No one in last night's All Star game managed to take one for his league, but that is in no way a reflection of how the league-wide plunk trend has been going so far this season. Batters have been getting hit at a rate of once per 99.8 plate appearances so far this season - that is very close to the 2001 mark of 1 plunk per 98.9 plate appearances and that 2001 number was the highest rate of plunking since 1901. Is it possible that this era in baseball may go down in history as the "plunktastic era"? Okay, probably not.
But, while the overall trend has been high, there don't look to be many record threateners on the team level. Baltimore is leading the league
with 49 HBPs, but that projects to only 88 for the season - well short of the 100 plunk 1997 Astros, which had the highest plunk total since 1900 (the 1898 Orioles had 160). On the bottom end, the Cubs have been hit a league low 23 times. Last year's league low for the season was the Angels 29. If everyone in the league keeps their current pace, the Cubs should have the fewest HBPs in the league with 42 - which would be the highest league low since 1900. The Giants were last in the league with 40 HBPs in 2003 and the Padres had a league low of 41 in 2001.
On the pitching side, Florida and Washington lead the way
with 48 hit batters, but Florida has played 4 fewer games so they project to 90 plunks on the year. That is one more than the 2005 team high
, but the Red Sox and Devil Rays have both been over the 90 plunks thrown mark several times in the past 5 years. The 1899 Cleveland Spiders hit 109 opposing batters.
Last season the Atlanta Braves threw the fewest plunks in the league with 32, but this season's last place plunkers, the Twins have already hit 26 batters. They project to 49 hit batters on the season, which would be the highest total for the last place team in plunks thrown since 1899 Brooklyn Superbas. In 2003 the Marlins and Dodgers each threw a league low 40 plunks
, and that was the highest league low since 1900 Cardinals hit 43.
On the individual level, Rickie Weeks of the Brewers is having an outstanding year in the getting hit by pitches department with 17 on the season. He's on pace to become the 11th player ever to be hit 30 or more times in a season, joining Don Baylor, Craig Biggio, Steve Evans, Ron Hunt, Hughie Jennings, Jason Kendall, Dan McGann, Tommy Tucker, Curt Welch and Craig Wilson. But, he has very little chance of breaking Ron Hunt's 50 plunk mark or Hughie Jennings' 51.
Dontrelle Willis has hit 13 batters so far this year, and projects to around 24 for the season. 24 would be the most plunks thrown in a season since 1906. The highest recent total was by Kerry Wood, who threw 21 plunks in 2003.
Among players who have not been hit by pitches this year, Michael Young has had the most plate appearances, with 407. He has played in every Rangers game this year, and if he continues to play every day and not get plunked he has a chance to break Sandy Alomar's record of 739 plate appearances in an unplunked season. Rafeal Furcal of the Dodgers is right behind him with 403 plate appearances and 0 HBPs.
In Cincinnati, Bronson Arroyo has compiled an 9-6 record, with 130 innings and 0 hit batters. He has a chance to become the first pitcher to win 20 games without hitting a batter since 1986 when Jack Morris won 21 with 0 plunks. It's even more remarkable coming from Arroyo who has plunked 34 batters in his last 2 seasons, including a 20 plunk year in 2003.
On the Rookie watch, Florida's Josh Willingham has accumulated 8 plunks this season in 71 games. While impressive, he would be a long shot to break the rookie record. (Tommy Tucker got 29 in the American Association - Frank Robinson has the NL rookie record with 20, while David Eckstein has the AL record with 21.)
Among Rookie Pitchers, Paul Maholm and Rickie Nolasco have hit 7 batters each. They both have an excellent shot at beating last years rookie high (10 by Scott Kazmir), but they're unlikely to get to the top recent rookie total. Rolando Arrojo had 19 in his rookie season in 1998.