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Texas Heat?

Watch any game where Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood, or Josh Beckett are pitching and you're bound to hear the announcers comment on the native Texan's "passion", "tenacity", and "attitude" accompanying a comment about their willingness to throw their upper 90's fastball inside on hitters without fear of retaliation.

Texas is of course a breeding ground for baseball players, pitchers in particular - a horticulture of hurlers if you will - dating back to the late 1800's with Dan McFarlan or Anderson Daniel McFarlan although he wasn't particularly good and would finish his career with more hit batters (11) than wins (8). The first "good" Texas pitcher would have to be a toss up between Ned Garvin (1896-1904) and Hippo Vaughn (1908-1921), on from that time frame you have notables like Firpo Marberry, Gordon Maltzberger, and Tex Hughson before we reach modern day pitchers, and therefore more well known.

Nolan Ryan and Clemens are the models for all Texas pitchers are molded; the oh-so-clever-that-it's-not-really old west gunslinger metaphors are thrown around like lassos. Not that the bill of Ryan and Clemens throwing heat doesn't fit - after all Ryan once had 383 strikeouts in a single season and Clemens hit the 292 boundary - but take consider the antithesis resides from the same state, Greg Maddux who's career high strikeout total is 204.  Maddux could never throw an egg through a brick wall, but he could probably finesse the egg to land on top of the wall.

Since 1998 alone the likes of Joe Nathan, Mike Gonzalez, Scott Linebrink, Jason Jennings, John Lackey, Brandon Backe, John Patterson, Scott Kazmir, Chris Young, Huston Street, Kevin Slowey, Homer Bailey, and Clay Buchholz have made their major league debuts, that list gives a good indication of how much talent runs through the state. Also consider the University of Texas and Rice University's dominance in college baseball with the majority of players calling the state home.

Naturally with such large amounts of subjects you're able to spot patterns without fear of small sample size or just coincidence allowing us to determine if Texans really do pitch with more vinegar on their tongue. Obviously it's impossible to judge just how "mad" pitchers are and what this could lead to, some - Scott Kazmir for example - are known to merely use the added adrenaline to amp up their velocity, delighting batters and catching hands alike, others throw at batters - hitting them most of the time - after becoming agitating or allowing a homerun.

Fig. 1.0 Top 20 Hits Batsmen
Walter Johnson    Vic Willis
Eddie Plank    Bert Blyleven
Randy Johnson    Don Drysdale
Joe McGinnity    Tim Wakefield
Chick Fraser    Kevin Brown
Charlie Hough    Howard Ehmke
Cy Young    Kid Nichols
Jim Bunning    Ed Doherty
Roger Clemens    Greg Maddux
Nolan Ryan    Pedro Martinez

Figure 1.0 shows the 20 pitchers who hit the most batters over their career with the bolded names representing players who were born somewhere in Texas. As you can tell only three of the 20 fly the lone star state flag, but no other state had as many representatives. Not many surprises on the list although for a guy with pinpoint control Maddux's placement does lend some credence to the idea that those raised by steer are a little more temperamental on the mound.

The placement of the three Texans alone doesn't tell us enough to determine if they truly are more likely to hit a batter, so further research and data analysis will be needed, hence why we turn to facts, such as the scenario of when the batter was hit - runners on, score, the result of the prior at-bat, and so on - along with the control of the pitcher in that game.

I am only one person, so instead of taking the entire Texas population of pitchers and surveying their actions I've chosen a native and a foreigner and compared them to league average totals for hits batsmen and then took the events circumstance by circumstance into consideration; the pitchers are Kerry Wood and Tom Glavine, and we'll take into account their single highest total season, 2003 for Wood (21) and 2002 for Glavine (8).

In 2007 the league average amount of hits batsman sat at 59, roughly five per pitcher on each normal 12 man staff; that doesn't take into account the amount of opportunities, but we'll do that soon enough. Using the data we can attribute "normal" amounts of hit batters to pitchers based on the amount of innings the player pitched for his team, or rather the percent of the total innings thrown, as we see in Figure 1.1.

Fig 1.1 Innings Pitched Share
Glavine (225)    Mets  (1456)    IP Share 15.3%
Wood (211)    Cubs (1467)    IP Share 14.4%

With those numbers in mind Glavine should've hit 9 batters, and Wood 8. Glavine of course actually finished one below his "projected" while Wood hit 13 more than he was supposed to. Now it's time to take a look at the actual situations in which a batter was hit by either pitcher; as mentioned earlier the variables we'll measure include the score, bases situation, count, what happened in the previous at-bat - not of the same hitter, but literally the at-bat that just occurred - including whether it scored a run or not, and the amount of strikes thrown compared to the total number of pitches, with all of these elements combined we should be able to get some idea of whether the pitcher was peeved - potentially head hunting - or just a little tired or wild.

