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2003-09-18 02:11
by Mike Carminati

Tonight at Wrigley Kerry Wood pitched a four-hit, eleven-K gem of a shutout (2-0) that not only finished a three-game sweep of the Mets, but drew them to within one game of division-leading Houston (who are still playing and losing in Colorado).

The oddest thing about the game was not the fact that Wood was close to being scratched for a bad back but pulled off a Michael Jordan-esque recovery. Nor was it Jack Black's explosivo rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch (he must have used his invention, inward singing, to belt it out).

The strangest thing, in my humble opinion, was Wood hitting Roger Cedeno with a pitch in the first? "Plunking Cedeno-How is that so odd?" you ask? Is it because Cedeno had not been hit by a pitch all year? No, he had been pasted by a pitch eleven times in his career coming into the game, the same number of times that he has been intentionally walked. Is it because giving Roger Cedeno a free pass to first is like letting Jeremy Schaap host "Outside the Lines"?-it just should not be allowed. No, balls get away from pitchers, even against batters with .326 on-base percentages. Was it because his heart was two sizes too small? No, now you have him confused with the Grinch.

The reason it was so odd was that Cedeno became the 21st man this season to be soaked at the plate by Wood. No pitcher has exceeded 21 hit batsmen since Howard Ehmke hit 23 in 1922. Of course, it's nowhere near the all-time high of 41 by Iron Joe McGinnity in 1900. Here are the all-time leaders (thanks to Lee Sinins' sabermetric database):

Joe McGinnity1900288412.941.083.072.44
Ed Doheny18991417374.511.266.003.90
Gus Weyhing18872628374.270.713.223.72
Will White18843418353.320.691.462.33
Chick Fraser19012216323.810.873.892.99
Jack Taylor18992731323.870.552.221.74
Cy Seymour18982519323.180.815.856.03
Tony Mullane18873117323.240.692.622.10
Tony Mullane18843626322.520.511.415.16
Vic Willis1899278302.500.793.393.15
Vic Willis18982513302.840.874.544.63
Chick Fraser1898920295.361.074.482.83
Gus Weyhing18991721284.540.752.182.58
Joe McGinnity18992816282.680.692.381.82
Win Mercer18972020283.250.763.042.39
Jack Taylor18971620284.230.792.612.50
Willie Sudhoff18981127274.340.773.031.86
Pink Hawley18971818274.800.782.862.54
Jack Easton18901514273.520.955.215.17
Will White18851815273.530.832.732.45
Jack Warhop19091315262.410.963.113.52
Jack Taylor18982029263.740.532.072.05
Egyptian Healy18902221262.890.603.475.21
Gus Shallix18841110263.701.172.393.52
Chief Bender19031714253.070.832.374.23
Otto Hess19062017241.830.652.344.50
Eddie Plank19052412242.260.622.185.45
Nixey Callahan18992112243.060.732.632.35
Wiley Piatt18992315243.450.712.692.63
Chick Fraser18971519244.090.754.872.20
Frank Knauss18901712242.810.783.924.83
Darby O'Brien18892217244.150.625.043.17
Tom Sullivan1888816243.401.014.023.52
Ed Seward18872525244.130.462.682.96
Howard Ehmke19221717234.210.743.283.47
Jake Weimer19071114232.410.992.892.89
Eddie Plank19032316232.380.621.964.71
Frank Bates1899118236.901.286.400.72
Bill Carrick18991627234.650.573.311.49
Bill Magee1899716236.151.134.621.38
Fred Klobedanz1897267234.600.673.842.68
Cy Morgan19091817221.810.673.463.40
Ed Doheny1900414225.451.487.142.96
Nixey Callahan19001316223.820.692.592.43
Willie Sudhoff18991618224.670.723.131.40
Jim Hughey1899430225.410.703.121.72
Chick Fraser18992112223.360.733.392.26
Pete Dowling18981320224.160.693.942.65
Pink Hawley18982711223.370.602.641.88
Doc McJames18971523223.610.614.394.34
Red Donahue18971035226.130.572.971.66
Joe Corbett1897248223.110.633.684.28
Sadie McMahon18903621223.270.393.315.15
Mike Morrison18871225224.920.635.834.49
Al Atkinson18862517223.950.502.813.49
Jack Chesbro1902286212.170.662.044.27
Doc Newton19011018213.620.693.233.62
Pete Dowling19011226214.150.623.743.65
Joe McGinnity19012620213.560.492.381.77
Jumbo McGinnis18861618213.580.642.273.03
Henry Schmidt19032213213.830.633.832.87
Tom Murphy19691016214.210.883.544.17
Cy Morgan1911157212.700.764.294.90
Cy Seymour18971814213.370.685.704.83
Harry McIntire1909717213.630.833.753.32
Cy Seymour18991418213.560.706.174.76
Kerry Wood20031311213.310.934.6811.21
Matt Kilroy18874619203.070.312.403.31
Fleury Sullivan18841635204.200.411.963.86
Win Mercer19001317203.860.742.261.45
Hank Gastright18903014202.940.453.754.46
Don Drysdale19611310203.690.743.326.71
Harry Coveleski19152213202.450.582.654.32
Kid Madden18872114203.790.563.702.27
Harry McIntire1905825203.700.582.973.93
Harry McIntire19081120202.690.632.813.38
Howard Ehmke19232017203.780.573.443.44
Casey Patten19041423203.070.502.013.77
Al Mays18871734204.730.412.772.53
Barney Pelty19041518202.840.602.573.77
Bert Cunningham18982815203.160.501.690.85
Walter Johnson19231712203.480.692.584.48
Bill Carrick19011422203.750.562.751.94
Bill Hill1897717203.620.903.172.49
Billy Crowell18871431204.880.463.191.66
Bobby Mathews18853017202.430.431.646.09
Ed Summers19082412201.640.601.793.08
Chan Ho Park20011511203.500.773.628.38
Charlie Sprague189095203.891.477.194.33
Clark Griffith18982410201.880.551.932.68
Pink Hawley19001818203.530.552.462.19
Jamey Wright20011112204.900.924.815.96
Pink Hawley18991417204.240.722.441.65
Ed Doheny1898719203.680.855.074.06

You'll notice that even though there are some stinkers on the list (Frank Bates, anyone?), there are some pretty good seasons mixed in. McGinnity himself was 28-8 with a 2.94 ERA (31% better than the park-adjusted league average) the year he established the dubious record.

It got me to thinking-is a high hit-batsmen total indicative of a wild pitcher or of a pitcher who is willing to throw inside and sometimes pays the consequences? Well, this may be less than scientific, but my thought was to take the ratio of hit batsmen to the ratio of walks and wild pitches (above). Is the ratio of those ratios consistent for our list of ne'er-do-wells? If so, then one could say that high hit batsmen totals are a result of wild hurlers.

Well, the ratios run from almost 50% (Gus Shallix in 1884) to a little over 10% (Mike Morrison in 1887). Wood is somewhere in the middle with 19.81%. The average is 23% or about 1 hit batsmen for every four walks or wild pitches. And the standard deviation is rather large at 7.19 or a swing of about one in every seven for those pitchers less than one standard deviation away from the norm.

So, what the heck am I saying? It appears that high hit batsmen totals result as much from a pitcher's approach as from any wildness inherent in the pitcher's arm. "Well, of course", you're saying. I know that the estimable Coach from "Cheers" did extensive work on this topic. I just wanted to see it for myself.

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