Beating Up on the Little (or Big) Guys

The question of tall players hitting short players and whether these hits should be called as head shots came up in the SB Nation discussion list. So I started wondering if there are any consistent trends around size differentials in hits. First, there's a league-wide bias: taller players hit shorter players, though the average difference is small - just 1/4-inch. Here's the distribution of heights by hitters and guys who got hit:

Hits1_medium

This leads to a very slight change in the distribution of height differential in hits:

Hits3_medium

So are there any players who frequently hit players much smaller than themselves? No big surprises here - if you're really tall, there aren't many other players your size who you can hit!

Player Avg Diff Height
Zdeno Chara 8.1 81
Derek Boogaard 6.3 80
Boris Valabik 6.2 79
Hal Gill 6.1 79
Jeff Schultz 5.4 78
Chris Pronger 5.3 78
Alexei Semenov 5.1 78
Andy Sutton 4.9 78
Brian Boyle 4.8 78
Marek Malik 4.7 78
Nik Antropov 4.6 78
Derian Hatcher 4.6 77

None of these players figure on the list of players who hit the tallest opponents on average. Again, this isn't surprising: defensemen are taller than forwards; but defensemen don't typically get a chance to hit other defensemen, so forwards will tend to hit taller players on average.

Player Avg Height Height
Jeremy Reich 74.06 73
Anton Babchuk 74.00 77
T.J. Hensick 73.94 70
Jeff Taffe 73.89 75
Fabian Brunnstrom 73.88 73
Chris Stewart 73.86 74
Daniel Alfredsson 73.86 71
Erik Cole 73.86 74
Marc-Antoine Pouliot 73.85 73
Steve Downie 73.84 71

Here's the other end of the list. It's significant to note how small the spread is: it's rare for a player to hit an average opponent under 6-feet tall or over 6'2".

Player Avg Height Height
Michael Nylander 72.00 73
Andy Greene 72.12 71
Martin Havlat 72.25 73
Andrew Hutchinson 72.27 74
Alexei Zhitnik 72.29 71
Tobias Enstrom 72.35 70
Brian Lee 72.36 74
Adam Pardy 72.39 76
Niklas Hjalmarsson 72.39 75
Mike Lundin 72.39 74

Just for completeness, here's the list of players who get hit by the tallest average opponent:

Player Avg Height Height
Marian Hossa 74.21 73
Max Pacioretty 74.11 74
Patrick Eaves 74.10 72
Colin Stuart 74.09 74
Erik Christensen 74.09 73
Brendan Shanahan 74.08 75
Ilya Kovalchuk 74.07 73
Peter Schaefer 74.06 73
Erik Cole 74.06 74
Rodney Pelley 74.05 72

And the shortest average opponent:

Player Avg Height Height
Matt Jones 72.50 72
Jack Hillen 72.55 71
Josef Melichar 72.57 74
Mike Lundin 72.58 74
Thomas Pock 72.62 73
Nolan Pratt 72.63 75
Henrik Tallinder 72.65 76
Zach Bogosian 72.68 74
Sean Hill 72.71 72
Craig Rivet 72.72 74

I'll come back to this in the future and look at weight imbalances in hitting...

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