Saturday, March 31, 2007

2007 Preview: Chicago White Sox

Rounding out the Astros interleague schedule this year are the Chicago White Sox. The league really seems to be trying to keep that North Coast/South Coast baseball rivalry going, having the Astros visit the White Sox two consecutive years after they met in the World Series in 2005. Back in 1997, the White Sox plunked Craig Biggio the in the second and third games he played against them (on his way to 34 for the year), but they haven't thrown a pitch that hit him since.

The White Sox have no one on the roster who has hit Biggio with a pitch before, but Javier Vazquez hit a whole lot of other batters last year. He threw 15 plunks, leading the team. Jose Contreras hit another 10 batters, but no one else on the team hit more than 6. Then again, maybe they just haven't found the right batters to hit.

The Astros play the White Sox June 8th-10th, which is probably going to be to soon for the White Sox to be the team that gives up Biggio's 3000th hit, but it's not out of the question. Biggio has reached 70 hits in a season as early as June 7th just three years ago, and on June 11th the year before that. He notched his 70th hit of the season on June 10th in 1994. The White Sox probably have a better chance of throwing Biggio's record breaking 288th plunk. He's reached 6 plunks before the beginning of June in 10 of the last 12 seasons, but last year he had only 4 as of June 8th. A slight increase over last year's plunk pace will put Biggio in a decent position to break the all time HBP record in Chicago.

The Whites Sox hit Jason Bartlett, Ron Belliard, Adrian Beltre, Yuniesky Betancourt, Casey Blake (twice), Ben Broussard, Frank Catalanotto, Carl Crawford, Mike Cuddyer (twice), David DeJesus (twice), Chris Duncan, Carl Everett, Esteban German, Jason Giambi (twice), Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner (twice), Jerry Hairston, Ramon Hernandez, Aaron Hill, Brandon Inge (three times), Joe Inglett, Kenji Johjima, Jason Kendall, Jose Lopez, Mark Loretta (twice), Victor Martinez, Kevin Mench, Doug Mirabelli, Trot Nixon, Magglio Ordonez (twice), Corey Patterson, Roberto Petagine, Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Grady Sizemore, Chris Snelling, Mike Sweeney (twice), Mark Teixeira, Miguel Tejada, Frank Thomas, Kevin Youkilis and Delmon Young last year. But hey, maybe they had a good reason.


Friday, March 30, 2007

2007 Preview: Texas Rangers

Every year, the Astros play two series against the Rangers to determine who gets to keep a Silver Boot trophy, and who gets to claim to be the best baseball team in Texas for another year. This year though, the Rangers might throw a Golden Plunk - Biggio's 288th career HBP. They also might give up Mr. Astros' 3000th career hit. If they're lucky.

As a result of their frequent meetings, the Rangers hold the American League record for plunking Biggio. They've contributed 5 of Biggio's 282 plunks, and they'll have 6 games this year to add to that total, May 18th-20th and June 22nd-24th. Biggio recorded his 6th plunk of the 1998 season on May 20th. Last year, Biggio was stuck on 4 plunks through the entire month of June, but in all, Biggio has been plunked 14 times on those dates - including one by the Rangers on June 22, 2003. Biggio also needs to find his 70th hit of the season somewhere, because it will be his 3000th, and in 1993 he reached 70 hits on June 23rd. The game on June 23rd is listed as being nationally televised on Fox (but prior experience has shown that some Fox affiliates don't bother showing out of market baseball games - ever - FOX25 in Boston for example).

The Rangers have a pretty good group of pitchers with past experience in the field of plunking Biggio, including 4 timer Jamey Wright, who has gone from a non-roster invitee to winning a spot in the starting rotation this spring. He hit 10 batters for the Giants last year, and is up to 114 for his career. He plunked Biggio twice for Colorado in 1997, once for Milwaukee in 2002, and another time for Colorado in 2005 (plunk #264). Vicente Padilla is also in the Rangers rotation - he led the American League in hit batters last year with 17, and plunked Biggio for the Phillie in 2003. In the bullpen, they still have the last two guys to plunk Biggio for the Rangers. Scott Feldman did it last year, and Joaquin Benoit threw plunk 228 on June 22, 2003 (Hey, there's that same game again). The rest of their pitchers are probably well qualified to plunk Biggio also, but we'll have to wait and see with them.

12.1% of the Rangers 2006 plunks were thrown at people whose last names start with the letter B, although they hit people with the last initial C and S slightly more often. Here's the list: Rocco Baldelli, Jason Bartlett (twice), Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, Andres Blanco, Ben Broussard (twice), Orlando Cabrera, Mike Cameron, Robinson Cano, Frank Catalanotto, Eric Chavez, Alex Cintron, Alex Cora, Shane Costa, Bubba Crosby, David DeJesus, Ray Durham, Darin Erstad (twice), Josh Fogg, Ryan Garko (twice), Joey Gathright, Jason Giambi, Brian Giles, Jonny Gomes, Vladimir Guerrero, Aaron Guiel, Travis Hafner, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Maicer Izturis, Kenji Johjima, Reed Johnson (twice), Jason Kendall, Adam Kennedy, Paul Konerko (twice), Travis Lee, Victor Martinez, Melvin Mora, Justin Morneau, Dioner Navarro, Greg Norton, Magglio Ordonez, A.J. Pierzynski (twice), Scott Podsednik, Jorge Posada (twice), Mike Redmond, Juan Rivera (twice), Alex Rodriguez, Chris Shelton, Grady Sizemore, Chris Snelling, Matt Stairs, Cory Sullivan, Ichiro Suzuki (twice) and Nick Swisher (twice).


Thursday, March 29, 2007

2007 Preview: Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners are one of the last baseball franchises on earth which have never hit Craig Biggio with a pitch. They hit 53 batters last year. 8 of them played 2nd base. One of them had over 200 career HBPs. But none of them were even named Craig, much less Craig Biggio. The Mariners opportunities to plunk Biggio have been extremely limited, but this year they have what is almost certainly their final chance. Three games in June to add their franchise to the list of teams that have helped Craig Biggio become the most plunked batter of all time. Are they the sort of people who would jump in at the very end and throw the record breaking plunk, claiming the entire accomplishment for themselves like one of those people who puts in the very last piece of the jigsaw puzzle after someone else did the rest, or solves the Wheel of Fortune puzzle after the other player goes bankrupt greedily trying to fill in every letter with spin after spin? Are the Mariners that kind of team? We'll find out June 15th, 16th and 17th in Houston. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that if that's the kind of contribution the Mariners want to make. Better late than never. It's not a great analogy anyway, because the accomplishment is Biggio's - the guys throwing the pitches are more often hapless witnesses to greatness.

53 plunks tied the Mariners with Detroit for 9th place on the American League plunk chart. The top two contributors to that total, Joel Pineiro (10) and Gil Meche (8) have both left the team, leaving Jarrod Washburn as their leading incumbent plunk thrower. But, they've signed Jeff Weaver, who hit 10 batters last year and has thrown 110 plunks in his career. Also new to the team is Miguel Batista - he threw plunk #280 last year and plunk 182 in 2001 (both plunks were in the 3rd inning with a runner on 2nd base).

The Mariners only hit 6 batters in June last year, if they match that number this year, and throw them all at Biggio, he won't need any help from the rest of the league (in case you haven't been paying attention, Biggio needs 6 plunks for the all time record). 6 plunks would tie the single season team record for hitting Biggio with pitches, and it would break the single series record. Biggio has never recorded his 6th plunk of a season on June 15th, 16th or 17th, but he did get his 70th hit of the 1992 season on June 16th. Biggio's 70th hit this year (if you still haven't been paying attention) will be his 3000th.

