The Plunk Deservability Scale: Early Season Ratings
When the MLB created their “Let The Kids Play” ad campaign last year it was a breath of fresh air. Hearing musty old men who somehow still have Hall of Fame votes, which they used to not vote for Barry Bonds, complain about the unwritten rules sucks. Obviously, the campaign was about trash talking, swagger, and bat flips.
Because everyone loves bat flips.
Except, you know who doesn’t love bat flips? Pitchers. Especially pitchers who just gave up a bomb to dead center field. This dislike for bat flips tends to lead to Plunking. This is something Tim Anderson found out on Wednesday, April 17th.
Plunking, for the uninitiated, is when a pitcher intentionally hits a batter as an act of retribution. Similar to a cheap shot in football or the entire sport of hockey. It’s a little unfair because you’re facing a batter who, because of the actual written rules of baseball, is obligated to stand in the batters box and wait for you to throw the ball. He cannot hide.
Plunking comes in a variety of forms. It’s not always bat flip-inspired. Sometimes there are other unwritten rules that need enforcing. In general, I am not a fan of musty old men (who continue to deny Barry Bonds the Hall of Fame) talking about unwritten rules. I am, however, a big fan of active MLB pitchers enforcing unwritten rules with fastballs.
This is all to say that not all Plunks are created equal. This is a massive market inefficiency in need of Billy Beane-esque exploitation. So, I introduce the Plunk Deservability Scale. Is this cribbing Shea Serrano’s Disrespectful Dunk Index? Probably. But Shea is a legend and also doesn’t really talk about baseball a ton. If he wants, he can Plunk me for this. Let’s get started.
Each Plunk is scored 0-20 depending on a number of factors, each assigned a maximum value of 5 and a minimum of 0. These factors are:
Is there a rivalry or other history between these teams or players that dictated Plunk intensity?
Severity of Rule Breaking
How flagrantly did the batter break the rule? Was it a “what are you gonna do, hit me?” situation?
Severity of Plunking
How badly did the pitcher Plunk the player? What is the Plunk location?
How did the player and pitcher respond? Who won the exchange?
Tim Anderson – April 17th, 2019
Context – 0/5
I wasn’t even sure if they play in the same league when I started this, and neither team has a lot to play for right now.
Severity of Rule Breaking – 5/5
LET THE KIDS PLAY. pic.twitter.com/VDUSiQpawx
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 17, 2019
The first rule broken was bat flipping. Except, this isn’t even a bat flip. It’s a bat spike. He throws that piece of wood away like he’s disgusted by it. This is the DeAndre Jordan stank face of bat flips, and I am here for it. It’s probably a bit much for a game in April between two teams who could be generously referred to as “rebuilding.”
But then there’s this:
Me: I need to save money
Also me: pic.twitter.com/PtyX4id2o1
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) April 17, 2019
Somewhere between Anderson tapping home plate and the next time the cameras catch him, he found time to put this wild White Sox bling around his neck. I have so many questions. The gloves are still on. Was he wearing this thing when he hit the home run? Did he have this stashed like a touchdown dance prop? When did he get this made? Is it real diamond? Why this logo? There’s way better logos for the White Sox.
I don’t know if there’s any written or unwritten rules against this, and I love it dearly, but that’s probably too much for an April game between two franchises that share the season motto “we’re working on it.”
This is a perfect score based on pure execution alone.
Severity of Plunking – 3/5
— MLB (@MLB) April 17, 2019
92mph right in the hip — solid placement with just the right amount of “you’ll feel this” heat. I say that as someone who, if they took 92mph off the hip, would instantly have a GoFundMe page created for my medical bills for the rest of my life.
I like that Brad Keller, the same pitcher that gave up the home run, threw this pitch. Kudos for coming and getting the job done on pitch 90. He was probably getting pulled soon anyway, so at least he got it done himself rather than some poor reliever used just for this, meaning we’d have had two commercial breaks on either side of the Plunk.
Aftermath – 3/5
The benches cleared, Anderson stayed out of the scrum, and for a second there it looked like we might get a manager fight, which would have been hysterical. Then Keller got predictably ejected and also, for some reason, Anderson did too. This is dumb, but technically Keller got his point across and also got the guy he Plunked thrown out of a game for being Plunked, which is the most technical definition of “success” I’m willing to use.
The Royals ended up winning the game 4-3 in the 10th, so I guess that helps too except it doesn’t matter at all.
Plunk Deservability Score: 11/20, not bad but still dumb.
