Dear Rotoman:

Jose Abreu gets hit by a TON of pitches.  How much more valuable does that make him in a OBP-instead-of-Avg league?


Dear A:

José_Dariel_Abreu_on_March_9,_2013One thing we don’t know is how many pitches Jose Abreu will be hit by in the major leagues. In 2010-11 he was hit 21 times in Cuba, which ranked fourth in the league. Considering he led the league in hitting and slugging and tied for the most homers (with Yoenis Cespedes), fourth doesn’t seem like a lot.

But let’s look at what it means to be hit a lot by major league pitchers. Last year the leader in the category was Shin-Soo Choo, who was plunked 26 times, followed by Starling Marte (24) and  Shane Victorino (18).

But as a percentage of plate appearances Marte led all of baseball last year, getting hit in 4.2 percent. He made a hit in 25.2 percent of his plate appearances and walked in 4.4 percent, so getting hit by a pitch represents one seventh of his on base value.

This compares with the average batting title qualifier, who made a hit in 24.4 percent of his appearances, walked 8.5 percent of the time, and was hit by a pitch 0.8 percent of the time (or about one thirty-third of his on base value).

There are two ways to look at this.

One seventh is 14 percent, a small but measurable part of a player’s value. Let’s say a hitter was worth $20, $4 in each of the five cats. One seventh of $4 would reduce his value in OBP from $4 to $3.42, or $3. His total value would be $19, not $20, which seems small but represents a five percent decline.

The other way is to note that the average player is hit about one percent of the time. Someone who gets hit like Marte is hit about five time more often, so he gets five times more value than players who don’t get hit. For someone like Marte, who doesn’t walk that much, the HBP boosts his OBP up to the average level for a batting title qualifier.

Either way, it matters, but isn’t a game changer.

One final thought about those HBP. In discussing them above, I treated them as if the choice was between a HBP or an out, but clearly some HBP would lead to bases on balls, and some bases on balls for a regular player might become a HBP for a player who crowds the plate or tends to dive in on the delivery. That narrows the difference some, and reduces the expected value of our most prolific guys with a talent for getting hit (not hits).

ron-hunt-hitWe don’t know if Juan Abreu is going to be Starling Marte or Shin-Soo Choo. He probably won’t be Mark Trumbo, who had the most at bats with no HBP last year in the major leagues, and he could turn out to be Ron Hunt, who holds the modern record for most HPB in a season. That would be 50 in 1971, which represented 7.8 percent of his plate appearances!

That was 20 percent of his on base value that year. Let’s consider that the ceiling, at least until we get to see Abreu play regularly.