Rocco Baldelli, Ron Belliard, Hank Blalock, Aaron Boone, Jorge Cantu, David DeJesus (twice), Mark DeRosa, Mark Ellis (four times), Lew Ford, Alex Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Nick Green, Vladimir Guerrero, Ramon Hernandez, Aaron Hill, Omar Infante, Maicer Izturis, Conor Jackson, Derek Jeter, Reed Johnson (twice), Jason Kendall (twice), Adam Kennedy, Paul Konerko, Gerald Laird, Rob Mackowiak, Doug Mientkiewicz (twice), Kevin Millar (twice), Melvin Mora, Mike Napoli, Greg Norton, Pablo Ozuna, Corey Patterson, Wily Mo Pena, Jorge Posada, Juan Rivera, Ryan Shealy, Matt Stairs, Nick Swisher, Miguel Tejada, Marcus Thames, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Vance Wilson and Eric Young were all plunked by the Mariners in 2006.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2007 Preview: LA Angels

Charging the mound is no way to solve a problem, but if there was any positive outcome to last year's bench clearer between the A's and the Angels, it was that the Angels pitchers learned to quit fooling around and throw the batters something they can get hit by. But, it didn't sink in all that well, because they only hit 50 batters - tied for 26th in the majors. They also had only 14 batters who hit a batter - only the Tigers and Twins had fewer pitchers hit someone, though 4 other teams tied with 14 (including Astros' opponents Oakland, Seattle, the White Sox and Padres).

Craig Biggio has never been plunked by the Angels, and they only have one pitcher on the roster who's ever done it for another team. Hector Carrasco plunked Biggio for the Red in 1996. Ervin Santana led the '06 Angels with 11 hit batters, and John Lackey, who respects Jason Kendall's right to charge the mound, hit 9 batters. But not Jason Kendall.

The Astros visist where ever it is the LA Angels of Anaheim actually play for three games, June 18th-20th. That sounds like an excellent time for Biggio to get the 70th hit he needs this season to cross that 3000 hits milestone everyone seems so excited about. Biggio recorded his 70th hit last season on June 18th, and in 1991, he had his 70th hit on June 20th. That series could also be a good time for Biggio to record the all time record breaking 288th plunk of his career.

Hopefully Biggio won't have to charge the mound to get the Angels to plunk him the way Kendall had too - because it took them until September 24th to get around to hitting Kendall with a pitch anyway. Biggio won't have that much time to convince them. Aside from Kendall, last years Angels plunked Brian N. Anderson, Ron Belliard, Adrian Beltre (twice), John Buck, Jorge Cantu, Shin-Soo Choo, Joe Crede, Johnny Damon, David DeJesus, Mark Ellis (twice), Troy Glaus, Khalil Greene, Freddy Guzman, Travis Hafner, Todd Helton, Ramon Hernandez (twice), Derek Jeter (twice), Kenji Johjima (twice), Reed Johnson, Jeff Kent, Bobby Kielty, Ian Kinsler, Paul Konerko, Javy Lopez, Gary Matthews, Kevin Millar, Bengie Molina, Melvin Mora, Justin Morneau, Laynce Nix, Jay Payton, Jorge Piedra, A.J. Pierzynski, Jeremy Reed, Ivan Rodriguez, Richie Sexson (twice), Grady Sizemore, Chris Snelling, Ichiro Suzuki, Nick Swisher, Chad Tracy, Juan Uribe and Michael Young. Most of them did not have to charge the mound.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

2007 Preview: Oakland A's

Yes, they're still doing interleague play this year, and the Astros will be taking a tour through the American League West, with a trip to play the White Sox thrown in just because the AL west only has 4 teams and one of them is the Astros' "natural rival". Or, whoever makes the schedule just like rubbing in that '05 World Series. (But playing AT Chicago two straight years? Why?)
But anyway, the A's won the AL west last year, even though they only hit 55 batters. They'll be visiting Houston June 12th-14th, which is prime schedule real-estate for throwing Biggio's 288th plunk or giving up his 3000th hit. Biggio, as you probably know, is sitting at 2,930 hits. He recorded his 70th hit of the season on June 14th in 1996 and 1999, and on June 12th in 2001.

The A's have only hit Biggio once in franchise history (Chad Bradford on June 7, 2002 - on his only pitch of the outing), but they've gathered 3 pitchers on their roster who have plunked Biggio for teams prior to joining the A's, and they're taking a look at one more in spring training. Dan Haren hit 10 batters last year, and is the leading plunker among their returning players (Zito hit 13, but moved across the bay). Haren plunked Biggio for the Cardinals in 2003. They also have Joe Kennedy (not this one), who plunked Biggio in 2004 for Colorado, and Jay Witasick who could be the first pitcher to plunk Biggio for three different teams, if he adds the A's to the list. He threw plunk 150 for the Royals in 1999, and number 252 for San Diego in 2004. Erasmo Ramirez has been assigned to the A's minor league camp - he plunked Biggio in 2003 for the Rangers. If none of those pitchers feels like contributing another plunk to Biggio's quest, there's always Esteban Loaiza. He's never plunked Biggio, but he's thrown 73 plunks at other batters.

The A's hit 12 of their 55 batters in the 5th inning last year.

If your name is on the following list, the Oakland A's hit you with a pitch in 2006 (or there's a baseball player with the same name as you): Russ Adams, Danny Ardoin, Clint Barmes, Tony Batista, Adrian Beltre, Angel Berroa, Casey Blake, Willie Bloomquist (twice), Emil Brown, John Buck, David DeJesus, Johnny Estrada, Chone Figgins, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi (twice), Troy Glaus, Carlos Guillen, Ramon Hernandez, Omar Infante, Derek Jeter, Kenji Johjima, Reed Johnson (twice), Ian Kinsler, Jose Lopez (twice), Mark Loretta, Mike Matheny, Joe Mauer, Kevin Mench, Justin Morneau, Phil Nevin, Trot Nixon, David Ortiz, Lyle Overbay, Wily Mo Pena, Placido Polanco (twice), Jorge Posada (twice), Robb Quinlan, Jeremy Reed, Alex Rodriguez (twice), Chris Shelton, Grady Sizemore (twice), Mark Teixeira, Miguel Tejada, Yorvit Torrealba, Juan Uribe and Jason Varitek (twice).


Monday, March 26, 2007

2007 Preview: Chicago Cubs

Hey, the 2006 Cubs may have finished last in the National League, and completely failed to hit Craig Biggio with a pitch, but they hit more batters during day games than any team in the majors. 31 of their 67 plunks were thrown during day games. They hit Houston 9 times, which is as many plunks as they threw against any other team (tied with Pittsburgh), but none of those Astros they hit was Biggio.

The Cubs continued failure to plunk Biggio may have been the main reason for their acquisition of Jason Marquis, who threw plunk #277 on May 29, 2006. The Cubs haven't contributed to Biggio's plunk total since June 1, 2004, and no one on the Cubs roster has done it since Carlos Zambrano threw plunk 233 on August 21, 2003 and 222 on May 31, 2003. Their only other pitcher to hit Craig Biggio with a pitch is Kerry Wood, who did so on three occasions. Zambrano led the Cubs in hitting batters last year with 9, with Mark Prior behind him with 8 and Sean Marshall had 7. But the new guy, Jason Marquis hit 16 batters for the Cardinals last year.

The Cubs play Houston 15 times this year, but after three games in April (9th-11th), they don't play again until July 13th - the first game after the All Star break. If the Cubs are going to be the answer to a trivia question about Biggio's 288th plunk or his 3000th hit, they'll have to hope he hasn't passed both marks by then. The Cubs are 3rd all time in giving up hits to Biggio, with 255, but they're only 5th in hitting him with pitches (at 19, tied with the Giants).

The list of batters plunked by the Cubs in 2006 is as follows: Eliezer Alfonzo, Pedro Astacio, Willy Aybar, Jose Bautista, Jason Bay, Ron Belliard, Chris Burke (twice), Mike Cameron, Vinny Castilla, Jose Castillo, Alex Cintron, Royce Clayton, Roger Clemens, David Dellucci, Matt Diaz, Ryan Doumit (twice), Chris Duffy (three times), David Eckstein (twice), Edwin Encarnacion, Morgan Ensberg (twice), Prince Fielder (twice), Cliff Floyd, Ryan Freel (twice), Tony Graffanino, Shawn Green, Scott Hatteberg, Ryan Howard (twice), Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Tadahito Iguchi, Geoff Jenkins, Jason Lane, James Loney, Xavier Nady, Timo Perez, A.J. Pierzynski, Hanley Ramirez, Dave Roberts, Scott Rolen (twice), Olmedo Saenz, Alfonso Soriano, So Taguchi, Willy Taveras (twice), Chad Tracy, Troy Tulowitzki, Juan Uribe, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Daryle Ward, Rickie Weeks (twice), Josh Willingham (three times), Preston Wilson and Vance Wilson.


