Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

These Aren’t the Hits MLB Wanted

Mains continues:

There was one batter hit per 96 plate appearances in 2018, a new record. It fell further, to 94, in 2019. Then all the way to 81 in last year’s short, weird season.

This year? Through Tuesday night’s games, it’s down to 74.5. Batters are being hit thirty-eight percent more frequently than in 1901. There are just over eight hit batters for every five just a decade ago. We’re averaging 0.997 hit batters per game in 2021, a single HBP shy of one per game—a level the sport’s never approached. Batters so far have a .309 on-base percentage. Hit batters account for thirteen points of that figure. Ten years ago, there were only eight points of hit batters in MLB’s .321 OBP.

I wanted to take a look at possible reasons the HBP rate is at record levels so far in 2021, but first we need to be clear about which parts of this trend are continuations from previous seasons and which parts are actually new. In 2019, Devan Fink demonstrated that the HBP rate per plate appearance was approaching the highest levels seen since the early 1900s. He looked at increased velocity and reliever usage to demonstrate that while a pitches’ speed didn’t necessarily mean a pitcher had worse command, relievers had a larger share of HBP than their starting counterparts.

It’s still true that relievers are responsible for more hit by pitch events than their starting counterparts.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 11, 2021 at 02:25 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hit batters

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. "bothsidesism" word 57i66135 Posted: May 11, 2021 at 03:12 PM (#6018313)
as i've always said, it's easier to hit a batter once in the ass than to hit the catcher 4 times in the opposing batters box.

   2. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 11, 2021 at 03:17 PM (#6018316)
HBP are much better than whiffs.
   3. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: May 11, 2021 at 06:16 PM (#6018362)
as i've always said, it's easier to hit a batter once in the ass than to hit the catcher 4 times in the opposing batters box.


Sounds like eliminating the intentional walk should lower HBP then. I'd guess that it's more that hitters are trying to get hit more to get that precious OBP. Or that crowding the plate works better with the current approach to hitting.
   4. Moeball Posted: May 12, 2021 at 03:57 AM (#6018492)
I believe there are multiple factors at play here.

1) Batters equipment - as we saw start to happen back in the 1990s, a lot of hitters have armored up so now don't mind getting plunked as much. With the increase in hit batsmen it would be interesting to see a study if injuries to hit batters are increasing at the same rate. I'd guess they aren't.

2) Also going back to the 1990s - the Eric Greggs of the baseball world started extending the width of the strike zone so that pitches a full foot or more off the plate were still sometimes getting called strikes. Many umpires are still doing this today. When you're a batter and the ump is calling outside pitches well off the plate a strike, you have no choice but to crowd the plate to try to reach those pitches. Crowding the plate is always going to result in more brushback pitches. I've seen examples of beanball wars between teams actually being artificially created by the umpires.
   5. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 12, 2021 at 08:36 AM (#6018502)
My guess is that this is one of those things where everybody will search for "the answer", when it is likely a little bit of several things (including some things mentioned in #4).

I find it hard to believe increased velocity isn't contributing at least marginally to the increase - you simply have less reaction time.

I personally think the increased "armor" batters often wear is the single biggest factor, but that is probably difficult to prove or disprove.

But am I reading this properly, that so far in 2021, about 4% of all times somebody gets on base is because of...a HBP?
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: May 12, 2021 at 08:45 AM (#6018504)
I wonder how much attitude plays a role. When I played baseball, 35 years ago, I got hit by a pitch once in high school (my last PA). I don't recall ever hearing anything from my teammates when I got out of the way of a pitch, nor encouraging others to take one for the team.

When my son played, any time there was an inside pitch the player backed away from, the entire team (as well as opposing teams) would yell, "Wear it." And we had several kids who would get hit regularly because they wouldn't do anything to avoid a pitch.

