not dividing the locker room are actually worth more to a team than having a runner on first. There's no really good way to measure it. A different re-frame would be that the pitcher is giving in to peer pressure in an overly macho locker room. But the mere fact that pitchers do sometimes choose retaliation does reinforce how valuable the players perceive that locker room culture to be.

When a structure exists within a society, there is some function that it serves. It might not serve that function well, but there's always a reason. Baseball can be a dangerous game. A pitcher with a bad attitude and a 97-mph heater is a dangerous combination. A runner on first with a bone to pick and a shortstop coming across the bag trying to turn two can result in a DL stint. I often use the term "pack animals" with disapproval in my voice, but it's easy to understand how players can feel very vulnerable and want to know that the pack is there for backup. If a pitcher does not retaliate, will other pitchers take that as a sign that they can do as they will? Will the pack have my back? Maybe it makes players a little more hesitant to stand a little closer to the plate. In a game of inches, that can be a big deal, maybe a bigger deal than giving a guy a free trip to first base. I can't say that I condone the behavior, but I can at least understand where it comes from.

Maybe there's an upside to this strategy of detente. If it's known that "an incident" will beget a response, it might persuade a loose cannon that firing one at the other team is a bad idea. Or maybe it would get his teammates to talk some sense into him. The system of retribution will lead to some ugly incidents, but we do need to leave open the possibility that it might prevent more bean balls than it incites (there's no way to test it), and we just never see the ones that don't happen.

If there is one reason for hope, it's that there is an odd double standard on acceptable reasons for hitting a batter. Suppose that a pitcher hit a batter in the top of the first inning, knocking him out of the game and relegating him to day-to-day status. Before his post-game interview, the pitcher took a "vitamin supplement" that was "inadvertently laced" with sodium pentothal (truth serum). Asked about the first inning plunking, he said, "Yeah, before the game, we had that as part of our strategy. We figured that while we were giving Smith first base, the pitch would probably knock him out of the game, and maybe the rest of the series. Since the other team would have to put Jones in the game to replace him, we calculated that it gave us a better chance to win."

There exists a set of circumstances in which this would be a perfectly logical and rational choice for a team to make. And your jaw is still on the floor at the thought. Retaliation is okay in baseball, but pre-meditated targeting, even if it makes logical sense, is not. It means that there are some rules. If players recognize that there are rules, then maybe they really can "police themselves." In a perfect world, there would be a system where the only hit batsmen were cases where the ball really did get away and pitchers didn't use a fastball to take out their anger and frustration.

I don't think that we should be blaming the "protection" system that has developed (and the resulting bean brawls). Maybe we ought to be more mad at the fact that United States culture is really bad at teaching people, particularly men, safe and effective ways to release anger. And when someone tries to release anger in a harmful way on the baseball diamond, it can literally be fatal. The protection system is a natural outgrowth of that more basic cultural problem with anger management. Given that there are certain guys who can't handle anger, how do we best deal with that?

Are You Threatening Me?
In the Greinke-Quentin confrontation, what happened between the ball striking Carlos Quentin's arm and Carlos Quentin striking Zack Greinke's arm is a matter of some debate. But one thing is clear. Whether or not Greinke "meant it," Quentin assumed that he did. A calm, rational review of the circumstances (3-2 pitch, one-run game in the sixth inning) suggests that the probability is high that Greinke didn't actually mean to, but it's not unthinkable that he might have. Greinke had plunked Quentin before, although many have pointed out that a lot of people have plunked Quentin. He's the active leader in career HBP. What happened is that Quentin engaged in what is known as the hostile attribution bias. He took what was an ambiguous (at best) set of circumstances and assumed that Greinke was out to get him rather than "It just got away from him."

Accounts vary as to what happened next. Zack Greinke apparently "said something" to Quentin. Quentin was likely not silent either. Some accounts say that the turning point was actually when Greinke dropped his glove to the ground, and perhaps invited Quentin to the mound for further conversation. And here we have the classic story of every fight between two men in the history of the world. Quentin perceived that he had been challenged by Greinke. Men generally react to challenges by either engaging in a dominance behavior of their own (Quentin apparently chose to yell a few choice words) or showing a submissive behavior, which is this case probably would have been simply walking to first base. Greinke then had the choice of meeting a dominant behavior with a dominant behavior (like yelling back) or submitting ("Dude, calm down... I'm not trying to hit you.") Quentin could have responded to that challenge by another dominant behavior (charging the mound) or a submission (rolling his eyes and walking down to first base). Greinke could have responded by either running toward Quentin and breaking his collarbone or backing off toward second base and waiting for catcher A.J. Ellis (trailing the play) to tackle Quentin.