MLB... marketing geniuses

As you've probably already heard, Craig Biggio is angry with the commissioners office after being ordered to remove his Sunshine Kids pin from his hat. On the surface, this looks like Major League Baseball doesn't care about charities and kids with cancer, but think about it for a minute. MLB's efforts to crack down on steroids and HGH have, according to some reports, made those things even more popular with players and probably the young people who look up to those players. When MLB cracked down on hitting batters with pitches by giving the umpires more power to eject pitchers and managers, and to issue warnings, HBP numbers only went up. In 1998, when reporters asked "Hey Big Mac, what's that big supplement bottle in your locker?" and MLB subsequently grumbled about banning Androstenedione, the guy who sat next to me at work, Phil, immediately ran out and bought Androstenedione and Creatine and started taking them both for no particular reason other than he seemed to think it was cool.
The point is, the commissioners office appears to have an extraordinary power to make things popular by banning them, so in this case maybe they've figured that out and they're using their powers for good instead of stupid. If they crack down on charity work, maybe more players will choose to stick it to the man (pin-related puns and all) and support more charities.

So, if you want to stick it to the man too, hop on over to the Sunshine Kids website.

(And whichever charity uses the big glob of pine tar as its logo should keep under the radar before the league orders Biggio to remove it from his batting helmet.)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

2007 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

If you were looking for something good to say about the 2006 Pirates, the first thing that might spring to mind is "they were one game better than the Cubs". But if you looked a little deeper, there were a few other interesting things about last year's team. They really enjoyed hitting batters in the 8th inning, for example. They hit 15 batters in the 8th inning, but no more than 10 in any other inning. 46 of the 70 batters they hit last year were plunked in the 5th inning or later in a game. Also, no pitching staff in the National League had its left handed pitchers hit as many left handed batters as the Pirates. Pirates lefties hit 19 left handed batters. So they've got that going for them. On the other hand, they didn't hit anyone named Craig Biggio with a pitch.

Paul Maholm committed a lot of that lefty on lefty violence last season, hitting 6 batters on each side of the plate last season. He'll be joined by Tony Armas who hit 13 batters for the Nationals last season. But neither of them has ever hit Craig Biggio with a pitch. Shawn Chacon has done that three times in his career, and Salomon Torres has done it twice. They also have Kevin Gryboski in training camp, who plunked Biggio once, but he has not yet won a spot on the Pirate's roster. And, Pirates opening day starter Zach Duke will be the first pitcher this season to throw a pitch at Craig Biggio.

The Pirates will have 15 games to throw things at the Astros this year, but the first 6 are in April (including opening day) and they don't see each other again until July 20th. Biggio will probably be past 3000 hits by then, but if he's taking a leisurely pace toward 288 plunks, he could still be looking for the record breaker at that point. Of course the Pirates could take all of the suspense out of it by plunking Biggio 6 times in those first 3 games of the season.

The 2006 Pirates plunked Eliezer Alfonzo (twice), Marlon Anderson, Brad Ausmus (twice), Michael Barrett (twice), Aaron Boone, Joe Borchard, Russell Branyan, John Buck (twice), Chris Burke, Ronny Cedeno, Joe Crede, Mike Cuddyer, David DeJesus, Carlos Delgado, David Eckstein, Jason Ellison, Edwin Encarnacion (twice), Juan Encarnacion, Morgan Ensberg, Andre Ethier, Prince Fielder (twice), Cliff Floyd (four times), Rafael Furcal, Joey Gathright, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Khalil Greene, Ken Griffey, Scott Hatteberg, Wes Helms, Todd Helton, Aubrey Huff, Conor Jackson (twice), Geoff Jenkins, Andruw Jones, Austin Kearns, Ryan Langerhans, Jason LaRue, Lastings Milledge, Damian Miller, Yadier Molina, Scott Moore, Eric Munson, Jhonny Peralta, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Aramis Ramirez, Hanley Ramirez, Eric Reed, Scott Rolen, Aaron Rowand, Olmedo Saenz, Yorvit Torrealba, Steve Trachsel, Dan Uggla (twice) and Rickie Weeks (twice).


Friday, March 23, 2007

2007 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

In 2006, the Milwaukee Brewers hit 74 opposing batters (including Craig Biggio), which tied them for third place in the majors in that category. But the Brewers are a team on the rise, and in 2007, I'm sure their fans expect to do better. Maybe some of them expect that improvement to come in the area of "wins", but surely no one in Milwaukee could be disappointed if the team led the league in plunks in 2007.

Ben Sheets was the only Brewer to plunk Biggio last year, but it was Dave Bush who led the team in hitting batters, with 18. Bush finished just one plunk short of Dontrelle Willis' major league leading 19. They also have Chris Capuano hanging around, waiting to throw baseballs at people - he hit 9 batters last year and plunked Biggio in 2004. Matt Wise is the only other pitcher still in Milwaukee who plunked Biggio while with the Brewers, but Jeff Suppan has also joined the team, after hitting 6 batters last year and winning a world series with St. Louis, and hitting Biggio with a pitch in 2003 for Pittsburgh.

The Brewers face the Astros 18 times this season, but 6 of those games are in April and 9 are in August and September. That means their best chance to throw Biggio's 288th plunk or give up his 3000th hit will be a three game series June 25th-27th. Biggio didn't get hit in June last year, but that's been his second best month for plunk accumulation throughout his career. Last season, Biggio collected his 70th hit of the season on June 18th last year, but in 2005 his 70th hit came on June 25th (He's at 2930 now, if your just joining us). He's also crossed the 70 hit mark on June 26th in two different seasons - 2000 and 1990.

The Brewers threw 66% of their 2006 plunks in the first 5 innings, and Dave Bush threw 6 of the 9 HBPs that opposing batters recorded during the 2nd inning of games. The full list of batters hit by the Brewers is as follows: Bobby Abreu, Moises Alou, Pedro Astacio, Brad Ausmus, Michael Barrett, Jason Bartlett, Jose Bautista, Craig Biggio, Joe Borchard, Emil Brown, Jeromy Burnitz, Eric Byrnes, Miguel Cabrera, Ronny Cedeno, Chris Coste, Craig Counsell (twice), Carlos Delgado, Ryan Doumit, Chris Duffy, Adam Dunn (twice), Damion Easley, David Eckstein (twice), Edwin Encarnacion, Juan Encarnacion, Sal Fasano, Lew Ford (three times), Ryan Freel (twice), Adrian Gonzalez, Khalil Greene, Aaron Harang, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday (twice), Torii Hunter, Austin Kearns (twice), Jason LaRue (twice), Yadier Molina, Matt Murton (twice), Ronny Paulino, Juan Pierre (twice), Placido Polanco, Nick Punto, Aramis Ramirez (twice), Hanley Ramirez, Aaron Rowand, Freddy Sanchez (twice), Luke Scott, Chris Shelton, Chris Snyder, Alfonso Soriano, Willy Taveras (twice), Yorvit Torrealba, Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino, Jose Vidro, Omar Vizquel, Josh Willingham, Jack Wilson (twice), Preston Wilson and Randy Winn.