My guess is there are more players in the big leagues now who grew up in that "wear it" environment, and thus take fewer measures to get out of the way. There's no question that HBPs are as much a product of the hitter as they are the pitcher.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 12, 2021 at 09:53 AM (#6018510)
I was actually looking at Bob Gibson's HBP total the other day, people think he plunked guys all the time, but he has 60 percent of the HBP that journeyman Jamey Wright has, despite Wright pitching about half the innings that Gibson threw.
   8. TomH Posted: May 12, 2021 at 10:59 AM (#6018520)
1) move the batters box 1 inch further away from the plate
2) in the regular ump review, inform those who grossly exceed outside corner book strike zone that this is cause for bad review and no postseason assignment
3) if a batter gets in the armor, below the shoulder, it is NOT a HBP; it is a ball. Armor is not body or uniform. So dude, only wear the armor if ya really need it.
   9. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 12, 2021 at 11:03 AM (#6018521)
I wonder how much attitude plays a role.

I think batter attitude is most of the reason. Ron Hunt and Don Baylor were outliers. Nowadays, there are a ton of guys who use HBP as part of their offensive game.

   10. bunyon Posted: May 12, 2021 at 11:10 AM (#6018528)
I agree that attitude is important. But velocity, different deliveries (which makes it harder to read) are also important.

I think this goes hand in hand with the discussion on batter approach we've had in other threads. More guys are diving in and this is a productive approach. It increases plate coverage and power. With the advent of armor, the risk is much lower (this include helmet tech).

I don't want to see anyone get hurt so I'd like to mandate armor - faceguards and elbow guards. And then, like TomH says, if the ball hits armor, it's a ball.
   11. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: May 12, 2021 at 11:33 AM (#6018535)
I think they should just sell more Casino ads.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 12, 2021 at 02:04 PM (#6018572)
When my son played, any time there was an inside pitch the player backed away from, the entire team (as well as opposing teams) would yell, "Wear it."
That’s a bit…sociopathic, no?
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: May 12, 2021 at 02:12 PM (#6018573)
That’s a bit…sociopathic, no?


There's a bit of humor attached, but the sentiment is real. And it's not like the other team's pitchers are throwing 95.
   14. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 12, 2021 at 03:01 PM (#6018582)
The kids I coach are fond of yelling "we got ice!"

With some kids I will yell "mom and dad paid for the helmet, use it!" That always gets a chuckle.
   15. Karl from NY Posted: May 12, 2021 at 03:09 PM (#6018583)
I think batter attitude is most of the reason. Ron Hunt and Don Baylor were outliers. Nowadays, there are a ton of guys who use HBP as part of their offensive game.

Jeter always seemed to be a master of this. He would turn his back into a pitch, violently enough to make it look like he was trying to get out of the way, but really was staying exactly in its path.
   16. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: May 13, 2021 at 07:24 AM (#6018669)
Jeter always seemed to be a master of this. He would turn his back into a pitch, violently enough to make it look like he was trying to get out of the way, but really was staying exactly in its path.
If you do this right, your front shoulder actually gets closer to the plate. Safe at first is almost always better than still batting.
   17. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: May 13, 2021 at 11:12 AM (#6018684)
Jeter always seemed to be a master of this. He would turn his back into a pitch, violently enough to make it look like he was trying to get out of the way, but really was staying exactly in its path.

If you do this right, your front shoulder actually gets closer to the plate. Safe at first is almost always better than still batting.


You don't even need to "try" to get out of the way anymore. The Mets had a walk off HBP on a strike call! Conforto clearly moved his elbow pad into the ball, no wild swing around, or attempted dodge, just a clear reach out with his elbow.
   18. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: May 13, 2021 at 07:05 PM (#6018766)
I wonder how much attitude plays a role. When I played baseball, 35 years ago, I got hit by a pitch once in high school (my last PA). I don't recall ever hearing anything from my teammates when I got out of the way of a pitch, nor encouraging others to take one for the team.

