The 2022 Reds Broke Records and Battered Batters

Nick Lodolo
Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

You might have heard that the Mets got hit by a record 112 pitches in 2022, but New York wasn’t the only record breaker in that particular category. Cincinnati’s pitching staff breezed by the 2021 Cubs’ modern era record of 98 HBPs with weeks left in the season, and they kept right on plunking. In the last game of the year, Graham Ashcraft sailed a sinker into both the triceps of Patrick Wisdom and the record books, giving the Reds 110 hit batters for the season. That number edged them past the 1899 Cleveland Spiders as the most contact-oriented team of all-time.

Those bloodthirsty Spiders hit 109 batters and lost 134 games, then folded just before the invention of the zeppelin. Eleven of those HBPs and losses were credited to Harry Colliflower, a former carpenter who won his first start, then lost 11 straight decisions and his spot in the big leagues. That’s the company the 2022 Reds kept.

All-Time Team HBP Leaders – Pitching
Rank Year Team HBP Rank Year Team HBP
1 2022 Cincinnati Reds 110 6 2002 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 94
2 1899 Cleveland Spiders 109 7 1900 New York Giants 94
3 1891 Washington Statesmen 105 8 1899 New York Giants 94
4 2021 Chicago Cubs 98 9 1898 Louisville Colonels 94
5 2003 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 95 10 2004 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 93
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

The Reds were the first team to hit 100 batters since the 19th century, though the early Devil Rays gave it their best shot. As you can tell from the table, all of the leaders come from either the past 21 years or the turn of the 20th century. The rise in HBPs over recent decades has been covered very thoroughly. It has coincided very closely with the rise of the reliever. It also seems reasonable to lay some of the blame on the combination of velocity, movement, and maximum effort delivery required of modern pitchers.

For all the talk about analytics making today’s game unrecognizable to fans of generations past, fans from the early days of organized baseball wouldn’t bat an eye at the frequency with which batters get drilled.

While we shouldn’t be surprised that someone broke the record again, the Reds’ pitching staff really did go after it with gusto. Not to be outdone, Cincinnati’s batters also racked up 92 HBPs, good for third in the league and 14th in the modern era. In fact, if you combine every team’s HBPs both given and taken, the Reds were the most reciprocative team ever.

Most HBP Pitching and Batting – Single Season
Year Team Pitching Batting Total
2022 Cincinnati Reds 110 92 202
1899 Brooklyn Superbas 69 122 191
2021 Chicago Cubs 98 92 190
1897 Baltimore Orioles 74 115 189
2022 New York Mets 71 112 183
1891 Washington Statesmen 105 76 181
1899 Cleveland Spiders 109 65 174
1891 Baltimore Orioles 62 111 173
2021 St. Louis Cardinals 85 86 171
1898 St. Louis Browns 86 84 170
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Here we see the 2022 Mets and the 2021 Cubs yet again. In case you’re wondering which team would have been best at dodgeball, the 1996 Angels hit opposing batters 55 more times than they themselves got hit.

Turning our attention back to 2022: Reds pitchers plunked circles around the competition. They led the league in HBPs against righties and lefties, at home and on the road, with fastballs and breaking balls, to start an at-bat and with a full count. They had 25% more than the second-place Padres and more than the Giants and White Sox combined. They hit five different players three times each. They hit poor Bryan Reynolds four times. Maybe he requested a trade not because he wants out of Pittsburgh, but because he just wants to get as far as humanly possible away from Cincinnati’s bullpen full of bullies.

2022 HBP Leaders
Rank Team HBP Rank Team HBP
1 Reds 110 6 Marlins 76
2 Padres 88 7 Nationals 75
3 Pirates 87 8 Mets 71
4 Dodgers 75 9 Oakland 73
5 Blue Jays 76 10 Cubs 73

Nick Lodolo paced both the Reds and the league with 19 HBP. Making the feat all the more impressive, he threw just 103.1 innings this year. The other pitchers in the top five are all starters with at least 170 innings pitched. That performance tied Lodolo for 40th all-time, well behind Hall of Famer Joe McGinnity’s 41 HBPs for the Brooklyn Superbas in 1900. In the last 100 years, only two pitchers have hit more than 20 batters: Kerry Wood, with 21 in 2003, and one-man firing squad Austin Adams in 2021, who plunked his way to third in the modern era by hitting 24 batters in just 55.2 innings.

As C. Trent C. Rosencrans noted in The Athletic, Lodolo hits a lot of batters because of his back foot curveball, which accounted for 14 of his plunkings. I suspect he’s still going to keep throwing it, partly because it has a 44% swinging-strike rate against righties, and partly because he literally told reporters, “I’m still going to keep throwing it.” This curveball, which hit Wisdom but nearly resulted in a strike, illustrates the line Lodolo rides when throwing it:

Although Lodolo led the team, he wasn’t exactly Cincinnati’s only culprit. Even without his 19 HBPs, the Reds would have led the league with room to spare; 27 different pitchers contributed to the record, and 21 of them hit multiple batters, whereas the second-place Padres had just 20 pitchers hit anyone at all.

Each player hit batters for his own particular reasons. Greene lost control of four-seamers up and hit lefties in the foot with sliders. Ashcraft generally hit batters when his sinker ran in on righties or his cutter broke in on lefties — somewhat surprising considering that both pitches feature below-average horizontal break. Strickland’s HBPs came when he either hung his slider or came too far inside with his four-seamer. The left-handed Minor just seemed to yank all of his HPBs, regardless of type. Gutierrez and Kuhnel hit batters with fastballs — four-seamers from Gutierrez and sinkers from Kuhnel — that sailed up and in to righties, creating some very scary situations.

Baseball Savant’s pitch tracker for the team as a whole shows about what you’d expect:

It’s a mix of fastballs up and breaking balls down, along with the occasional yanked fastball or hanging breaking ball to the hip or butt.

You might notice two gray dots that are listed as fastballs without any other
identifying information. They came from Reynolds, an infielder who made two relief appearances in May. His fastballs of an indeterminate number of seams averaged 67.8 mph on the way in to the plate and 83.4 mph on the way out. He hit two batters on May 24, including this unfathomably cheap one:

That’s Christopher Morel, ahead seven runs in the ninth inning, intentionally dropping his elbow guard into the path of a 54.7-mph fastball. The pitch before, Reynolds started Morel off with a 73-mph fastball and absolutely blew it by him. Clearly, Morel knows when he’s overmatched.

Even if you ignore their HBPs, the Reds were still particularly wild in 2022. They led the league in walks and finished sixth from the bottom in zone percentage. Despite a good chase rate, opposing batters had a .343 wOBA against pitches outside the zone, the highest in the league. That number was .332 on pitches in the zone, though. That’s still not great, but all the same, the Reds might want to think about throwing a few more strikes next year.

Davy Andrews is a Brooklyn-based musician and a contributing writer for FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @davyandrewsdavy.

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1 month ago

The legacy of Kyle Boddy is to get guys who have crazy stuff over any command projection. It’s not good or bad exactly, but it is ugly.