I'm sure you noticed from reading that list, that the Brewers plunked the Minnesota Twins 6 times. That's more times than any other National League team plunked a single American League team in 2006.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

2007 Preview: Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds hit 60 batters last year, and one of them was Craig Biggio. Craig Biggio has been one of the batters the Cincinnati Reds hit for each of the last 15 seasons. They haven't had a season without plunking Biggio since 1991. No other team can match that record of consistency in the category of plunking Biggio. They've plunked Biggio 21 times in 16 different seasons, but never plunked him more than twice in the same season. 18 different pitchers have plunked Biggio for the Reds, but only Pete Harnish and the late Cory Lidle hit him more than once. Also, the Reds started all this, throwing plunk #1 on April 22, 1989. If you look at that box score, you might notice that two other pitchers who played in that game would plunk Biggio later in their career, and none of those people, other than Biggio, has played since 2005 (which is even more weird when you know that Lenny Harris was the most recent to retire). Could the team that threw plunk #1 also throw plunk #288?

Last year, Aaron Harang and Elizardo Ramirez led the Reds in hitting batters with 8 each, and they have both returned to try to extend the teams streak to 16 years plunking Biggio. Brandon Claussen, the only Red who plunked Biggio last year, has moved on to Washington, but the team still has Todd Coffey who took care of the team's plunk in 2005. They also have Bronson Arroyo, and he plunked Biggio for the Pirates back in 2001. The Reds had Brian Meadows and Paul Wilson in camp, each of whom plunked Biggio once, but they've both been released. The Reds management is probably fully aware that the Reds pitchers rarely plunk Biggio twice - meaning they need as many new arms as possible to maximize their chances.

The Reds will see Craig Biggio and the Astros for fifteen games this year, but 12 of them are before the end of May, and the last three are in the final week of the season. That means the Reds are very unlikely to have a chance to throw Biggio's 3000th hit, but they'll have plenty of chances early in the year to contribute to the plunk record chase. Any of the ten games they two teams play in May could be the one in which Biggio breaks the record, but it would help if the Reds would relax their policy of only hitting him once or twice a year. All those early games could also mean that by the time Biggio reaches 3000 hits, it will be the Reds who have given up more of them than any other team. They've already surrendered 265 hits to Biggio, which is just 3 hits behind his total against the Cardinals.

If you've been wondering all winter exactly who the Reds hit with pitches last year, but you were too lazy to look it up, you're in luck. 32 of their 60 plunks hit the Astros, Pirates or Brewers. Here's the list: Eliezer Alfonzo, Garrett Atkins, Jose Bautista (three times), Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, Chris Burke (twice), Pat Burrell, Eric Byrnes (twice), Mike Cameron, Sean Casey, Jose Castillo, Brady Clark (four times), Ryan Doumit (three times), Chris Duffy, Jermaine Dye, David Eckstein (twice), Adam Everett (twice), Prince Fielder, Marcus Giles, Gabe Gross (twice), Carlos Guillen, Bill Hall, Wes Helms, Aubrey Huff (three times), Mike Jacobs, Geoff Jenkins (twice), Nick Johnson, Jacque Jones, Jason Lane, Adam LaRoche, Matt Murton (twice), Xavier Nady, Aramis Ramirez, Dave Roberts, Scott Rolen, Duaner Sanchez, Freddy Sanchez, Geovany Soto, Chase Utley (twice), Shane Victorino, Rickie Weeks and Randy Winn.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

2007 Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

Congratulations are certainly in order for the St. Louis Cardinals for all their accomplishments in the 2006 season. They hit 80 batters for only the second time in franchise history - the other year they broke the 80 plunk mark was 1898 when they were known as the St. Louis Browns. Those 80 plunks were good for 2nd in the majors, and they moved the Cardinals franchise into third place in all time hit batters, passing the Reds franchise total. The Cardinals have now hit 4,187 batters in franchise history, behind only the Tigers and Phillies franchises. If the Cardinals can out-plunk Detroit by more than 22 this season, they can move into second place.
Those accomplishments are notable enough, but to add even more to their 2006 season, the Cardinals also plunked Craig Biggio twice, and tied for the league lead in overall plunkings of the Houston Astros, with 10. And, on an individual level, David Eckstein broke the all time record for career post season plunks. Eckstein has now been hit 7 times in the post-season, passing Tino Martinez's post-season total of 6. Oddly though, none of his playoff plunks were recorded during a World Series, which makes his World Series MVP award somewhat puzzling. But maybe not everyone votes for MVP based solely on plunk totals.
Oh yeah, and they won the World Series, which is great if you're into that sort of thing.

Jason Marquis led the Cards in hitting batters last year (including Craig Biggio once), but he left for the Cubs, leaving 2005 Cy Young Award winner and 2 time Biggio Plunker Chris Carpenter to shoulder most of the plunking load for the team. They also added Kip Wells, who has hit 53 batters in his career, including Biggio in 2003. In the bullpen, they still have Josh Kinney who has never hit anyone other than Craig Biggio with a pitch, at least not in the regular season. Biggio is Kinney's one career plunk, although he hit Placido Polanco in the world series last year. And, they also have Braden Looper who plunked Biggio in April of 2005.

The Cardinals and Astros will play each other 16 times this year, but the Cardinals best chance to throw Biggio's 288th plunk looks like their three game series at Houston June 1st to 3rd. After those three games, the Cardinals won't get a chance to throw pitches in Biggio's direction until August 28th to 30th. That also should mean that it won't be the Cardinals who throw the pitch that becomes Biggio's 3000th hit - but hey, they've already contributed 268 hits to Biggio, and that's more than any other team.

The 2006 Cardinals plunked Craig Biggio twice, but they also plunked Chris Burke three times, Willy Taveras twice, and Brad Ausmus, Luke Scott, and Lance Berkman once each. But the Astros were only the second most frequent target for the Cardinals pitchers. They hit the Pirates 14 times. Chris Duffy got 4 of those, Jose Bautista and Craig Wilson got 2 each; Jack Wilson, Nate McLouth and Jeremy Burnitz got hit once, and the Cardinals plunked Xavier Nady three times after he got to the Pirates, and once more while he played for the Mets. The Cardinals also plunked Carlos Delgado, Cliff Floyd, Paul Lo Duca, and Michael Tucker of the Mets, Abraham Nunez and Jimmy Rollings of the Phillies, and Florida Marlin's Miguels Olivo and Cabrera. The Cards hit six Atlanta batters - Brian McCann, Andruw Jones, Marcus Giles, and Jeff Francoeur twice, and four Washington Nationals - Marlon Byrd, Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns and Jose Vidro.
In the NL West the hit J.D. Drew, Nomar Garciaparra, Cesar Izturis and Jeff Kent of the Dodgers, Luis (A.) Gonzalez and Matt Holiday of the Rockies, Johnny Estrad and Conor Jackson of the Diamondbacks, Mark Sweeney of the Giants and Vinny Castilla and Brian Giles of the Padres. In interleague play they hit Brain Anderson and Pablo Ozuna of the White Sox, Ron Belliard of the Indians, and Shane Costa and Reggie Sanders of the Royals.
That just leaves 8 times they plunked the Brewers (David Bell and Tony Graffanino once each, and Geoff Jenkins and Rickie Weeks 3 times each), 9 plunks they threw at the Reds (Adam Dunn, Ryan Freel, Dave Ross, Brandon Phillips twice, and Edwin Encarnacion four times), and 4 more for the Cubs (Michael Barrett, Juan Pierre, Aramis Ramirez and Todd Walker).

Got all that? Okay good.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

2007 Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

If success in baseball is judged by plunking Craig Biggio and the Houston Astros, the 2006 Arizona Diamondbacks were a pretty successful team. They joined the Cardinals as the only teams to plunk Biggio twice in 2006. They were also the only team outside the Astros division to hit Houston's batters 9 times, and they had they threw more HBPs per Houston plate appearance than any opposing team by a margin of 28%. The 2006 Diamondbacks plunked Astros at a rate of about 1 every 43 plate appearances.

