Hit Men

Watching the Detroit series over the past couple of days, it occurred to me that one of the more impressive things about this season’s Yankee team has been its self control. The Yankees have been thrown at with some frequency, and they have generally taken their lumps and moved on without too much in the way of retaliation, satisfied just to win a ball game. At least this has been my perception.

And the numbers support it. The Yankees have in fact been hit more than any other team: 44 times. Conversely, Yankee pitchers have only hit 29 opposing batters. That’s an extremely large differential percentage-wise, and may explain why Joe and his troops are starting to get a little testy. It’s also worth noting that this is a major change from 2003, when the Yankees were plunked only 49 times for the entire year, the fewest in the league. (Can we crack this up to the Clemens Intimidation Effect? Possibly, but if so, you’d expect a comparable dip in the Astros’ numbers this year, and there isn’t one.)

There are, of course, some pretty good reasons why the Yankees are getting hit at a higher rate than any other club:

-They are the best team, and that means a lot of frustrated opponents and lopsided games
-They hit a lot of home runs
-At least one Yankee pitcher has a “soft” reputation (Moose)
-Certain Yankees might be regarded as showboats
-Several Yankee players either crowd or dive in toward the plate
-They play the Sox and the DRays 19 times each (these teams lead MLB in hitting opponents by a wide margin)
-Yankee pitchers are more talented (ie, they don’t accidentally hit as many opponents)

Nevertheless, it’s hard not to sympathize with the Yankee hittees (not to mention Yankee management), who might rightly argue that:

-Getting hit hurts
-Getting hit can cause serious injury
-Financially it’s dangerous for the player, the team, and the league
-The reward for achievement should not be physical abuse

There’s no reason that intentionally hitting opponents should be a part of the game, and there’s certainly no excuse for head hunting. Which is what instigated this whole incident with the Tigers. Esteban Yan threw at A-Rod’s head.

Finally, opponents who take it upon themselves to throw at one of the Bombers should take note of the newest sponsor on WCBS’s Yankee radio broadcasts: The Johnnie Cochrane Firm. 1-800-7-ACCIDENT. He’ll be in touch.

6 comments… add one
  • And just in case you were wondering, the Sox—those dirty, dirty Sox—have hit 51 batters and only been hit 33 times themselves.
    Also, I contest SF’s assertion that Torre and Posada were being disingenuous in disavowing any advance knowledge that Sturtze would hit Pudge. It’s certainly plausible that Sturtze, who must be worried for his job, would be doing all that he could to inure himself to his teammates and to the Yankee brass, and taking it upon himself to “protect” the club’s stars couldn’t hurt along those lines. And remember, he came on in relief.

    YF July 7, 2004, 8:38 pm
  • I think it’s fair to say that you may be looking at things through navy-blue colored glasses. If you take a deeper look at the statistics, you’ll see that there are two players who seem to be driving the Yankees HBP numbers, and those are Sheffield and Jeter. This year Jeter is being hit at an alarming rate, far higher than his usual. Sheffield is being hit more than usual, but still not at a career-year pace. So, it would hold that these two players are creating a deviation, no proof of any targeting. It looks more like Jeter’s rawhide magnetism is skewing the numbers, and your perception of what those numbers mean. The explanation could be one of many things, from paranoia that everyone is targeting Jeter, to circumstantial HBPs from a hyper-aggressive attempt at plate coverage by the shortstop during his slump, to any number of other scenarios, all pointing to a strange statistical deviation, not unlike the “slump”. Regardless, it seems that you might be a bit on the paranoid side; there’s nothing in these numbers to show “targeting”. So, I am not sure they do.
    As for the Yankees’ “patience” in retalitation, well, it would follow that it wouldn’t really be in their interest to follow with retaliation. Patience is convenient for teams winning games, particularly those winning (and losing) lots of close ones. The Yanks have won or lost a total of 49 games by 3 runs or fewer out of the 82 they have played, and it would appear, without too much in-depth analysis of each of those games, that getting into beanball wars in games of this tightness would be less than productive.
    And, as for the Yankees low number of beanballs against, there are a number of arguments one could make, all reasonable but not provable. It could be that the entire pitching staff is “soft”, as you characterize only Moose. It could be that their starting pitching staff is totally in flux, with Brown (their “nasty” guy) missing time, Contreras not being able to last 4 innings, Halsey a rookie who can’t afford to start giving guys bases, and Vazquez a control pitcher not known for beaning guys. It could be that they haven’t been thrown at in a targeted way, and therefore they simply don’t retaliate, as there’s nothing substantive to retaliate against. Their current impatience may be from losing 5 of 6, nothing else (I know all about that).
    One last aside: if YF is willing to assert, in a most wishy-washy fashion, that the Yankees “might be regarded as showboats”, then I am willing to pointedly assert that when Tony Clark takes a second inning curtain call during a regular season game, then the words “might be” might be highly inappropriate. Try “are”.
    So, no need to call Mr. Cochrane, YF, as I am thinking that this glove don’t fit.

