Above is the venerable Chicago White Sox reliever Will Ohman informing an enraged and recently bruised Colby Rasums that hitting him with a pitch wasn’t intentional, and that frankly, he should know better than to imagine it was because the pitch that hit him came when the count was zero balls to two strikes.

Aside: It’s rather amazing what a relief pitcher is able to convey within a couple of hand gestures and facial expressions. If only Mr. Ohman was as accurate with his pitch location as he is with his pantomimes.

Anyway, the question that Mr. Ohman is attempting to ask of Mr. Rasmus here is: Why would a pitcher throw at a batter when he’s ahead in the count like that?

It’s an excuse that’s been used not just by Mr. Ohman, but also by fan bases attempting to justify their team’s actions or discredit another’s: “It wasn’t intentional. It came with two strikes.” The thought being that a pitcher already ahead in a count wouldn’t dare throw at a batter for whom the most likely outcome for his scenario playing out would be an out.

Slow your roll, pilgrim. What if I told you that the majority of hit by pitches came while a pitcher was ahead in the count? I suppose that wouldn’t be entirely surprising considering that a pitcher is more likely to throw outside of the zone while he’s ahead in the count, and quite obviously, not all hit by pitches are the result of a pitcher intentionally throwing at a batter.¬†At least not this Century. I can’t really speak to what went on during the days of Old Hoss Radbourn.

Unless the brazen Cole Hamels is teaching some young whipper snapper with no respect for the game a lesson on how to play baseball the right way, we’re pretty much left to guess whether a pitch that hits a batter was intentional or not.

Sometimes, it’s obvious:

Sometimes, it’s not:

However, given that more than 40% of all 21,137 hit by pitches since 2000 came with two strikes in the count, it’s not completely unreasonable to suspect that maybe one or two of those had some intent behind them. And if not intent, surely a few pitches came in on batters from the hand of a hurler with a devil may care attitude. Another way of looking at it would be to ask what better way there is to mask intent other than tossing a pitch at the opposition after getting ahead in the count.

All of this is to say that, “Hey, look, there were two strikes,” isn’t sufficient evidence that a ball between the shoulder blades was unintentional. It merely means that a pitcher had no better way of maintaining his innocence.

Comments (9)

  1. i don’t know where youk learned that rookie bs

  2. Good post. The number of hit by pitches with two strikes is not something I would have expected or really understand.

    I’m interested where the “40% of all 21,137 hit by pitches since 2000″ came from. Citing a source for something like that is probably appropriate since it takes quite a lot of work to set up that kind of database.

    • Not really. Just a baseball reference search.

      • I didn’t mean that it is a lot of work to look up the number. I meant that it is a lot of work to compile the database that allows you to look up the number easily.

        I’m really not trying to criticise you a lot here. Just a friendly tip to help improve a post that is already good.

  3. Do people not watch the catchers post hit reactions anymore? That usually tells you if it is intentional or not.

  4. What percentage of those HBPs came on an 0-2 count though? If the point of this post was to challenge the point Ohman is making, I would think it would be far more beneficial to look at 0-2 counts since, after all, he clearly mouths “oh and two”. I would tend to agree with Mr. Ohman (as much as it pains me) that being up 0-2 is pretty strong evidence that it’s not intentional.

    • According to my Retrosheet database, 9.2% of all counts were 0 and 2 in 2011. 10.2% of HBPs occurred on 0 and 2 counts.

      Behind in count:
      ABs
      47819/165705=28.9%
      HBP
      258/1554=16.6%

      Ahead in count:

      ABs
      58013/165705=35.0%
      HBP
      647/1554=41.6%

      Even in count:

      ABs
      59873/165705=36.1%
      HBP
      649/1554=41.8%

      0-0

      19352/165705=11.7%
      310/1554=19.9%

      It seems likely that 0-0 is the most likely count to hit someone intentionally from that data. It’s surprising how low the HBP% is when the pitcher is behind in the count.

  5. I would argue that someone looking to play “old school baseball” and hit a guy intentionally wouldn’t give a shit about masking his intentions, since the whole point of doing so is to make it obvious that the HBP was intentional.

    And I understand the logic behind looking at the number of pitches coming with 2 strikes in the count, but really, it would take a spectacularly stupid pitcher to hit a guy intentionally with two strikes. More so than even a pitcher who would intentionally hit a guy in the first place.

  6. or maybe Rasmus was just pissed off because it hurt like hell.

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