Monday, August 18, 2008

Daniel Cabrera & Hit Batsmen

Baltimore Orioles righthander Daniel Cabrera has always struggled with controlling his pitches. Over his career, he's walked 5 batters for every nine innings pitched. Since his debut in 2004, he's issued the most bases on balls (461) of any pitcher in the majors. Runner-up Carlos Zambrano has given up 436 walks since the beginning of the 2004 season, and he's thrown almost 200 more innings during that span!

Walking batters on four balls isn't the only way Cabrera puts guys on base. Since his debut, only seven other pitchers have hit as many batters as he has. This year, however, Cabrera has no equal. With six weeks left to play in the season, he's already plunked seventeen batters. No other pitcher in the majors has hit more than twelve hitters this year. While it's true the major league leader in hit batsmen is usually near twenty in a season, Cabrera has a chance to do something that hasn't occurred in over eighty years.

Since 2001, five pitchers (Jamey Wright, Chan Ho Park, Victor Zambrano, Carlos Zambrano, and Bronson Arroyo) have hit exactly twenty batters in a season. It's rare to see a pitcher move past twenty in a year, though. Kerry Wood became the first pitcher in 34 years to throw 21 HBP in a season when he did it for the 2003 Cubs. In fact, he and Tommy Murphy of the 1969 Angels are the only two pitchers to hit 21 or more batters in a season since 1922. In that season, Howard Ehmke of the Tigers plunked 22 opponents.

The Orioles have thirty-nine games remaining this year. Cabrera's next start is Tuesday, so he should have about six or seven more starts after that, barring injury or suspension for, what else, hitting someone. Cabrera has hit batters at a rate of two every three starts so far this year, so he would have to continue or even slightly increase that rate to become the first pitcher in 86 years to plunk 22 hitters in a season. So there you have it, something else to watch besides than waiver trades and guys fighting for jobs next year in Baltimore.


Jacob Raves! said...

Interesting, I'll have to keep an eye on the box scores.

Also, I don't know if this is the place to do it, but I had an idea for a stat the other day and it sounded like something I would find on here. The question: is there any correlation between home winning percentage and attendance? I would think attendance in this case would be measured as average attendance per game as a percentage of total seating capacity of the field. The idea is that a stadium that is more full will provide a better environment for the home team, and it will be reflected in the record. I would love to see if that bears any relation to home record. Thanks!

Bopperland said...

Jacob, I know that for the Blue Jays, we had our best attendance during the early 90's when we won the two Series. Since then, we struggle to get 25,000 a game in a dome that can hold 53,000 and our team is in the middle of the pack.

Look at the Rays this year. They continue to have poor attendance compared to their performance on the field but are doing great on the field. On the other hand, Baltimore draws great crowds and they are in the AL East basement.

Earlier this year, ESPN did a study on payroll vs W-L. The three lowest payrolls were doing the best at the time (TB, Florida, Colorado) while the 3 highest were struggling (NYY, BoSox, Mets).

I have suggested to Theron that payroll vs performance is a more telling study (as the Steinbrenner approach always comes under fire), but yours might surprise us over a longer term study. I also suggested a dome vs outdoor field study to examine the effect of playing in a dome.

Bopperland said...

I wonder why Baltimore continues to stick with this 6'9" walk machine? It's not as though he's making the MLB minimum. Heck, at one time, he was rumored to be traded for AJ Burnett! He has a career ERA just below 5, a W-L record several games under .500, and a 2007 suspension for throwing at a batter. Cabrera has shown a penchant for starting fast and fading in the latter months of the season.

Even the Blue Jays cut bait with their former Rookie of the Year winner Eric Hinske, so why do the O's stay with their 2004 3rd-place ROY pitcher? Beats me.

Theron Schultz said...

I agree the attendance vs. W/L and payroll vs. W/L would be interesting. I promise, I've got those ideas filed away for the future. Thanks for the input and for reading.

I'm not sure why Baltimore stays with Cabrera. He may not be making the minimum anymore, but he's making less than $3 million this year and probably won't be too incredibly expensive for the rest of his arbitration years. When the Jarrod Washburns, Vicente Padillas, Carlos Silvas, and Jeff Suppans of the world can make $10+ million for reliably blah performance, paying a guy like Cabrera who can flash brilliance "only" $5 million doesn't seem so awful. Of course, expecting him to suddenly become consistent seems like a poor bet.

That said, I think the allure of being able to "fix" him will keep him around for a long while even if it's only on middling teams. Heck, Kip Wells is still around the league, living off his time with the Pirates five years ago, and he never struck out a batter an inning like Cabrera used to.