But, some choose to look at the game through the lens of the win/loss record, and if you want to look at it that way, the Diamondbacks finished tied for last place in the NL West. But, if they don't improve this year, it probably won't be due to lack of pitching (though lack of healthy pitching would be a different story). Returning for the D-backs are Juan Cruz, who hit 11 batters including Craig Biggio last season, Livan Hernandez, who hit Biggio with a pitch for the Nationals last year before being traded to Arizona, and the 2006 NL Cy Young award winner, Brandon Webb, who plunked Biggio once in 2004. They also have Jorge Julio and Jose Valverde who both plunked Biggio in 2005. And just in case that wasn't going to be enough plunking power, the D-backs have brought back Randy Johnson from New York. Johnson has never hit Biggio with a pitch, but he is the active leader in career plunks with 178. Johnson, by the way, might be closing in on the all time record for hitting batters, but the problem with breaking that one is that no one seems to agree on what it is.,, and the Lahman database all list Walter Johnson as the all time leader at 203 hit batters. That number should be within reach, particularly if Randy Johnson keeps playing more than the two years he's under contract for. lists Walter Johnson's career total as 205 - two more than the other sites, and lists Chick Fraser as the all time leader, with 219.'s stats page agrees with Baseball-Almanac's totals for Johnson and Fraser, but lists Gus Weyhig with an amazing 277 plunks as the all time leader. None of the other sites list Weyhig as having hit nearly that many. Clearly the pitching side of plunks was not as well documented in the pre-1900 years as the hitting (or getting hit) side was, and I blame a lack of 19th century blogging. This might be a case where it would make sense to have a "modern" or "post-1900" record for this category, but all 205 or 203 of Walter Johnson's plunks came after 1900 (he started in 1907). Hopefully, the SABR people, or somebody, will sort this out eventually.

Anyway, the Diamondbacks pitching staff has a lot of experience hitting batters, and several of them have experience plunking Craig Biggio. They have the means, and some of them appear to have a motive, and they'll have 7 opportunities to throw a historic plunk in May. As you may have read in previous season previews, Biggio needs 6 plunks for 288 and the all time record, and Biggio has recorded his 6th plunk of the season in May during 8 of his 16 seasons in which he's had 6 or more plunks*. No other month can claim more than 3 of Biggio's 6th plunks. Arizona visits Houston on May 11th to 13th, and the Astros are at Arizona May 24th to 27th.

Although those May dates might be prime opportunities for the D-backs to throw Biggio's 288th plunk, they are going to be too early to give up Biggio's 3000th career hit. The second series with the D-backs ends on the Astros 51st game of the season, and Biggio has recorded 70 hits in 51 games or less several dozen times, but he hasn't had a hot streak like that since '99, and none of those 70 hit spans were at the beginning of a season. The earliest in a season Biggio has recorded his 70th hit was June 2, in 1998.

Besides plunking Biggio twice, the Diamondbacks also plunked Chris Burke, Morgan Ensberg, Aubrey Huff (twice), Orlando Palmeiro, and Willy Taveras (twice) from last year's Astros. In the rest of the league, they hit Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Frandsen three times each, and hit Eliezer Alfonzo, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, John Rodriguez and Aaron Rowand twice. They also plunked Garrett Atkins,
Clint Barmes, Adrian Beltre, Jamey Carroll, Sean Casey, Ronny Cedeno, Chris Coste, Edwin Encarnacion, Brian Giles, Marcus Giles, Adrian Gonzalez, Luis A. Gonzalez, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Nick Johnson, Jeff Kent, Corey Koskie, Todd Linden, Gary Matthews, Aaron Miles, Lastings Milledge, Xavier Nady, Miguel Olivo, Jay Payton, Brandon Phillips, Mike Piazza, Todd Pratt, Albert Pujols, Juan Rivera, Freddy Sanchez, Jason Smith, Scott Spiezio, Chase Utley and Rickie Weeks once each. They hit just 16 batters at home, compared to 45 road plunks, and only 3 of the of the 61 pitches they threw for an HBP were thrown by a lefthanded pitcher. Randy Johnson should certainly bring that number up in '07.

Also of interest, if you're watching the Diamondbacks, is their young outfielder Carlos Quentin. He was hit by 8 pitches in the majors last year, in just 191 plate appearances, but he's been reportedly hit 103 times in the minor leagues, and 48 times in college. That is some solid get-hitting right there.

*-If you were wondering how many other players have been hit at least 6 times in at least 16 seasons, the answer is 2. Don Baylor had 17 seasons with 6 or more plunks, and Frank Robinson had 18.


Monday, March 19, 2007

2007 Preview: Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies have hit Craig Biggio with more pitches than any other team, but they did not hit him in 2006, breaking a 5 season streak of Biggio-plunking. The Rockies have hit Biggio with at least one pitch in every season they've existed, other than 2006, 1999 and 1993. In all, they've hit Biggio 32 times in 29 games, including 5 consecutive plunks in 2005 that pushed Biggio past Don Baylor on the all time list (giving Biggio the so-called "modern record"). The Rockies would be the perfect choice to throw the historic Plunk 288, and they'll have 7 excellent opportunities to do it with three games at Coors Field, June 5th to 7th, and 4 games at Minute Maid, June 28th to July 1st.

Jeff Francis led the 2006 Rockies in hitting batters, but none of the 13 batters he hit last year or the 9 batters he hit before that were named Craig Biggio. Byung-Hyun Kim was their next most accomplished plunker in 2006, and is the team's career leader. He hit 8 batters last year, and 64 in his career, including Biggio's 268th. Also on the staff are Josh Fogg and Aaron Cook, who have each hit Biggio once. They could have two more pitchers with a past record of plunking Biggio, if they offer jobs to Dave Veres and Danny Graves. both are listed as Non-Roster invitees in Rockies training camp, but Veres is 40 and having arm trouble. Graves may still win a spot in the Rockies bullpen, but the Denver media doesn't appear to think that's very likely.

On the 3000 hits front, the Rockies have given up 164 of Biggio's 2,930 hits so far, and that late June series in Houston may be a good time for hit #3000 to make it's appearance. Biggio's 70th hit of the 2002 season came on July 1st, so why not in 2007 as well? Since they joined the league, the Rockies have given up hits to Craig Biggio at a .352 pace - his highest career batting average against any National League team.

In 2006, the Rockies hit Willy Aybar (twice), Josh Barfield (twice), Jose Bautista (twice), Barry Bonds (twice), Eric Bruntlett, Miguel Cabrera (twice), Sean Casey, Tony Clark, Craig Counsell (twice), J.D. Drew, Ray Durham, Edwin Encarnacion (twice), Andre Ethier, Steve Finley, Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Giles, Marcus Giles, Adrian Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez (twice), Shawn Green, Ken Griffey, Jose Guillen, Joel Guzman, Shea Hillenbrand, Geoff Jenkins (three times), Kenji Johjima, Nick Johnson (three times),Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent (twice), Jason LaRue (three times), Mike Lieberthal, Jose Lopez, Ramon Martinez, Lastings Milledge, Damian Miller, Mike Napoli, Laynce Nix, Aramis Ramirez, Jason Repko, John Rodriguez, Aaron Rowand (twice), Olmedo Saenz, Brian Schneider, Mark Sweeney, Chad Tracy (twice), Omar Vizquel (twice), Randy Winn and Chris Woodward. They hit 34 batters in odd numbered innings and 32 in even numbered innings, but never hit anyone in extra innings. They hit 41 batters on the road, but only 25 at home. They hit one batter with the bases loaded, and 3 batters on the dates of full moons. June 30th, 2007, when the Rockies will be at Houston is going to be the night of a full moon.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

2007 Preview: San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants haven't hit Craig Biggio with a pitch since 1999, but they also hadn't hit more than 50 batters since 1999, until last year when they hit 70. 70 plunks was the highest total for a Giants pitching staff since 1900. The 1900 Giants hit 94 batters, including the first 4 plunks thrown in the career of Christy Mathewson. 1900 was also the last year someone not named Hughie Jennings held the career hit-by-pitch record, as Hughie Jennings broke it the following year. It's entirely possible that the New York Giants threw the plunk that gave Jennings the top spot on that list, and that the San Francisco Giants could throw the plunk that moves Biggio ahead of Jennings.