When my son played, any time there was an inside pitch the player backed away from, the entire team (as well as opposing teams) would yell, "Wear it." And we had several kids who would get hit regularly because they wouldn't do anything to avoid a pitch.


My experience is from 25 years ago when I first started in high school ball. I had always been taught by coaches to get out of the way. Once I got to freshman baseball, we literally had several dedicated practice sessions where our coach taught us to, as he called it, "take the dose." He would pitch at us while we learned to turn our lead shoulder and back into the ball so it looked like we were trying to avoid it, but were actually making ourselves a bigger target. Ducking out of the way or jumping out of the box wasn't an automatic benching, but it would get you ridiculed by your teammates and coach. And yeah, there was some machismo in the whole "wear it, kid!" attitude, but it was also simply a way to get on base. If the pitcher was going to be wild, might as well make him pay for it.

I only coach the 10-12 year-old level (Little League Majors), but I would never ask a kid to take a hit by pitch. I've taught them to turn away so it hits them in a less vulnerable spot, but to move away from the ball as they do so.

My guess is that the trend in MLB has a lot of factors involved. Guys want to be able to drive that outside pitch, so they need to stand closer to the plate. Body armor exists. Pitcher control has gotten worse while velocity has increased, giving batters less time to get out of the way. OBP is almighty now, so batters are happy to trot down to first. Nearly all of the trends in hitting and pitching seem to have the byproduct of leading to more HBPs.
   19. Rally Posted: May 14, 2021 at 09:04 AM (#6018813)
My favorite player growing up was Brian Downing. Also watched a lot of Don Baylor, from whom I learned the right technique. On an inside pitch, turn your head away and put your back in front of the ball. It kind of looks like you are making an effort to get out of the way but you are actually increasing the amount of body in the path of the pitch. The most important part, your head, is also protected by this kind of move.

I wasn't a good hitter so I took any path I could to get on base, inspired by my baseball heroes. This was personal choice, not encouraged by coaches. I would never ask a kid to do the same thing.
   20. bfan Posted: May 14, 2021 at 10:26 AM (#6018826)
It seems as if every baseball metric is moving in a direction that I would consider the wrong direction. BA is way down; scoring is down; game length is increasing; replay length is increasing; HBP is up.

Among the many by-products of COVID 19 is a complete masking (pun intended) of fan interest, or, to put it another way, if viewership and game attendance is down this June against prior years, is that because the game has gotten worse to watch, or is COVID 19 going to be everyone's excuse?
   21. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 14, 2021 at 11:07 AM (#6018831)
My favorite player growing up was Brian Downing. Also watched a lot of Don Baylor, from whom I learned the right technique. On an inside pitch, turn your head away and put your back in front of the ball. It kind of looks like you are making an effort to get out of the way but you are actually increasing the amount of body in the path of the pitch. The most important part, your head, is also protected by this kind of move.

I wasn't a good hitter so I took any path I could to get on base, inspired by my baseball heroes. This was personal choice, not encouraged by coaches. I would never ask a kid to do the same thing.


Way BITD when I was in the DC equivalent of Little League (the Walter Johnson League), we had a kid on one of our teams who couldn't hit his way out of the proverbial wet paper bag, so he'd go into a crouch that would've made Ricky Henderson proud. Since he was maybe about 4'6" tops to begin with, his strike zone was about the size of Eddie Gaedel's.

And when it worked, which it often did, he'd brag that "I solved him for a walk".
   22. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 14, 2021 at 02:47 PM (#6018848)
He was just ahead of his time for corporate America. Every damn thing is a "solution" now.
   23. Hank Gillette Posted: May 14, 2021 at 05:02 PM (#6018879)
I don't want to see anyone get hurt so I'd like to mandate armor - faceguards and elbow guards. And then, like TomH says, if the ball hits armor, it's a ball.
Even to the head?

Personally, I disagree with this idea. You still get charged with attempted murder even if you shoot a policeman wearing a Kevlar vest.

