Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Roger the "Dodger"

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that, "Mike Piazza certainly took note of Clemens' unretirement..."

Not just Piazza, but everyone in New York is probably looking forward to Clemens getting beaned as he bats in the National League. Mets fans hate him for hitting Piazza and the Yankees fans hate him for being a "traitor."

A popular question is, "I wonder if Clemens will change his style now that he has to pick up a bat?" But does he really live up to his reputation of hitting more batters than the average pitcher? And is stepping into the batter's box really a deterrent for NL pitchers? Are they less likely to hit batters than AL pitchers? Are National League "head-hunters" more likely to get hit by pitches themselves?

(I'm sure this has been addressed elsewhere, but I'd rather do the thinking than just point you somewhere else on this one.)

Does Roger Clemens hit more batters than the average pitcher?
Nope. In 2003, the average AL pitcher hit 10 batters per 1,000 batters faced (BFP), while Clemens hit only 5.7 per 1,000 BFP. Maybe Clemens has mellowed in his old age -- he must have hit more batters earlier in his career, right? Right, but not that many more. Over his career, Clemens has hit about 8 batters per 1,000 BFP. He's really not that reckless.

Do NL pitchers hit fewer batters than their AL counterparts?
Eh... sorta. National League pitchers hit 9.6 batters per 1,000 BFP, slightly less than the AL's 10. That works out to about .72 HBP per AL game and .68 HBP per NL game, a marginal difference.

Do NL "head-hunters" get hit by a lot of pitches themselves?
Yes. Eighty-two National League pitchers made at least 10 starts in 2003, and they averaged about 9 HBP/1,000 BFP. The pitchers who hit more batters than expected ("Headhunters") were hit by pitches themselves once every 224 plate appearances, while the "more gentle" pitchers were only hit half as often (once every 487 PA).

The lesson learned: If you hit too many batters in the NL, expect to get thrown at yourself. Unless you're from Texas...

Kerry Wood hit an historic 21 batters this past year, the highest since Tom Murphy in 1969 (and no pitcher has hit more than 21 batters since 1921!). Meanwhile, opposing pitchers retaliated on Wood exactly zero times. He didn't get hit by a pitch in any of his 70 plate appearances.

Another hard-throwin' Texan, Nolan Ryan also managed to avoid the beanball -- but for his whole career. He didn't get hit by even one pitch in nearly 1,000 career plate appearances.

Since Clemens doesn't hit too many batters, I don't expect him to get thrown at all that often. And even if he did hit a lot of batters, I think his opposing pitchers would be unlikely to throw at him -- something about large Texans bringing the heat must frighten off the rest of the league. Well, that and the Robin Ventura incident.

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