During our data give and take analyzing the first half of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 season, Tom Orf made an aside. The researcher noted the unusually high number of hit by pitches Cardinals hitters have absorbed this season.
To help put that into perspective, the 2013 club had 37 before the break after just 24 the year before. In other words, hit by pitches have doubled over the last two first halves.
Another way to look at it is that during the decade prior to 2014, Cardinals batters were hit by pitches an average of 29 times during the first half. The count ranged from 40 in 2006 to just 18 in 2004. Obviously, this season blew that out of the water.
Only four times in team history were as many as 40 hit before the break. In addition to 2014 and 2006, the others were 47 in 2003 and 41 in 2000.
Looking around the National League this season, 13 of the other 14 teams have experienced fewer hit batters than St. Louis. The only other team to fare worse is Pittsburgh with 54. However, in a virtual standoff, the Bucs’ pitchers hit 52 opposing batters themselves.
Following is the National League differential between a team’s own players hit (BHP – batter hit by pitcher) and opposing players they hit (PHB – pitcher hit batter) for the first half.
Tony La Russa, usually always one to retaliate, would almost surely be disappointed by the results. The Pirates, with a differential of 24, is the only NL team other than St. Louis at 14 to have a negative imbalance greater than five.
|ST. LOUIS||50||PHILADELPHIA||37||ST. LOUIS||50||36||14|
|LOS ANGELES||26||SAN FRANCISCO||28||CHICAGO||31||33||-2|
|SAN FRANCISCO||26||NEW YORK||28||CINCINNATI||31||33||-2|
|NEW YORK||26||SAN DIEGO||27||NEW YORK||26||28||-2|
|NL average||31||NL average||30|
In terms of individual Cardinals batters hit most frequently, the 50 are spread across 13 players. Matt Holliday leads with 10, followed by Jon Jay at seven, Matt Carpenter at six and Yadier Molina at five.
So what might be the reason for the Cardinals having the second-biggest team gap?
- Could the opponents be proactively trying to address the 2013 Cardinals’ success with runners in scoring position?
- Could Cardinals hitters be leaning over the plate more than before?
- Are Cardinals pitchers not throwing inside enough?
- Could opponents be taking advantage of Cardinals pitchers not always retaliating?
- Is it nothing other than random coincidence?
What do you think? Sound off below.
Footnote: In the first post-break game, Jay was hit by the Dodgers’ Brandon League and Joe Kelly plunked Yasiel Puig in game two, so the gap remains a minus 14 on the season.