Derek Dietrich – April 7th, 2019
Context – 2/5
The Pirates had won every game of the series up to this point. Derek Dietrich and Chris Archer had faced each other previously when they were on the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively. That is, however, the saddest rivalry I can think of, and didn’t impact much of anything.
Severity of Rule Breaking – 3/5
The rule broken here isn’t a bat flip, it’s about watching the homer. Let’s get this out of the way right now — home runs are awesome. I challenge anyone reading this to put a 92mph fastball 436 feet, out of a ballpark and into a river and not watch it. That said…man, he really watches it soar, doesn’t he? There’s something so cool about instantly dropping the bat and just standing there. Like Pusha-T once said: If You Know, You Know. Dietrich knew, and he wanted to make sure everyone else knew that he knew.
All aboard the showboat pic.twitter.com/fqOj0CkjLK
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 7, 2019
That is the face of a man who knew.
Severity of Plunking – 1/5
This brings up an interesting subsection of Plunk. The Near Plunk. Not to be mistaken for a Failed Plunk or an Accidental Plunk, the Near Plunk actually sits well with me from an unwritten rule basis. The Near Plunk is a nice way to make your disapproval known without putting a man on base, causing physical harm to someone, and potentially getting ejected from a game.
Archer, who had previously given up the homer and then watched Dietrich watch the bomb, tosses a 93mph fastball towards Dietrich’s hip, but the ball sails behind him. This is a blurred line between the Near Plunk and a Failed Plunk, but Archer has been pitching pretty well this season so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that if he wanted to bounce one off Dietrich, he could have. After the game, Archer claimed it was an Accidental Near Plunk, the lamest of all Plunks:
“I air-mailed a couple of balls today, a couple that I was trying to elevate, a couple I yanked when righties were up there. It was another one that I just yanked.”
Aftermath – 2/5
So the Plunk attempt does not make contact, the benches empty anyway, and Dietrich stays out of the fight. However, Yasiel Puig does not stay out of it. In fact, he fights the entire Pirates roster.
Hang this in the Louvre. pic.twitter.com/2ArAXSEOqf
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 7, 2019
This is phenomenal. It’s a masterpiece. Archer’s Plunk attempt leads to the latest in a long string of peak Puig moments. Once the dust settles and Puig has been de-Puiged, Archer actually ended up striking out Dietrich twice over the course of the game before exiting after the 6th inning. This is a pretty decent success. Striking the batter out after they play up a home run is really the only way a pitcher can strike back and still help his own team win the game. Lesson learned, maybe.
Except then in the top of the 8th, Dietrich hits another bomb off Nick Kingham and demonstrates that he has almost violently not learned a dang thing.
Of course he put it in the water. Of course he watched it. If You Know, You Know.
Plunk Deservability Score: 8/20, lame.
I know what you’re thinking. “Okay, so then what’s a deserved Plunk look like?” Boy howdy, am I glad you asked.
Tyler Austin – April 11th, 2018
Context – 5/5
Severity of Rule Breaking – 4/5
In the top of the third inning, Tyler Austin slides, cleats up, into Brock Holt to break up a double play. It’s a bit of dirty (but not unheard of) gamesmanship that isn’t as welcome in baseball as it used to be. This is one of the rare unwritten rules that achieved crossover success and became a genuine written rule. The only thing that saves Austin from full marks here is that he ended up clipping Holt instead of taking him down. Still, it was enough to briefly clear the benches, though no fight broke out.
Severity of Plunking – 5/5
— MLB (@MLB) April 12, 2018
In the top of the 7th, Joe Kelly tosses three pitches to Austin. One of them is a Failed Plunk aimed for the hip that Austin dodges, but in the moment it could have been played off as poor location. Then, on the 4th pitch, Kelly puts a 98mph heater right into Austin’s back. This is a textbook Fury Plunk. Look at the way Kelly fluidly steps right towards Austin before he even realizes he’s been Plunked.
Aftermath – 5/5
Austin slams his bat on the plate and takes a few steps towards Kelly. Kelly beckons him to keep walking. The benches cleared and Kelly gets some good punches in on Austin. Really good ones. Twitter had fun with it.
— Bleachers of Boston (@BleachersofBOS) July 19, 2018
Kelly was suspended for a few games, and took that time away from baseball to go to a Boston Bruins game, where they showed him on the jumbotron, gave him a standing ovation, and chanted “Yankees Suck!” The Red Sox ended up losing the game, but I think Joe Kelly made his point pretty convincingly.
Plunk Deservability Score: 19/20, begging to be Plunked.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)