At any of those points, the fight could have ended before it started. Why didn't it? The simple answer is that in United States culture, there is a strong taboo against a man who displays submissive behaviors, even when challenge behaviors make no logical sense. The phrase "wimp out" is much more common than "calmly assessed the situation and realized that it made no sense to become further involved." In the immediate aftermath, I heard discussion of whether Greinke should have backed away once Quentin charged. The general consensus was that it was Greinke's job to "protect his mound." In other words, Greinke was seen as virtuous for trying to take on a much larger man in a fight to prevent him from scoring a touchdown rather than to back down and live to pitch another day. Like Tuesday. Against the Padres.

When I read Dirk Hayhurst's book, The Bullpen Gospels (which could double as a dissertation in field anthropology), what struck me was how... well... male everything was. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that when the players, managers, and coaches are all men, and the group is relatively isolated from others, that it would form a culture based around norms of hyper-masculinity. Consider the realities of life for the professional baseball player. For more than half of the year, you are not physically in one city for very long. Your job requires that you travel a lot, so it's hard to form a good solid social network. Worse, because of your job, people act... kinda funny when you're around. Unfortunately, you have to be wary that some of them might try to take advantage of you, and it's hard to trust them. It's not that a baseball player has no outside social network. It's just harder to come by.

So, players fulfill the basic human need for a social network by turning to the people around them, all of whom are hypercompetitive males and with whom they spend an inordinate amount of time. When a group is isolated, it forms its own culture. And because many of them were raised in a culture (i.e. United States culture) where "backing down" was most certainly not part of masculinity, it's not surprising when the culture that emerges over-emphasizes this hypermasculine ideal. Maybe there are guys in the clubhouse who take a more enlightened view, but if they have limited influence in the clubhouse, they will have limited influence over the emergent culture.

It's tempting to say that Carlos Quentin, for example, needs anger management counseling. (Maybe he does, I don't know.) Or that both men could benefit from a stop-think-act training (we all could). But maybe we ought to think a little deeper about where the hostile attribution bias and the idea of "never backing down even when it's pointless" comes from. If you want to write lyrical poems about how baseball mirrors the most excellent parts of United States culture, then consider writing a few verses about how it mirrors the worst parts of United States culture.

When something continues to happen despite the fact that you've taken several measures to correct it, it usually means that you haven't correctly identified the problem. Bean brawls are certainly a problem within MLB, and to their credit, MLB has taken sensible steps within their means to curb them. Despite that, Zack Greinke is still currently wearing a sling. The problem is that MLB exists within a broader culture and its players have soaked up years of unfortunate messages about what it means to be a man. Maybe this one's beyond MLB's power to completely stop. Anger makes people do irrational things, and it's not just a matter of needing to increase the length of suspensions for throwing at a hitter or charging the mound. This is a symptom of a broader cultural issue. Zack Greinke and Carlos Quentin should have proper consequences for their respective actions. However, simply tinkering with those consequences is to ignore the bigger problem. If you want to see an MLB free of brawls, there's a bigger issue that needs to be solved first.

Russell A. Carleton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Russell's other articles. You can contact Russell by clicking here

Related Content:  Zack Greinke,  Carlos Quentin,  Brawl

35 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Nathan

I think there are fair points here, but it also bears pointing out that a similar article saying that women are "not known for feats of rationality" or listing things they "don't take well" would likely get you branded as a sexist.

Apr 15, 2013 04:10 AM
rating: 5
 
OonBoon

Good point. Truly, "people" are not known or great feats of rationality.

Apr 15, 2013 04:27 AM
rating: 4
 
Brad Clark

Agreed. If this article was about women, the author would likely not have a job by tomorrow. I think the problem has more to do with the level of competitiveness of individuals that "have what it takes" to make it to the big leagues than it does with the gender of the player. Statements like "the human male is not known for feats of rationality" are fine for a barroom conversation, but I don't know that the propagation of such ideas through a widely read website is necessarily the best use of the author's talent or of the medium which he is allowed to use to distribute his opinions.