The last time the Giants plunked Biggio, it was on a pitch thrown by Mark Gardner, on May 15th, 1999. This season, the first game between the Giants and Astros is on May 15th, the 8th anniversary of the last time they plunked him. The Giants play home-and-home three games series in May, and that could be a perfect opportunity for them to throw Plunk 288. Biggio, of course, is 6 HBPs away from the record, and he has recorded his 6th plunk of the season in the month of May in seven of his previous 19 seasons, including three of the last four.

The Giants' pitching staff's largest and most expensive offseason acquisition was Barry Zito, who hit 13 batters for the A's last season, but has never plunked Craig Biggio. He'll join Matt Morris, who hit Biggio with a pitch on September 19, 2003 (for the Cardinals), and hit 14 batters last season. The Giants also have Brad Hennessey who plunked 10 in 2006, but has never plunked Biggio. Russ Ortiz is also on the Giants roster, with one career experience plunking Biggio, and another one time plunker of Biggio, Sunny Kim, is also in the Giants camp, but not on the roster.

While the Giants are in a great place on the Astros schedule for throwing the pitch that becomes Plunk 288, they are probably going to be too early to throw the pitch that Biggio turns into his 3000th hit. Biggio has never reached 70 hits in a season earlier that June 2nd, and the year he did that he batted .325 and had 210 hits on the season. That's not a pace he's likely going to be able to set this year, so reaching 70 hits against the Giants doesn't look good. But, the Giants have already contributed 208 pitches that Biggio turned into hits, and they'll probably chip in with a few more this year.

In 2006, the Giants plunked the following batters: Garrett Atkins, Jose Bautista, Jason Bay, Mark Bellhorn, David Bush, Eric Byrnes, Jamey Carroll, Jose Castillo, J.D. Closser, Craig Counsell, Doug Davis, Carlos Delgado, Mark DeRosa, Matt Diaz, Adam Dunn, Damion Easley, David Eckstein, Juan Encarnacion, Johnny Estrada, Robert Fick, Prince Fielder (twice), Jeff Francoeur (three times), Nomar Garciaparra (twice), Brian Giles, Khalil Greene (twice), Jeremy Hermida (twice), Matt Holliday (five times), Conor Jackson, Geoff Jenkins, Ben Johnson, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Ryan Langerhans, Carlos Lee, Mike Lieberthal, Felipe Lopez, Eli Marrero, Yadier Molina, Mike Napoli, Ronny Paulino, Brandon Phillips, Mike Piazza (twice), Carlos Quentin (three times), Jose Reyes, John Rheinecker, Dave Roberts (twice), Aaron Rowand, Jeff Salazar, Alfonso Soriano, Scott Spiezio (twice), Matt Treanor, Chase Utley, Rickie Weeks (twice) and Jack Wilson.


Friday, March 16, 2007

2007 Preview: LA Dodgers

Last year, the Dodgers tied for first place in the NL West, but they finished last in the National League in the category of plunking batters, with just 41. Only Minnesota hit fewer batters than the Dodgers in 2006. In games when they did hit at least one batter, the Dodgers compiled a record of 18 wins and 19 loses, but they were 2-1 in games when they hit more than one batter, and 1-0 when they hit 3 batters. Obviously they would have had more success last season if they hit more batters (although intentionally hitting batters is not supported or endorsed by this website).

The Dodgers didn't hit Craig Biggio with a pitch last year, and they were 0-2 in games when they hit an Astros batter. The Dodgers haven't plunked Biggio since September 3, 2003, and they haven't plunked him in Houston since June 21, 2000. This year, they'll have 7 games in which they might contribute to Biggio's inevitably record setting HBP total, but they will not face him until July 23rd, when he will have most likely already passed the all time record for getting hit by pitches. Biggio has made it to July 23rd without being hit 6 times in a season in the past, but not since 1994.

If he is on the brink of the record breaking plunk 288 when the Dodgers visit Houston in July, Brad Penny might be the most likely Dodger to throw it. He led the Dodgers with 9 plunks last season, but he has never plunked Biggio. Two time Biggio plunker Greg Maddux left the team in the offseason, but they picked up Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf, Rudy Seanez, and Chin-hui Tsao who have all plunked Biggio once. The Dodgers active leader in career plunks is Derek Lowe with 60 plunks, followed by Wolf with 49 and Schmidt with 48.

The Dodgers should also be too late to participate in the 3000 hits milestone this season, although it's possible he could still be looking for that one in late July - if he gets about 25% less playing time, or decides to go after the single season plunk record so aggressively that he stops bringing a bat to the plate. Biggio's average season hit total as of July 23rd has been 97.5, though he only had 90 hits on that date in 2006. If he has 90 hits by then, he'll be looking to pass Rafael Palmeiro's career mark of 3,020 hits, and move into 23rd place all time.

If you already know that the 2006 Dodgers didn't hit Craig Biggio with a pitch, and for some reason you still care who they did plunk, here's the list: Garrett Atkins (twice), Brad Ausmus, Jason Bartlett (twice), Barry Bonds, Jeromy Burnitz (twice), Orlando Cabrera, Mike Cameron, Sean Casey, Jeff Cirillo, Ryan Doumit, Damion Easley, Johnny Estrada, Adam Everett, Sal Fasano, Prince Fielder, Chone Figgins, Cliff Floyd, Ryan Freel, Luis Gonzalez (twice), Shawn Green, Khalil Greene, Wes Helms, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday (twice), Conor Jackson (twice), Corey Koskie, Damian Miller, Albert Pujols, Mike Rouse, Aaron Rowand (twice), Jeff Suppan, Ryan Theriot, Shane Victorino and Eric Young. This knowledge will come in handy someday.


2007 Preview: San Diego Padres

Craig Biggio has been hit by 11 pitches since the last time the San Diego Padres did it, and last year the Padres made it through the season without plunking Biggio for the first time since 2002. They did hit 50 batters in 2006, and they plunked Barry Bonds 4 times so at least Russ Springer will be excited about the plunk-output of the Padres' pitching staff. No major league team plunked Barry Bonds more in 2006 than the Padres. However, although they won the NL West, 50 hit batters was the second lowest total in the National League. Clearly there is room for improvement, and Craig Biggio will have 7 games to try to help them out with that.

The Astros don't see the Padres until July 26th this year, but Biggio hasn't made it that late into the season without getting hit 6 times since 1994. As you may have heard, Craig Biggio needs only 6 more HBPs to break the all time record in that category - Hughie Jennings' 287. But, even if he has broken the record by the time the Padres get to throw baseballs toward him, each plunk after that sets a new record. In prior years, Biggio has been hit by a pitch 15 times on the dates that the Astros and Padres have games scheduled for this season, including his first HBP against the Padres. Calvin Schiraldi plunked Biggio on July 28, 1990.

The Padres were led by Chan Ho Park in the hitting batters category for the 2006 season (10 hbps), but he's moved to the Mets. Woody Williams was their second leading plunker (7 hbps), but he's pitching for the Astros this year. Mike Thompson also hit 7 batters for the Padres, making him their leading plunker among those returning with the team. They still have Shawn Estes, who plunked Biggio twice, and Jake Peavy who is a one time plunker of Biggio, but they've also added 2 time Biggio plunker Greg Maddux. Maddux has hit 125 batters in his career, but he faced 572 batters in '06 without hitting any of them.

As you may also have heard, Biggio needs just 70 more hits to become the 27th player to reach 3,000 career hits. (He'll also bring the letter B into a tie with C and M for most 3,000 hit players with that last initial - he'll be the 4th B in the club.) The chances of hit #3000 coming against the Padres look pretty small though. Biggio had 91 hits by July 26th last season, so he'd need at least a 24% decline in production to be on the brink of 3000 hits when the Padres come to Houston.

Judging by last years results, the best day of the week to get plunked by the Padres is Saturday - 13 of their 50 plunks were thrown on Saturday. They hit more batters in the second and third inning (8 each) than any other inning, and they while they didn't plunk any of the Astros, they hit Giants batters 10 times (though I suspect that after they plunked Barry Bonds 4 times, he demanded his teammates throw themselves in front of pitches to make him feel better).

