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Entries in hit by pitches (2)

Friday
Sep272013

Pirates vs. Reds: There Will Be Bruises

Barring a Cardinals collapse and a Pirates sweep, the Bucs and Reds will battle this weekend for home-field advantage in Tuesday's Wild Card game. Whether Pittsburgh or Cincy prevails, one thing is virtually guaranteed: a few players will depart Great American Ballpark with brand-new welts.

On average, Pirates batters have been plunked by a pitch every 71 plate appearances this season, leading the majors by a wide margin. The Reds rank second, getting hit every 83 plate appearances. Shin-Soo Choo (25 hit by pitches) and Starling Marte (23) are the undisputed kings of reaching first base the hard way, but Neil Walker and Todd Frazier (14 HBP apiece) also rank in the top 10 in beanings.

Part of the reason that these clubs get hit so frequently, other than the fact that Choo and Marte practically smother the plate, could be strategic. The Pirates struggle badly versus inside pitches, slugging a collective .376 (the MLB average is .411). The Reds are slightly below average (.408). Perhaps some pitchers smell blood and try to pound them inside -- too far inside in some cases.

Fewest PA between hit by pitches for hitters, 2013

The Bucs and Reds aren't just on the receiving end of bushels of hit by pitches -- they're also dishing out plenty of pain to opposing lineups. Pirates pitchers are plunking a hitter an average of every 88 plate appearances, again comfortably (uncomfortably?) leading the majors. The Reds, nailing a batter every 95 plate appearances, rank third. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh's Saturday starter, has hit the third-most batters in the bigs (15) despite making his season debut on June 13. Mat Latos (10) ranks seventh among pitchers in hit by pitches, though he won't start this weekend. A.J. Burnett (9 HBP) and Homer Bailey (8 HBP) will, however, squaring off on Friday night. Alfredo Simon (8 HBP) also ranks in the top 25 -- and he's a reliever.

Like on the hitting side, something other than malice could be at work here. The Pirates' pitching staff has thrown the highest percentage of inside offerings (about 34 percent) in the majors this season, while the Reds (27 percent) place 12th. Both teams have been highly successful pitching inside: Pittsburgh has the lowest opponent slugging percentage on inner-third pitches (.342), and Cincinnati (.381) ranks seventh.

Fewest PA between hit by pitches for pitchers, 2013


Saturday
Jun082013

All About Choo's Bruises

The Cincinnati Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians last winter to bring a patient, potent bat to a lineup that finished dead last in the majors in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot. 

The move has paid off in a major way, as Choo's .432 OBP trails just teammate Joey Votto (.441) and Miguel Cabrera (.447) among qualified major league hitters. He's earning that lofty OBP the hard way, though, as Choo leads the majors in hit by pitches (17). His next closest competitor (or is it commiserator?) is Starling Marte, with 14.

History in the bruising

Choo is getting plunked at an historic pace so far, with fewer than 17 plate appearances going by before he gets a new bruise from the opposing pitcher. That's the third-fewest PA between HBPs among MLB hitters in a season with least 200 trips to the plate:

Fewest PA between HBPs in single season (min. 200 PA)

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Here's a closer look at how Choo is grimacing his way into the record books in 2013:

  • Unfortunately for Choo, he's not getting grazed by errant breaking and off-speed pitches. Thirteen of his 17 HBPs have come on fastballs, ranging from an 86 MPH two-seamer from Jered Weaver to a 93 MPH four-seamer from Kyuji Fujikawa. Choo has also been hit by two sliders, and one curveball and cutter apiece.
  • As if getting beaned by fastballs isn't bad enough, Choo is getting buzzed by high pitches. Eight of his 17 HBPs have come on pitches thrown in the upper-third of the strike zone, five have caught him around the ribs, and four have been below the belt.
  • Choo crowds the plate, making him a natural target to get plunked, but there might be some deeper strategy involved in terms of when he takes a body shot. Seven of his HBPs have come in two-strike counts. Getting hit by a pitch hurts, but it doesn't sting as much as heading back to the bench after making an out.