Apr 15, 2013 08:04 AM
rating: -1
 
ricomise

I have to disagree a bit here. The statement "the human male is not known for feats of rationality," while general and sweeping, is true in the context of the article. The U.S. culture in which we are raised believing that men don't back down from physical challenges leads to such behavior. The author is spot on from a sociological perpective. It can be seen from statements like "ptotecting his mound." This is territorial thinking, even when there is absolutely no reason for a pitcher to consider the mound "his." It harkens back to the Yankees-A's "controversy when A-road stepped on the mound while returning to the dugout. Part of it may be genetic, but much of it is a result of cultural cues received by men from society at large. It is a perfectly salient point to consider when discussing these behavioral phenomenens.

Apr 15, 2013 11:37 AM
rating: 13
 
krissbeth

Excellent article. A great example of the non-stats insight this site has to offer baseball fans.

Apr 15, 2013 06:04 AM
rating: 5
 
rofldude

The issue of "hyper masculinity" and "safe and effective ways to release anger" is certainly not unique to the U.S., nor is the U.S. necessarily the worst in the world. Maybe the whole thing could have been avoided if the umpire had warned both benches directly after Kemp( best player on the Dodgers?) had a fastball sail over his head earlier in the game. What would have been the harm? I can understand a breaking ball slipping from a pitcher's grip but honestly, apart from inclement weather, there is no excuse for a major league pitcher sending a fastball OVER someone's head without intent. The game was played in SoCal, so I doubt weather had anything to do with it. And let's face it, the objective is to win, to dominate your opponent.

Apr 15, 2013 06:49 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

You are correct that these are not issues confined to the US (and of course, not all players in MLB come from the US.) There are other cultural concepts (machismo, for example) which present their own challenges. I hesitate to write about them more broadly because I just don't understand them enough to do it.

Apr 15, 2013 07:13 AM
 
JoshuaGB

I also found the focus on US culture a bit of a red herring. Given the large influence of other cultures and the macho nature of those culture (with, perhaps, the notable excpetions of the asian cultures), I'm not sure that we can chalk this up to a specifically US cultural problem.

Also, there must be some part of throwing inside that plays more on instincts than it does on culture. Even the highly trained major leaguers are more timid and less focused after a pitch almost hits them in the head. In this sense, pitching inside is less about revenge/machismo/etc than it is about getting the out.

Apr 15, 2013 10:04 AM
rating: 4
 
Chad Moriyama

Asian baseball culture is "macho" to arguably the most extreme though.

So it's basically everybody.

Apr 16, 2013 06:38 AM
rating: 0
 
Drakos

Normally I'd agree with the fact that a major league pitcher shouldn't be accidently throwing fastballs over the batters head, but I'm surprised that Marquis didn't throw a fastball over the center fielder's head. He was all over the place in that game. It took him 102 pitches to get through 5 innings and that was only because the Dodgers were terrible with runners in scoring position. And of those 102 pitches only 54 were strikes.

Kemp had every right to be pissed about it but Marquis was throwing the ball everywhere and just looked terrible.

Apr 15, 2013 08:50 AM
rating: 2
 
PeterBNYC

Gonzalez leads the league in HBP. You don't need to take more than a brief look at the man's batting stance and style to see why. Yet he was quoted after the game as saying that he and Grienke "have a history"- presumably of Grienke hitting Gonzalez multiple times. Will BP kindly take a look at the facts and let us know if Gonzalez has a point?- the number of times Grienke has hit him exceeds a statistical "norm"?- or is Gonzalez just a hothead with a stance likely to get him hit, and Grienke doesn't hit him any more than any other pitcher? Leave this sort of analysis for others and give us the facts so we can draw our own conclusions. Thanks.

Apr 15, 2013 07:43 AM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Greinke has hit him three times in 31 career plate appearances. Obviously, that rate (one HBP every 10.3 PA) is a lot higher than Quentin's career rate (one HBP every 24.1 PA), but it's not the highest rate of any pitcher, nor the highest total. This isn't really a question the HBP rate alone can answer. Rightly or wrongly, Quentin feels that Greinke's HBPs were with intent, which would distinguish him from many of the other pitchers who've hit him, if true.

