Ruminations on Retaliation, Part I: No fear pitching White Sox inside

Paul Konerko had a beef with Cleveland control problems, but what took so long?

I'm normally not an intense baseball fan, but after the White Sox suffered their fourth HBP of the doubleheader -- and the third of the nightcap alone -- I discovered the source of Hawk Harrelson's bloodlust.

It's one thing to be beaten on the scoreboard, as has too often been the case this month. It's another to be beaten up physically, and the Sox have taken their lumps relative to the opposition. The White Sox have racked up 334 HBPs over the last five years, which is the fifth-highest total in baseball., and their pitching has dished out 223 of them, which is the third-lowest.

That tells you that the White Sox leave a lot of bruises unavenged for, and the ones they earned today led to one thought after another, until I had to split it into two parts.

 

I'm a fan of Alexei Ramirez, but he might be the least physical White Sox player since Frank Thomas. Granted, the Big Hurt towered over the plate, but when the bat was out of his hands, he was a surprisingly delicate player.

Ramirez is in the same mold. He avoids contact at second when turning two, which takes him well to the side of the bag, but he has the arm strength to compensate. He's frustrated Hawk Harrelson by taking throws from the catcher in front of the bag on stolen-base attempts, although when he tried to take A.J. Pierzynski's short-hop over the bag in Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader, it skipped under his glove and into center field.

But he might've saved the least combative play of his life for when the Sox could've used an edge the most. After he took a fastball to the left shoulder for the Sox's third plunking of the evening -- and fourth in the doubleheader -- he had the opportunity for a Carlos Quentin-type steamroll over Jason Kipnis at second. Instead, he did a feet-first slide about eight feet short of the bag.

Alexeislide_medium

That brought to mind the notoriously weak effort by Carlos Lee after the Torii Hunter-Jamie Burke incident -- and Ozzie Guillen wasn't a fan of it.

"We go after somebody, and hopefully we hurt somebody," he said. "That's the way to go. [Monday night] we had two opportunities to do it, and we didn't do it." [...]

"If we don't like it, go and play softball or go play tennis or something else," he said.

"If you want to play big-league baseball, that's the way to play big-league baseball. I want them to grow up like that. I don't want them to be a bunch of ladies playing this game."

After this game? Guillen didn't see much to be mad about, as Brett Ballantini relays:

"Obviously, I was upset, but I don’t think they were throwing at [us]," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It’s a bunch of kids coming from the minor leagues, and you can’t do nothing about it. Just run to first base and go get the trainer, that’s all you can do. I doubt they threw at [us]."

Those might be "kids coming from the minor leagues," but they were doing major damage by throwing inside recklessly -- whether they wanted to or not. 

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This is especially concerning because Cleveland relievers have been knocking down White Sox hitters like they're stacked three-tall in a carnival booth.

It really started last August, when Frank Herrmann dealt the Sox's playoff hopes a severe blow by drilling Gordon Beckham in the hand. It cost the Sox their hottest hitter for the remainder of the season, and the Sox didn't have the firepower to keep up with the torrid Twins.

Here are all the Indians-on-White-Sox HBPs since that day:

Date Batter Opp Pitcher Score Inn RoB Out Pit(cnt) Play Description
2010-08-30 Juan Pierre @CLE Mitch Talbot ahead 0-3 t2 1-3 0 4 (2-1) Hit By Pitch; Beckham to 2B
2010-08-30 Gordon Beckham @CLE Frank Herrmann ahead 3-6 t7 -23 2 3 (1-1) Hit By Pitch
2010-09-01 Manny Ramirez @CLE Justin Germano ahead 4-5 t8 --- 2 2 (1-0) Hit By Pitch
2011-04-01 Paul Konerko @CLE Justin Germano ahead 0-8 t4 -23 0 1 (0-0) Hit By Pitch
2011-04-03 Gordon Beckham @CLE Justin Masterson ahead 0-1 t5 -2- 1 5 (1-2) Hit By Pitch
2011-05-19 Alexei Ramirez CLE Fausto Carmona down 1-0 b1 -2- 0 1 (0-0) Hit By Pitch
2011-07-22 Gordon Beckham @CLE Carlos Carrasco tied 0-0 t2 1-- 2 1 (0-0) Hit By Pitch; Pierzynski to 2B
2011-09-08 Brent Lillibridge CLE Josh Judy ahead 1-4 b7 1-3 1 4 (1-2) Hit By Pitch; Pierre to 2B
2011-09-08 Tyler Flowers CLE Josh Judy ahead 1-8 b8 --- 1 4 (1-2) Hit By Pitch
2011-09-09 Tyler Flowers CLE Nick Hagadone down 8-3 b9 1-- 2 2 (0-1) Hit By Pitch; Viciedo to 2B
2011-09-10 Paul Konerko CLE Fausto Carmona down 2-1 b5 --- 2 3 (2-0) Hit By Pitch
2011-09-20 Alexei Ramirez @CLE Fausto Carmona down 3-2 t5 --- 1
2 (1-0) Hit By Pitch
2011-09-20 Paul Konerko @CLE Zach Putnam ahead 5-4
t7 1-- 1 1 (0-0) Hit By Pitch; Ramirez to 2B
2011-09-20 Gordon Beckham @CLE Josh Judy ahead 5-4 t9 --- 0 5 (3-1) Hit By Pitch
2011-09-20 Alexei Ramirez @CLE Josh Judy ahead 5-4 t9 -2- 1
4 (1-2) Hit By Pitch

 

Compare that to the number of White-Sox-on-Indians HBPs:

Date Batter Opp Pitcher Score Inn RoB Out Pit(cnt) Play Description
2010-09-01 Jayson Nix CHW Freddy Garcia down 1-0 b2 --- 0 4 (2-1) Hit By Pitch
2011-05-19 Asdrubal Cabrera @CHW Gavin Floyd tied 0-0 t1 --- 1 4 (1-2) Hit By Pitch
2011-07-22 Jason Kipnis CHW Gavin Floyd down 3-0 b8 1-- 1 6 (2-2) Hit By Pitch; Chisenhall to 2B
2011-08-16 Michael Brantley @CHW Gavin Floyd down 2-0 t4 --- 0 10 (2-2) Hit By Pitch
2011-08-18 Michael Brantley @CHW Will Ohman ahead 2-3 t6 1-3 1 4 (0-2) Hit By Pitch; Hannahan to 2B
2011-08-18 Jason Donald @CHW Sergio Santos ahead 2-4 t9 --- 0 1 (0-0) Hit By Pitch

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The Indians have hit twice as many White Sox, and what Josh Judy is doing is almost criminal.

Down in Triple-A Columbus, Judy pitched 52 innings. He hit just one batter.

Against all other major-league teams, Judy has thrown nine innings. He hasn't hit anybody.

Against the White Sox, Judy has thrown 3 2/3 innings. He has hit four batters.

This doesn't tell me that Judy is throwing at the White Sox intentionally. But his performance, when combined with what his colleagues are doing, strongly suggests that they've been advised to pitch inside as freely as they'd like.

The Minnesota Twins operate by the same playbook. Known for being control artists, the Twins have plunked just 98 batters since the start of the 2010 season...

... and a quarter of them have been White Sox (23). Carlos Quentin isn't really padding the stats, because he's only responsible for three of them. No, it seems to be a team-wide strategy, because the next-highest number of HBPs for a single team belongs to the Tigers (14), and everybody else has been hit by Twins pitching fewer than 10 times. Some Twins seem to work inside only to the White Sox, like Nick Blackburn (who dealt five of his eight HBPs to Sox hitters), or Glen Perkins (four of five), or Matt Capps (three of four).

The Twins came to mind when watching Paul Konerko's uncommonly irate reaction to Putnam's fastball to the hip. But since we're 1,200 words into this and I'm only about halfway through, let's save the second part for lunchtime...

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