The hunt for a $130,000 water buffaloby Bojan Koprivica
April 12, 2013
Zack Greinke went down last night with what can be loosely described as a baseball-related injury. The main reason for that injury is that Greinke picked up his fight moves from a National Geographic special on water buffaloes. Another important reason is that there was an angry person running in his direction. That person was Carlos Quentin, and he was angry because Greinke had just hit him with a pitch. Which is a little bit funny, because getting hit by pitches is what Quentin does for a living. No, I really mean that. Quentin makes his living by putting himself in the trajectory of rapidly moving hard objects. Consider the following: if you remove the plate appearances in which he got hit by a pitch from Quentin's career and pretend that they never happened, he would lose more than 3.0 WAR out of 8.6 WAR he has generated over more than seven years in the majors. About 35 percent of the value Quentin has created for his employers has come by way of a bruise.
If you take some market value for a win above replacement, say $5 million, you will realize that Quentin generated $15 million by placing himself in the way of 110 pitches, for a pretty decent return of some $130,000 per plunking. But instead of celebrating his most recent enrichment, he was a very angry man. Why could that be?
1. It was an egregious pitch
The pitch Greinke threw was not over the plate. To be precise, it was 1.504 feet away from the center of the plate in general direction of Quentin. It was also 3.884 feet of the ground. So, yes, that's inside and somewhat high, but not in the area where one would expect to find a professional baseball player's head too often.
What happens normally when such a pitch is thrown, you ask? I looked at many years' worth of throwing a pitch in an area 0.15 feet to the left, right, up and down from that spot. Now, you might say that 0.15 feet is a funny measure, to which I would respond that feet and inches are generally funny ways to measure anything, and that wouldn't bring us anywhere. So, don't.
Anyway, I found that there were 361 fastballs thrown into that spot to right-handed batters. I also found that more people swung at that pitch than that were hit by it. Nothing here.
2. Carlos Quentin is not used to getting hit by pitches, so he didn't know how to react
Nice try. Here is the list of plate appearances per hit by pitch for all active players with at least 50 plunkings.
3. Carlos Quentin gets repeatedly pitched way more inside than the other batters, and he is sick and tired of it
I looked at the spot where Greinke's pitch crossed the plate again and then expanded the zone by removing the vertical boundaries, leaving us with a strip 0.3 feet wide and stretching from earth to heaven. When fastballs are thrown into that stripe to right-handed batters, they get hit about 1.5 percent of the time. When a fastball is thrown into that stripe to Quentin, he gets hit about 16 percent of the time. So, moreso than the balls gravitating to Carlos, it seems as if it is Carlos gravitating to the balls.
4. Carlos Quentin has a history with Zack Greinke
As the first media reports were quick to point out, this is not the first time that Greinke has hit Quentin with a pitch, so there is a little background here.
That can be true, but by that measure Quentin also has history with Carlos Silva, Glen Perkins, Jake Westbrook, John Lackey, Brett Anderson, Chad Bradford, Clay Buchholz, Cory Wade, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Aardsma, David Price, Derek Lowe, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, George Sherrill, Greg Aquino, James Shields, Jason Grilli, Jeremy Bonderman, Jeremy Guthrie, Jon Lester, Jose Diaz, Josh Beckett, Justin Masterson, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Kevin Millwood, Kevin Slowey, Kyle Davies, Neftali Feliz, Nick Blackburn, Roy Halladay, Tyler Yates, Victor Marte, Zach Miner and whoever else hit him in 2012, because I don't have the data for that, because I am actually skydiving right now and only have the DB on my smartphone available. Frankly, I don't think even Quentin is capable of naming everybody on this list.
So what is it that got into Quentin's head and made him charge the mound? I have no idea, but I think it was a pretty stupid move, and I would not be afraid to tell it to Quentin personally. Unless Clayton Richard is around, 'cause that dude is legitimately scary.
After playing, coaching and umpiring more than 500 games all over Europe, Bojan realized that it's actually writing about baseball that can be most easily done while holding a beer in a hand. If you want to discuss either baseball or beer with him, drop him a line.