Apr 15, 2013 07:51 AM
 
matthewverygood

It's not just that Greinke had hit him, he'd also thrown at his head. The pitch before the actual HBP in 2009, for example.

Apr 15, 2013 10:04 AM
rating: 2
 
Chad Moriyama

And there were at least 15 PA between them after that.

And Jon Lester hit him twice in the same game.

So ... ?

Apr 16, 2013 06:40 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

We do know that HBP rate stabilizes quickly. Some guys do seem to have a tendency (probably because of their stance) to get hit more often. I could run a chi-square test to see whether Greinke hit Quentin, but the sample size is far too small to be powerful enough to detect any effect.

Apr 15, 2013 07:57 AM
 
Robotey

There's another 'detente' that needs to be addressed, and that's the negotiation between the pitcher and the hitter for the inner third of the plate. We all have heard about how Bob Gibson worked to re-claim the inner half from the hitter. Quentin is a great example of the Derek Jeter diving hitter. He shows no fear of standing his ground. Pitchers have always used the brushback pitch to gain the small but vital advantage of putting doubt in a hitter's approach. If a hitter is worried that the incoming pitch is a high and tight fastball he will not dive. If he doesn't dive he is vulnerable to the breaking pitch on the outer half of the plate. If he stands his ground he can reach that pitch and slap it the opposite way. In other words, it's part of baseball. You must let pitchers pitch inside. If one gets away, then the hitter must react.

Apr 15, 2013 08:46 AM
rating: 1
 
stephenwalters

Good thoughts, Russell - thanks. The one thing that has gotten little comment in this controversy is the fact that it's damned hard to think calmly when you've just been hit by a 90-mph missile. That kinda stings, and provokes a "fight or flight" adrenaline surge that, it seems to me, puts one on a path to "hostile attribution bias." It was amusing to watch all the talking heads, sitting calmly in their studios, discuss the logic Quentin should have used to reach their conclusion that, given the score and count (but not the pitcher's history), hostile attribution was irrational. So the interesting thing to me is how Greinke reacted to Quentin's reaction. Arguably, since he had not just been plunked, he might have been better situated to defuse the situation -- but, as you point out, he's not conditioned to do so.

Apr 15, 2013 09:35 AM
rating: 7
 
Robotey

I would disagree. Professional baseball players train themselves to take what would shock everyone else--being the target of 90mph fastball--and transform it into an experience that is comfortable. sure getting hit hurts and is a shock, but if you've batted thousands of times in your life you've experienced it before and you will again. What makes athletes special is their ability to separate what might be a jarring experience--getting sacked by a 300lb linebacker, getting dunked on, shanking a drive in front of a gallery--from the next task at hand, going to first base, 'rubbing dirt on it' and playing on. Any player who acts like Quentin had his mind made up before he was hit and his actions must be considered pre-meditated.

Apr 15, 2013 11:36 AM
rating: 2
 
andrews

Agreed an interesting comparison would be with Cricket where it is unheard of to a batsman to retaliate against a bowler who is (at times) deliberately aiming at their head.

When hit, which is common at least on the body, the 'done thing' is to pretend to the bowler that he has neither hurt or bothered you - in fact inactivity is the 'macho response'

When hit it's not difficult to try to conceal that fact.

Apr 16, 2013 12:41 PM
rating: 2
 
Cromulent

I think you're projecting your own feelings here, to be honest, in terms of fight or flight. As Robotey points out, professional baseball players should be conditioned for that - and none more so than Quentin, with 116 career HBP.

Apr 15, 2013 16:24 PM
rating: 2
 
abskippers

In this particular incident it appears it was highly improbable Greinke was trying to hit Quentin, and for a guy who makes HBPs a part of his game Quentin way overreacted to a 3-2 pitch that grazed his arm. However, the sociologists seem to think violence tends to occur more often when one side enjoys overwhelming advantage against the other, and where would that be more applicable than when one guy can hurl a hard object 90+ mph at a guy who can't return the favor?

I would hypothesize that way more batters are injured by HBP's than pitchers by mound-chargings. I also think there was some study showing AL pitchers hit a lot more batters than NL pitchers, because they don't have to stand in the box themselves.