Fig 1.2 Tom Glavine's HBP Report  
HBP# Score Bases Count  Prev. AB  K/P
1    3-0        1--        0-2    Walk        54/103
2    4-4        --3        1-2    Groundout    64/109
3    0-1        -2-        3-2    RBI 2B        78/119
4    1-2        1--        2-1    Single          48/88
5    3-0        ---        0-1    Groundout    67/109
6    0-1        -2-        3-1    Double        54/103
7    0-1        12-        0-1    HBP        54/103
8    1-2        12-        1-1    IBB        67/126

None of Glavine's scenarios really stand out as potentially suspicious outside of perhaps numbers five and seven. Looking at the receiving batter in situation five; Junior Spivey of, at the time, the Arizona Diamondbacks in his prior two at-bats on that day he'd singled and walked, nothing suggesting he'd need a good pegging. Seven's previous result speaks for itself, Glavine had just hit a batter, why would Glavine - a pretty mild mannered pitcher - hit another to load the bases?

Fig 1.3 Kerry Wood's HBP Report
HBP# Score Bases  Count Prev. AB  K/P
1    4-0        1--        0-0    Single          47/83
2    6-0        12-        2-0    Walk        54/104
3    0-1        ---        1-2    Flyout        75/124
4    0-2        1-3        0-1    RBI H        75/124
5    2-0        ---        0-2    Leadoff AB    75/124
6    1-1        ---        1-0    Groundout    64/115
7    3-2        ---        1-1    Strikeout    64/115
8    1-1        ---        3-2    Groundout    82/141
9    1-0        ---        0-1    Popfly         58/94
10    0-0        ---        0-1    Leadoff AB    63/113
11    0-3        ---        1-2    Groundout    63/104
12    1-0        ---        0-1    Strikeout    76/130
13    0-0        ---        0-1    Groundout    60/101
14    0-0        1--        0-0    Single          69/95
15    0-0        -2-        1-1    Groundout    76/125
16    0-2        -2-        0-0    Error, UnER    71/120
17    2-0        -2-        2-2    Double        73/122
18    5-0        12-        0-0    Walk        73/122
19    4-0        ---        0-0    Groundout    62/114
20    5-0        12-        1-0    Flyball        62/114
21    0-0        -2-        0-0    Sac Bunt    80/125

The first of Wood's questionable plunkings would be 6 and 7, both were Barry Bonds, and both were in the same game in similar situations. In 11 Wood hit Reed Johnson who in his first at-bat homered off of Wood, two batters prior to Johnson's second at-bat Chris Woodward would homer. 16 came after an error by the third baseman allowing the pitcher to keep the inning alive; a situation likely to irk Wood more than not in a close and late situation. 17 and 18 were both ricocheted off of Milwaukee Brewers' second baseman Keith Ginter, the second loading the bases.

Simply assuming both pitchers only were mad when they hit a batter is obviously far from the truth, and I decided to take one of each extreme in comparison to show the situations - Wood being more likely to hit a batter, probably more intentionally although he does possess some wildness - and Glavine who is known for his pinpoint control and mild mannered mound presence.

Next we'll explore Greg Maddux's case, simply listing the career numbers give the wrong impression about the Professor or perhaps the nickname Mad Dog has more to it then we assumed? In Figure 1.4 we reference back to Figure 1.0 and the three Texans; Clemens, Ryan, and Maddux to see where Greg ranks per average on hits batsman.

Fig 1.4 Texans Compared
Pitcher    Clemens    Ryan    Maddux
Seasons    24    27    22
HBP / Season    7    6    6

None are extremely high, consider that Randy Johnson and his 20 years of service has nailed 11 hitters per year and it can raise some eyebrows. Johnson, like Pedro Martinez and Carlos Zambrano are known for getting fiery on the mound, and his high average shows that while the Texas pitchers aren't getting mad on the mound and taking it out on hitters as often, the sheer commonness of Texas pitchers and plunking people has to be taken into account when pondering if the state's hurlers have tempers slightly less than Texas sized.

Also I wanted to mention that I recently interviewed the Baseball Economist / J.C. Bradbury over at D-Rays Bay in case you were interested.