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April 13, 2017

Flu-Like Symptoms

The Scary Consequence of the Strikeout Scourge

by Rob Mains


In Monday’s Giants home opener, Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker hit Buster Posey in the head with a pitch in the first inning, forcing him from the game. Posey has been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

I’m not going to link to the pitch here. You can find it easily enough if you want to watch it. I don’t, because I find these plays terrifying. They speak to a concern of mine: That baseball is heading toward another Ray Chapman moment, or something close, and I don’t know what can be done to prevent it.

Admittedly, this is a hobbyhorse of mine. I made a presentation about it at the SABR Analytics Conference in 2016, and I’ve alluded to it in the past. But I’ve never gone into it in depth here at Baseball Prospectus, so I’m going to today. If you’ve already heard my full rant, there’s a lot of other good content here today that you can check out. Have a good weekend and I’ll see you Monday.

I worry about a batter getting killed, or at least seriously hurt, by a pitched ball for three reasons.

  1. Pitchers are throwing harder and harder. You already know that.
  2. Hit batters are near all-time highs. You may or may not know that.
  3. That’s likely to continue, because hit batters are linked to rising strikeout rates. That’s not intuitive, so I’m going to try to persuade you.

Regarding pitch speed, I assume I don’t need to convince you. And, of course, the up-in-the-zone pitch (i.e., closest to batters’ heads) of choice is the four-seam fastball, which is also the fastest pitch in pitchers’ arsenals. The pitch that hit Posey was a 94.2 mph four-seamer.

To the second point: Here’s a chart showing plate appearances per hit batter. The fewer plate appearances, the more frequent hit batters are, so I’ve reversed the scale here.

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Related Content:  Hit By Pitch,  Strikeouts

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<< Previous Article
Prospectus Feature: Le... (04/13)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Flu-Like Symptoms: Tra... (04/10)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Flu-Like Symptoms: Blo... (04/17)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Starting Pitch... (04/14)

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