All of which is to suggest that a logical strategy for a hitter would be to charge the mound every time he gets hit by a pitch, or if mounting suspensions would make that impractical, at least often (and random) enough to put the fear of retaliation in the pitcher. If a pitcher thinks he's going to end up in a fight if he hits you, he might be more careful with where he places the ball. Again, the sociologists seem to think even most young males are violence avoiders, at least when the odds are relatively even, so the batters have to do something to make sure the pitchers can't get away with beaning them at will.

I would wager Greinke's intentional bearings might decrease in the future.

Apr 15, 2013 10:29 AM
rating: 2
 
midzman

Somewhat agree with the instinct reaction to getting hit. However, since Quentin stated the history between him and Grienke factored into his decision, he clearly had thought about issues outside the realm of getting stung by a pitch. I think it is blatant here that Quentin PLANNED on attacking Greinke the next time he was hit, no matter the circumstances.

This premeditation should be taken into account and he deserves a much harsher penalty than he received (understand union rules, etc played into the 8 game suspension).

Apr 15, 2013 11:12 AM
rating: 2
 
abskippers

Pitchers commit premeditated beanings all the time, and again I'm hypothesizing that comes with much greater risk of injury to the batter, yet it's somehow worse for a batter to premeditate a mound charging? On the contrary, my argument is that a few more premeditated mound chargings might decrease the premeditated beanings.

Throwing a baseball at a guy on purpose, a la Hamels to Harper last year, is about the least tough thing you can do, and occurs mainly because there is little risk of reprisal on the pitcher. Hamels' suspension didn't even cause him to miss a start.

Apr 15, 2013 11:31 AM
rating: 2
 
ricomise

But again, I think this makes the author's point. Hamels hit Harper to demonstrate his dominant position as a veteran. American males (and, yes other culturess as well)learn very early that physical violence (or the suggestion thereof) is the way to assert dominence in most situations. It manifests itself in may settings, from unwritten "codes" of conduct in male dominated sports, to the unfortunately high rate of domestic violence in this country. Until the culture begins to address these underlying issues, I believe these problems will likely not be reduced.

Apr 15, 2013 11:48 AM
rating: 5
 
Robotey

Aw C'mon! It's baseball! If you don't throw inside you're not a pitcher. In baseball there are unwritten rules intended to protect everyone. Even if you intentionally hit a guy, you hit him in the butt and that's ok. You can't start policing every pitch that's thrown inside. That's ridiculous.

Apr 15, 2013 12:54 PM
rating: 0
 
abskippers

Males of all cultures tend to be more scared of violence than willing to commit it. "The suggestion thereof" is very different than the act itself. When violence occurs, most often it is because one side is in a position of dominant force over the other.

In baseball the game naturally puts the pitcher in the position of dominance, and as a result pitcher-on-hitter violence is the most frequent sort of physical violence in the game. Yet MLB punishes the hitters more than the pitchers.

If you wanted to deal with it in a rule-of-law sort of way, MLB ought to at least reverse the relative severity of the suspensions - 10 or 15 games for Hamels, 5 for Quentin. But Hamels admitted intent where normally it's hard to prove. You could however eliminate suspensions for charging the mound altogether, and I bet pitchers would be a lot more careful about beanings. Pitchers are by and large going to be a lot more scared of an actual fight with Carlos Quentin than of giving him first base or of a suspension that doesn't even cost them a start.

Or you could do like hockey and let batters charge the mound, but suspend anyone who comes off the bench or jumps in the fight. That could really curb the bean balls, and let's be clear that the beanings are the really dangerous thing.

Apr 15, 2013 13:32 PM
rating: 0
 
kcboomer

I was watching the game and it was clear that Quinton didn't hardly move to get out of the way of the ball. I mean the guy stands right on the plate, he's huge, and he expects not to be hit? The pitch Greinke threw could not have been 4 inches inside. No sympathy for him from me. He really should be suspended as long as Greinke is out.

The reason Quinton got a major suspension are because he caused the whole event: 1) Standing right on top of the plate, 2) didn't make any effort to get out of the way of the pitch, and 3) charged the mound without much provocation.