The Padres hit Richie Sexson, Matt Murton, Jeromy Burnitz, and Mark Sweeney on Sundays in 2006; Shea Hillenbrand, Luis Gonzalez, Barry Bonds, Julio Lugo, and Aaron Rowand on Mondays; and Aaron Rowand, Kevin Frandsen, Carlos Quentin, Andre Ethier and Scott Rolen on Tuesday. They hit Eric Reed, Orlando Hudson, Barry Bonds, Chris Coste, Shane Victorino, Rickie Weeks, Corey Koskie and Matt Holliday on Wednesdays; Omar Vizquel, Jason Kendall, Chad Billingsley, Craig Counsell and Yorvit Torrealba on Thursday; and Russell Martin, Jose Guillen, Xavier Nady, Garrett Atkins, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Adam Dunn, John Mabry, Omar Vizquel and Jose Lopez on Fridays. On Saturdays, the Padres hit Freddy Sanchez, Carlos Quentin, Juan Rivera, Carlos Delgado, Jeff Francoeur, Adrian Beltre, Scott Spiezio, Kevin Frandsen, Barry Bonds, David Eckstein, Cliff Floyd, Andruw Jones and David Wright.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2007 Preview: Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals finished last in the NL East in 2006, but they finished first in the majors in hitting batters with pitches, plunking 92. Lets hope they don't see the connection in time stop throwing pitches that Craig Biggio can get hit by before he collects enough for the all time record.

The Nationals may be too late to contribute anyway, because they don't face the Astros until July 16th. That series will also, very likely, be Biggio's last chance to get hit by a pitch in RFK Stadium. RFK is one of only two NL stadiums currently in use where Biggio hasn't recorded a plunk, but the Nationals are moving to a new park in 2008. The Astros play 3 games in Washington in July, and the Nationals are scheduled to visit Houston for 4 games in August.

If they're planning on throwing a record breaking or record increasing plunk in one of those 7 games, they'll probably give the job to a new guy. Last year, Ramon Ortiz (18 plunks - 2nd in the Majors) and Tony Armas Jr (13 plunks) contributed the most to their league leading plunk total but both have them have left the team. Livan Hernandez was their only pitcher who plunked Biggio in 2006, but he didn't even finish the season with the team. They've added Brandon Claussen, who threw Biggio's 276th HBP last April for the Reds, but he is beginning the season on the Disabled List (he's expected back in late June, so he might show up in time if his rehab stays on schedule). They also have Jason Simontacchi in training camp, and he is being given a chance at a spot in their starting rotation. He hit Craig Biggio with a pitch twice in his career, and is the only pitcher to plunk Biggio on Friday the 13th.

As for Biggio's other goal for the 2007 season, the Nationals/Expos franchise has already contributed 164 of his 2,930 hits. He batted .300 against the Nats in 2006, including a 5 for 13 trip to RFK. Once again though, the 3000 hit mark is only 70 away, and the Astros don't see the Nationals until July 16th. Biggio hasn't made it to July 16th without having 70 hits on the season since 1989. The fewest hits Biggio has had on July 16th since '89 was 78 in the in 1995, when the season started late due to collective idiocy between the union and the league. Last year he had 89 hits by that date.

Aside from Craig Biggio, the Nationals plunked Brad Ausmus, Willy Aybar, Clint Barmes (twice), Jason Bay (twice), Mark Bellhorn, Carlos Beltran, Russell Branyan, Chris Burke, Pat Burrell, Melky Cabrera, Miguel Cabrera (twice), Jorge Cantu, Jeff Conine, Carlos Delgado, David Dellucci (twice), Matt Diaz (three times), Ryan Doumit, Adam Dunn, Damion Easley, David Eckstein (twice), Edwin Encarnacion, Andre Ethier, Sal Fasano, Prince Fielder (twice), Cliff Floyd, Jeff Francoeur (twice), Ryan Freel, Jason Giambi, Marcus Giles, Tony Graffanino, Wes Helms (twice), Jeremy Hermida (twice), Shea Hillenbrand, Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard, Chris Iannetta, Cesar Izturis, Conor Jackson, Reed Johnson, Andruw Jones (twice), Jacque Jones, Adam LaRoche, Jason LaRue, Travis Lee, Mike Lieberthal (twice), Paul Lo Duca, John Maine, Russell Martin, Nate McLouth, Melvin Mora, Eric Munson (twice), Miguel Olivo, Carlos Quentin (twice), Alexis Rios, Mike Rivera, Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand, Olmedo Saenz (four times), Miguel Tejada, Dan Uggla (twice), Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Josh Willingham (twice), Craig Wilson (twice), Preston Wilson, Randy Winn, David Wright (twice), Victor Zambrano, Gregg Zaun last year.

They hit 52 batters at home. 63 of their plunks connected with a right handed batter. They hit the most batters in August, with 25 (they'll be visiting Houston in August). Craig Biggio was the oldest batter that hit last year, but not the only over-40 player the Nationals plunked - Jeff Conine got hit by Ramon Ortiz two months after his 40th birthday. Melky Cabrera was the youngest batter they hit, at about 21 years 10 months.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

2007 Preview: Florida Marlins

In 2006, the Florida Marlins did not hit Craig Biggio with a pitch, but they were a young and inexperienced team building for the future. They hit 74 batters, and their staff ace Dontrelle Willis led the majors with 19 hit batters. No doubt inspired by Dontrelle's "veteran" leadership, rookies Ricky Nolasco (10) and Scott Olsen (7) combined to plunk 17 batters, good for 2nd and 4th place among rookies.
Any of those three would be a likely bet to throw the pitch if Craig Biggio is going to get plunked by the Marlins in 2007. They also have brought in Felix Rodriguez, as a non-roster invitee to training camp. He has hit 32 batters in his career - which isn't that impressive, but it still ranks 2nd on the Marlins. The 35 pitchers the Marlins had on their spring training roster this year have combined to throw only 173 plunks - 109 less than Biggio has received. The 21 players who actually threw a pitch for the Marlins in 2006 have a combined career total of 168 plunks.

The Marlins only have 5 games to contribute to Biggio's career plunk total in 2007, with a two game set in Houston, April 16th and 17th, and a 3 games in Florida at the beginning of August. If Biggio were to get the 6 plunks he needs to reach 288 by the end of the first Florida series, it would not be the fastest he's ever racked up 6 plunks, but it would be in the neighborhood. The game on the 17th is the Astros 14th of the season, and when Biggio passed the so called "modern record" it took him just 14 games to get the final 6 plunks (plunks 263 to 268 to pass Don Baylor). Getting to 3000 hits by then would require 5 hits per game, which is probably too much to ask. The August series will probably be too late for the Marlins to be the ones to throw the 288th plunk of Biggio's career or his 3000th hit, but that's just going by the rates at which he's accumulated stats in the past. It's always possible he'll slow down to build the suspense, like a true showman. Or, having a quality backup in Mark Loretta could mean he'll get a little less playing time, but I prefer the first theory.

If you feel like following another chase for 3000 hits, you might want to follow the Florida Marlins this season. Last year, the Marlins had 40 players who got at least 1 plate appearance for them, and their combined career total in hits is 2,858. So, the big question is, when will the Marlins field a team with 3000 career hits? The addition of Aaron Boone helps with that - he has 907 career hits, which is almost as many as the next two leading Marlins.

Here's how the career totals for the 2006 Marlins compare to Craig Biggio:

2006 Marlins*1322,85815111,09312,385597
Craig Biggio2822,93041010,35911,948637
* - This includes the career totals for the following 40 players who had at least 1 plate appearance for the 2006 Florida Marlins: Reggie Abercrombie, Chris Aguila, Alfredo Amezaga, Robert Andino, Joe Borchard, Joe Borowski, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Cepicky, Jeff Fulchino, Jose Garcia, Franklyn German, Wes Helms, Matt Herges, Jeremy Hermida, Paul Hoover, Mike Jacobs, Josh Johnson, Logan Kensing, Carlos Martinez, Randy Messenger, Sergio Mitre, Brian Moehler, Ricky Nolasco, Miguel Olivo, Scott Olsen, Yusmeiro Petit, Renyel Pinto, Hanley Ramirez, Eric Reed, Chris Resop, Cody Ross, Anibal Sanchez, Taylor Tankersley, Matt Treanor, Dan Uggla, Jason Vargas, Todd Wellemeyer, Josh Willingham, Dontrelle Willis, and Jason Wood.

