Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
Every guilty deed
Holds in itself the seed
Of retribution and undying pain
—"Hammerin'" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
After Saturday's brawl ball in Boston, you've probably heard a number of people bemoaning the evils of the designated hitter rule, how it allowed Pedro Martinez to cavalierly throw at Karim Garcia's head without fear of retribution. You see, the DH made him do it.
It's a great theory. As is his wont, Tim McCarver espoused it on the spot. William C. Rhoden wrote an article for the erstwhile prestigious NY Times:
The symbol of baseball's problem -- the root of it -- is the designated hitter rule. The rule has to go. Make pitchers hit. I guarantee, you'll see less of the nonsense we saw from Pedro Martinez Saturday and Roger Clemens throughout his career…[the DH's] a coward's rule that allows American League pitchers to intimidate batters, brush them back, and hit them without fear of retaliation. If there is retaliation, the pitcher's teammate is the victim…the rule has become the Berlin Wall of Major League Baseball.
Interesting stuff, eh? Great bluster, too. Hey, I'm all for casting aspersions on the DH. Caste away, guys. Too bad it just taint true.
Historically, pitchers have been reluctant to throw at other pitchers. Maybe they think it'll be too obvious. Maybe it's the people in glass houses angle. Maybe it's just human nature. Maybe it's just common sense, knowing that whatever they do unto their brother may be done unto them. For whatever reason, like doctors and mafia toadies, pitchers just don't like to go after each other.
The average player has been plunked about twice as often as the average pitcher. That is, the pitcher hit by a pitch-to-plate appearance ratio is about half of the average major-leaguer's (based on "pitchers" being players who pitched at least three games in a season in order to filter out position players who pitched once or twice).
Actually, from the turn of the century until today, that ratio has been steadily increasing from about 1.5 plunked batters per pitcher to about 3.0, with only one significant dip. The trend reversed itself in the Fifties and Sixties and took until the Eighties to get back on track completely, though it remained relatively high (1.78 is the low in the Sixties). Unfortunately, this short-lived reversal happened to be during the formative years of most of today's sportswriters and broadcasters, and the anomaly became the inculcated norm for these individuals.
Take a look at the historical averages:
|Decade||Pitcher HBP%||Average HBP%||Ratio|
Well, you say that the increase since the Seventies is due directly to the DH itself. The AL ratios for position players are so high that they drag up the major-league average. That's another good theory, that happens to be wrong.
Here are the league numbers since 1970:
|Decade||Lg||Pitcher HBP%||Average HBP%||Ratio|
Do you notice that the ratios in the AL and NL are identical (2.39) since 1970? I know that we are talking about much fewer plate appearances for pitchers in the AL (mostly interleague play and manager mistakes), but the numbers are consistent between the leagues.
If you want to get rid of the DH, there are plenty of arguments to support its demise. However, pitchers not getting plunked is not one of them.
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