I do think that if you get hit by a ball in the strike zone, it should be a strike, not a HBP.
   24. Booey Posted: May 14, 2021 at 05:30 PM (#6018881)
Restricting body armor has never made sense to me. Players should be able to protect themselves in any way they want. The solution to a hypothetical player we'll call Craig Biggio sticking his padded elbow into a pitch is to just ignore the HBP and call it a ball if it's outside the zone and a strike if it's over the plate.
   25. bunyon Posted: May 14, 2021 at 06:14 PM (#6018885)
The reason to award a base for a HBP is to prevent injury. The batter wants to reach first. The pitcher doesn't want him there. But the batter also (historically) doesn't want to get hit. It hurts, it can lead to injury. So a pitcher can pitch inside to upset the batter's timing. However, if the batter doesn't fear being hit - because it doesn't hurt and won't lead to injury* - then the balance is off. A batter can get a good thing, a base, at no cost. The batter can dive into the pitch - I don't mean dive in to get hit, I mean start motion to the plate - and cover the outside part of the plate, turn on the inside part of the plate and the "penalty" for being hit is simply a base, at no risk of pain or injury.

When the rules were drawn up, there was no armor and HBP were seriously dangerous. With armor, that's no longer the case. So the penalty for hitting a batter should be different.

Make the batters wear armor, pads all over the place. Wrist guards. etc. Then just call it a ball.

Even to the head?

Yeah, good point. No, for these arguments, I wouldn't call a helmet no risk. Give a base for a plunking.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Shohei Brotani (formerly LA Hombre)
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogIn season of special performances — Shohei Ohtani, Jacob deGrom, etc. — injuries to Twins' Byron Buxton seem especially cruel
(27 - 11:52pm, Jun 23)
Last: Never Give an Inge (Dave)

NewsblogNBA 2021 Playoffs+ thread
(2039 - 11:31pm, Jun 23)
Last: Der-K's emotional investment is way up

NewsblogIt's like you're always stuck in OMNICHATTER!, for June 23, 2001
(27 - 11:23pm, Jun 23)
Last: Snowboy

NewsblogI Am Breaking My Silence About the Baseball Player Who Raped Me
(5 - 8:54pm, Jun 23)
Last: TomH

NewsblogOT Soccer Thread - In Which Euro 2020 Is Played in 2021
(266 - 6:55pm, Jun 23)
Last: AuntBea odeurs de parfum de distance sociale

NewsblogMajor League Baseball's crackdown on sticky substances begins with regular checks on pitchers Monday
(12 - 6:52pm, Jun 23)
Last: Buck Coats

NewsblogBaseball Reference Adds Negro Leagues Statistics, Rewriting Its Record Book
(182 - 4:31pm, Jun 23)
Last: HGM

NewsblogArizona Diamondbacks' losing streak over at 17 with win over Milwaukee Brewers
(14 - 2:46pm, Jun 23)
Last: sunday silence (again)

Sox TherapyAnd Breathe
(39 - 1:53pm, Jun 23)
Last: villageidiom

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 1939 Discussion
(12 - 1:44pm, Jun 23)
Last: DL from MN

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 1939 Ballot
(1 - 12:24pm, Jun 23)
Last: DL from MN

NewsblogYour job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's OMNICHATTER! for June 22, 2021
(44 - 9:21am, Jun 23)
Last: TomH

NewsblogToronto Blue Jays' Alek Manoah suspended five games for throwing at Baltimore Orioles' Maikel Franco
(4 - 12:13am, Jun 23)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 6-22-2021
(7 - 5:29pm, Jun 22)
Last: EddieA

NewsblogEmpty Stadium Sports Will Be Really Weird
(13256 - 12:47pm, Jun 22)
Last: Never Give an Inge (Dave)

Page rendered in 0.3416 seconds
48 querie(s) executed