Umpires need to be trained to not give hitters an HBP when they are camped on top of the plate and make no move to get out of the way.

Apr 15, 2013 14:03 PM
rating: -1
 
carlbrownson

Maybe we should restrict the term "beaning" to just those occasion when one is hit in the head? Or in the "bean", you know? Actually I don't think that would be restricting the term - it would just be to use it correctly, right?

I'm sure there are experts on this.

Apr 15, 2013 14:41 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

In the long history of pitchers hitting batters, the number of injuries is disproportionately one-sided.

There are virtually no consequences, from an injury standpoint, to a pitcher hitting a batter (Greinke the exception).

So a batter going out to occasionally knock the snot out of a pitcher goes but a short way of giving the pitcher some pause for his actions.

Apr 15, 2013 18:03 PM
rating: 2
 
ScottyB

Reading this article, I couldn't help thinking about the flak Piazza got for not charging Clemens after the bat-throwing incident in the World Series.

Apr 16, 2013 07:52 AM
rating: 2
 
heltrskelter

I think, perhaps, we overlook an actual win-staked advantage in pegging the occasional batsman. That is, putting the opposing lineup on edge.

Maybe ballplayers are immune to fear, but I doubt it. They're tough, but a fastball to the ribs still hurts like a mother. When standing in the box against a guy who can hurl 80+ mph, it seems that the threat of a bean ball might provoke a player to wince a bit at incoming pitches: "Is that ball heading toward the black, or is it heading toward my elbow?" In a contest between pitcher and batter that lasts a fraction of a second, this could mean the difference between a hit and a swing and miss.

So, assuming the promise of retribution elicits SOME fear-based effect in the batter, it seems you could argue for a strategic advantage. But the play only works if you pay it due. If retribution is NOT executed, the threat is idle, and that fearful internal waiting game going on in the batters' heads is neutered.

Immeasurable, you say? Maybe. But I would be curious to see how batters fared on average in innings immediately following a HBP. We certainly have enough of such innings to draw a meaningful conclusion.

Apr 16, 2013 11:04 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

From the archives: http://statspeakmvn.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/did_i_scare_you/

Apr 16, 2013 12:48 PM
 
heltrskelter

It's awesome that you have easy access to an article here. Beautiful.

But I wonder if we have analysis that measures "fear" in cases of imminent retribution. That is, if Grienke hits Quentin in the bottom of the 6th, how do the Dodgers fare against Cashner in the 7th with the potential for retaliation looming?

Obviously we know what happened in that game (the Dodgers flew out, grounded out, and lined two to left before Gregerson was brought in), but is there any noticeable effect once we aggregate stats? Is the promise that "One of us is going to get plunked, but we don't know who or when" a position of weakness for the batters?

Apr 17, 2013 10:54 AM
rating: 1
 
mblthd

Batters are idiots. If you get hit by a pitch, take your base and don't whine about it.

(Re-post of what I posted in 4/12 "What You Need to Know)...

I'd love to take piece of plywood, draw a 24" diameter (i.e., my uneducated guess as to the average distance between the edge of home plate and a batter's body) circle on it, lean it against a wall, put Carlos Quentin or any other aggrieved batter on a hill 60'6" away from the wall, give him 10 baseballs, let him have 10 throws and see how many times you (the royal "you," the editorial) are able to hit the circle. You miss the circle, that means you just hit a batter.

The way many batters crowd the plate, I'd guess that the distance between a strike and a hit batter is often less than 24", but still.

My solution to the problem is 10-game suspensions for anyone on the batter's team who leaves the dugout or on-deck circle. Any batter who charges the mound will and should get pounced on by the catcher and all the infielders, with no one around to help him. That will stop these idiot batters from charging the mound, problem solved.

Next case = idiot batters whining about called third strikes. Earth to idiot hitters: it DOES NOT MATTER that the pitch didn't cross the plate, was 2" off the outside edge of the plate, etc. You've been taught since Little League to protect the plate when you have two strikes, swing at anything close, etc. 2" off the outside edge of the plate falls squarely within the realm of "anything close."

Apr 16, 2013 13:03 PM
rating: -3
 
Andy Cochrane

Some very well put and interesting thoughts in this article. This is what makes BP the best. Thanks.

Apr 17, 2013 02:41 AM
rating: 0
 
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