    SF July 7, 2004, 9:07 pm
  • It seems to me you’re only proving my point. That the Yankees are getting hit more than any other team is unassailable fact. That Derek and Sheff are getting hit at a high clip is not a “deviation” so much as a demonstration of the problem—especially with Sheff, who, for the record, has been hit 6 times. Does Derek dive in and create his own problem? Yes (and if you read my analysis, that point is listed). But other teams have players who behave similarly (like, say, Kevin Millar). Is it always intentional? Of course not.
    Your analysis of why the Yankees might be reticent to return fire is, I think, accurate, but not really at odds with what I have written. Yes, there have been good reasons not to retaliate, but when you get popped in the ribs with a 95mph fastball good reasons can be trumped by bad ones, and the simple fact is that the Yanks have kept their cool.
    Finally, for a Sox fan to point a finger at the Yanks for showboating—and at mild-mannered Tony Clark, of all people—strains credulity. Pedro? Manny? Ortiz?

    YF July 8, 2004, 12:39 am
  • How many times do I have to point out that saying something about the Yankees DOES NOT EQUAL A DEFENSE OF THE RED SOX. I am so tired of that kind of knee-jerk reflexive retort. If you read my post, I steer clear of saying anything about the Red Sox, for a reason. It’s a separate issue. If you want to address the Sox, then fine, but my response was Yankee-specific, and for a reason: your post was ABOUT THE YANKEES, NOT THE RED SOX. This happens all the time, the “nyaaah nyaaah the Sox aren’t so nice either” when someone critiques the Yankees, but usually it’s on a playground after you get out of your social studies class for recess in sixth grade.
    Three other items:
    1. Did it occur to you that the Yankees aren’t in fact “keeping their cool”, but that they don’t feel targeted in the first place? That’s a big one for me. Perhaps it’s simply that they don’t recognize or believe that they are being hit any more than normal, and therefore don’t respond. To me, it just seems so typical that a Yankees fan would make a NON-ACTION mainly about how noble and stellar the Yankees are as characters. It’s all about the Yankees, all the time, whether anything happens or not.
    2. Speaking of sixth grade, you must know all about that thing called “peer pressure”. Tony Clark may be a nice guy, but once you put on the uniform and sit in that dugout surrounded by assholes, it must be hard not to want to fit in. Hell, even Nomar hugged Manny after a mammoth homer last night and looked mighty uncomfortable doing it, so it doesn’t just happen in New York.
    3. As for Kevin Millar, I think the only thing he’s dived over this year is the post-game spread.

    SF July 8, 2004, 7:25 am
  • In response to your points:
    1. Nevermind the facts!
    2. Nice to smear the entire team. SF now taking cues from Bush/Cheney?
    3. Millar’s not a diver, he’s a hanger. 8 hbps put him not far behind Derek (11)

    YF July 8, 2004, 9:23 am
  • An interesting debate taking place here. I’m not against retaliation for deliberate beanballs, but here’s one thing that always bothered me: A guy hits a monster home run off of a pitcher, and then the next time up to bat, the guy gets drilled in the ribs. If you don’t want someone hitting a home run off of you, don’t serve him up one. And if he blasts one off of you on a good pitch, so what, move on; accept that he did his job well and enjoyed success and move past your ego. What if next time a batter goes down swinging he walks to the mound and just lays into the pitcher with a Louisiville Slugger?

    Another Sox Fan July 8, 2004, 2:02 pm

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