Have you ever heard, in your life, someone say "Ugh. I can't stand Carl Yastrzemski" or something similar about Gibson? No. Unless Gibson broke your uncle's wrist with an inside fastball, which is possible.That's the thing about Gibson, of course. Great pitcher, had that amazing 1968 season, fast worker (Vin Scully: "Bob Gibson pitches as though he's double parked"), but if you lean in too much, or hit a home run off him, or take too much time, he'll plant a fastball in your ribs.
At least that's the reputation. Is it true?
Not really, it turns out. I looked at all pitchers who started 400 or more games. (Gibson started 482.) There have been 111 of them since 1901. For each, I calculated the perecentage of opposing batters the pitcher hit by dividing hit by pitches by plate appearances. For a frame of reference, in 2013, pitchers hit 0.83% of the batters that faced them: 1,536 hit batters among 184,872 plate appearances.
So how much above 0.83% was Gibson? He wasn't. Among the 111 pitchers with 400 or more starts, there were nine who hit over 1% of batters during their careers. Gibson's not one of them. Two are knuckleballers (Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough) who were never sure where the ball was going. Two are hard throwers who last pitched in 2009: Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. Getting hit by them had to hurt. There's an old-timer, Eddie Plank, and more contemporary ones, Dave Stieb and Kevin Brown. And there are two of Gibson's peers: Don Drysdale and Jim Bunning. Gibson? He's way down at 36. That's above average for that peer group, but by no means moves him into the headhunter realm. Here's the list, 1-36. It's fun to see all the starters who hit batters more often than the putative headhunter (Greg Maddux? Jamie Moyer? Orel Hershiser?).
Percentage of Batters Hit, Minimum 400 Games Started
1. Tim Wakefield 1.33% 13. Barry Zito 0.88% 25. Frank Tanana 0.73%
2. Pedro Martinez 1.24% 14. Walter Johnson 0.88% 26. Dennis Martinez 0.73%
3. Randy Johnson 1.11% 15. David Cone 0.87% 27. Kevin Appier 0.72%
4. Don Drysdale 1.09% 16. George Mullin 0.86% 28. Nolan Ryan 0.70%
5. Charlie Hough 1.08% 17. Jeff Suppan 0.84% 29. Wilbur Cooper 0.70%
6. Dave Stieb 1.07% 18. Jamie Moyer 0.84% 30. Lee Meadows 0.67%
7. Eddie Plank 1.07% 19. John Burkett 0.79% 31. Greg Maddux 0.67%
8. Kevin Brown 1.03% 20. Roger Clemens 0.79% 32. Dwight Gooden 0.67%
9. Jim Bunning 1.02% 21. Bert Blyleven 0.76% 33. Jim Kaat 0.64%
10. Tim Hudson 0.94% 22. Javier Vazquez 0.74% 34. Earl Whitehill 0.64%
11. Orel Hershiser 0.89% 23. CC Sabathia 0.74% 35. Kevin Millwood 0.64%
12. Kenny Rogers 0.89% 24. Tom Candiotti 0.73% 36. Bob Gibson 0.63%