Some players get hit by pitches so often that it must be a skill. But is it a good skill to have?
You don’t read much about the hit by pitch, except tangentially, and then only when some pitcher gets in trouble for throwing at some hitter. For the most part, the HBP just isn’t that interesting; it doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it doesn’t mean all that much. The run-value result of an HBP is basically indistinguishable from that of a walk, and it happens about a tenth as often. HBPs can be exciting or aggravating or scary when they happen while you’re watching a game, but after the fact, if no one got hurt or suspended, they’re hard to care about.
Some guys are really, really good at getting hit, though, and I’ve always thought they were pretty interesting. Carlos Quentin is the overall leader among players to have compiled at least 2000 plate appearances since 1961 (I put the cutoff, somewhat arbitrarily, at the onset of the 162-game schedule; here’sthetop 200)—he’s been hit by pitches in 4.1 percent of his career plate appearances, better than the career walk rates of Yuniesky Betancourt, Miguel Olivo and Bengie Molina. All those plunkings do add up; if Quentin’s 4.1 percent HBP rate were reduced to the 2012 NL average of 0.76 percent, he’d have 21 career HBP instead of 112, and his career .349 OBP would drop all the way to .326.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
While it may be easy to root for certain ballplayers, we have to be open to honest assessments of their abilities.
Ever since I was introduced to Bill James’ works in the mid-'80s, I have wanted to learn as much as possible about baseball so that I can better understand and appreciate it. If you're reading this, you're probably wired the same way. It might be easier to watch without thinking so much, but we don't know how to do that.
I have a similar problem with music. I started playing guitar at the same time I started reading James (correlation does not equal causation), and although I'm a bit of a hack, I've earned enough over the years from my efforts to attract the U.S. government's attention.
A look at four players who have had an interesting physical journey through their career.
Have you ever looked at a player's listed weight and laughed, wondering just how he could expect us to believe that it was true? Or maybe looked back at a player's career and wondered how exactly he went from that svelte 20-year-old body to that vastly different 35-year-old body?
Listed below are four players who have had an interesting physical journey throughout their playing careers. Using the official height and weight stats found on the back of their year-to-year baseball cards, I've traced each player's physical changes from his debut to his final year. It's not surprising to see obvious discrepancies between the official and actual weights, but it is enlightening to see them side-by-side. We'll never get complete and honest weights (and heights) from ballplayers; at the very least, then, we should try and recognize how we're being fooled.
Do early-season phenoms fade once the rest of the league learns to stop giving them pitches to hit?
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Action on and off the field, plus rumors of late-August deals, off-season action, and more.
The Rangers are trying to be copycats this season. In this instance, with Ron Washington as their manager, it only seems fitting. Thanks in large part to a vastly improved defense, the Rays went from losing at least 91 games in each of their first 10 seasons of existence to winning the American League pennant last year. That coincided with them improving from last among the 30 major-league teams in Defensive Efficiency in 2007 to first in 2008. The Rangers have made near the same leap this season after finishing last in Defensive Efficiency a year ago; they rank fifth in the majors in that category, and second in the American League behind only Seattle.
The men from the 2008 season who did the dirty deed and left their team's aspirations in history's ditch.
Each Opening Day marks the arrival of the proverbial "next year" invoked by the prior season's foiled fans, a long-awaited grace period infused with hope and promise. The season of clean slates, fresh starts, and slight fluctuations in our Playoff Odds Report might seem a strange time to summon the specter of last year's failures, but baseball's statistical record specializes in hawking hard truths—teams that allot playing time while mired in the throes of irrational exuberance frequently find their October aspirations cleaved by Santayana's old saw.
In the midst of each of the last two seasons, Jay Jaffe compiled an "all-star team of ignominy," which he dubbed the Replacement-Level Killers. Jay originally developed the concept for a chapter in It Ain't Over, and then applied it on a smaller scale to both the 2007 and 2008 campaigns. He also intended to update last year's mid-season list after the dust had settled, but never found the time. That's where this article comes in.
David Eckstein gets the clutch tag for the rest of his natural life, Gary Sheffield's not a happy little baseball player, plus the ins and outs of a new collective bargaining agreement.
"To me, what separates David is his stature. He's not especially big and especially strong, and he gets beat up. And if you're bigger and stronger, maybe it still hurts, but you have a chance to deal with the blows a little more. And he is just a man of iron. I look at ways guys slide into him and the way they beat him up and everything else he does and the way he responds, (and) I think he's the toughest guy I've ever seen."
--Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, on World Series MVP David Eckstein