As mentioned above, the 2006 Marlins did not plunk Craig Biggio but they did hit Clint Barmes (twice), Jose Bautista, David Bell, Carlos Beltran, Russell Branyan, Chris Burke (twice), Pat Burrell, Freddie Bynum, Marlon Byrd (twice), Miguel Cairo, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Church (twice), Royce Clayton (twice), Carlos Delgado (twice), David Dellucci, Matt Diaz (twice), Damion Easley, Pedro Feliz, Steve Finley, Cliff Floyd, Ryan Freel, Shawn Green (twice), Brandon Harper, Ryan Howard (four times), Damian Jackson, Nick Johnson, Andruw Jones (three times), Jacque Jones, Austin Kearns, Ryan Langerhans, Matt LeCroy, Paul Lo Duca (twice), Julio Lugo, Nate McLouth (twice), Doug Mirabelli, Yadier Molina (twice), Melvin Mora (twice), Abraham Nunez, Juan Pierre, Aramis Ramirez, Edgar Renteria, Mike Rivera, Chris Roberson, Freddy Sanchez, Jason Smith, Alfonso Soriano (twice), Chase Utley (twice), Shane Victorino (three times), Craig Wilson, Preston Wilson, Kevin Youkilis, Chris Young, and Ryan Zimmerman with pitches.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

2007 Preview: Atlanta Braves

Last season, the Atlanta Braves finished third in the NL East, and had their lowest winning percentage since 1990. On the plus side, they hit Craig Biggio once and and hit a total of 55 batters. That's not a franchise record, but it is more batters than they have ever hit since they've been known as the Atlanta Braves... or the Milwaukee Braves... or the Boston Braves. The Braves franchise hasn't hit 55 batters since 1911 when they were known as the Boston Rustlers, the year before they became the Braves. Hitting Craig Biggio once in a season ties their franchise record - they've never plunked Biggio twice in the same season, and Greg Maddux is the only pitcher who has plunked Biggio twice for the Braves.

The Braves have 4 pitchers on the roster who have hit Craig Biggio with a pitch before. Chuck James was the most recent pitcher to do so, throwing plunk 282 last September. Oscar Villarreal threw plunk 225 in 2003, Bob Wickman threw plunk 140 in 1998, and it's been nearly 15 years since John Smoltz handed Biggio his 14th plunk. Smoltz plunked Biggio on July 27th, 1992, so it will have been over 15 years by the time Houston and Atlanta meet for the first time this season, on July 31st. 1992 was also the last season in which Biggio made it to July 31st without recording his 6th HBP of the year, so that should be to late for the Braves to be the team to throw plunk 288, and he'll really have to slump or take a vacation if he wants to save his 3000th hit for the Braves. The Braves have already given up 174 of Biggio 2930 hits. If Biggio hasn't broken the record and the milestone by their second series against each other, when the Braves visit Houston, there may be panic in the streets and calls for a contract extension. The Astros and Braves once again play the last 3 games of the season against each other, but this year they'll be in Houston. Is it too early to hope one of those games might see the first player in recorded history to get hit by a pitch for the 300th time?

Aside from Craig Biggio, the 2006 Braves plunked Astros' Chris Burke, Willie Taveras, and Luke Scott. They also hit Bobby Abreu, Eliezer Alfonzo, Rocco Baldelli, Michael Barrett, Barry Bonds, Rob Bowen, Miguel Cabrera, Vinny Castilla, Brady Clark, Tony Clark, Craig Counsell (twice), Carlos Delgado, Chris Denorfia, Chris Duncan, Johnny Estrada, Cliff Floyd (twice), Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Brendan Harris, Nick Johnson, Jeff Kent (twice), Mike Lieberthal (twice), Hector Luna, Kevin Millar, Miguel Olivo, David Ortiz, Josh Paul, Brandon Phillips, Jorge Posada, Jason Repko, Jimmy Rollins, Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand, Carlos Ruiz, Miguel Tejada, Joe Thurston, Matt Treanor (twice), Chase Utley (twice), Shane Victorino, Jose Vidro, Josh Willingham, Randy Winn, David Wright (twice) and Ryan Zimmerman.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2007 Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

The 2006 Phillies finished with a record of 85 wins and 77 losses, and missed a wild card ticket to the playoffs by just 3 games. They also missed Craig Biggio in each of his 22 plate appearances against them.

The Phillies and Astros will play 6 games this season, with the Astros visiting Philadelphia on April 13th-15th, and the Phillies visiting Houston on July 2nd-4th. For Biggio to reach 3000 hits by the end of the Astros first series with the Phillies, he'd need to average 6 hits a game for the first 12 games of the season, which would probably be some kind of record. But, Biggio has been hit by a pitch 6 or more times in a 12 game span 14 different times, most recently between July 5th and 18th of 2001, so it is not out of the question that he'll have passed Hughie Jennings' 287 HBP mark by the time the Astros leave Philadelphia on April 15th. But, it's not too likely.
When the Phillies visit Houston in July, Biggio will probably have already passed 3000 hits, but he could still be looking for plunk 288 if he's getting hit at the rate he did last season. But, if you have tickets to one of those games and you're hoping to see Biggio get his 3000th, it's not out of the question if the Astros rest him more in the early part of the season than they have in the past. Biggio's 6th HBP of the 2006 season was recorded on July 8th, and his 5th of the season on July 2nd, so the Phillies could have a several opportunities to throw the record breaking plunk if 2007 unfolds similarly.

If the Phillies do hit Biggio with a pitch, whether it is a record breaking plunk or just another step toward it, Ryan Madson may be the most likely candidate. He hit 10 batters last season, leading the Phillies. They also have Jon Lieber, who hit 6 batters last year and is the only pitcher on the roster who has plunked Biggio before, and Jamie Moyer who has hit 112 batters (9th among actives). Lieber, Moyer and Madson also combined to give up a combined 600 hits last year. Biggio has batted .282 with 171 hits against the Phillies during his career, though last year he was just 1 for 21 against them. Both of last year's series against the Phillies fell during Biggio extended hitless slump, though he did break out of it with one hit against them.

Though they didn't plunk Biggio, the Phillies hit 3 Astros batters last season - Chris Burke once and Willie Taveras twice. They also plunked newly acquired Mark Loretta once, and threw 8 of their 62 plunks at second basemen in 2006. They hit Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks 3 times, but if they were targeting any particular position, it looks like it was catchers. 15 of the Phillies 62 plunks - nearly 25% - hit catchers last season, and both times they hit the same batter twice in a game, it was a catcher.

Here's the full list of batters hit by the Phillies in 2006:
Alfredo Amezaga, Danny Ardoin (twice), Josh Bard, Clint Barmes, Carlos Beltran, Chris Burke, Marlon Byrd, Eric Byrnes, Miguel Cabrera (twice), Jose Castillo, Ramon Castro, Ryan Church, Royce Clayton, Carlos Delgado, David Eckstein, Johnny Estrada (twice), Prince Fielder, Jeff Francoeur, Kevin Frandsen, Shawn Green, Jose Guillen, Ramon Hernandez (twice), Conor Jackson, Damian Jackson, Derek Jeter, Nick Johnson (twice), Andruw Jones, Jacque Jones, Austin Kearns, Paul Lo Duca, Mark Loretta, Nick Markakis, Luis Matos, Brian McCann (twice), Nate McLouth, Aaron Miles, Lastings Milledge, Melvin Mora, Bill Mueller, Trot Nixon, Miguel Olivo (twice), Hanley Ramirez, Edgar Renteria, Alex Rodriguez, Cody Ross, Dave Ross, Brian Schneider, Alfonso Soriano, Willy Taveras (twice), Rickie Weeks (three times), Josh Willingham (twice),


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

2007 Preview: New York Mets

The New York Mets made it to the 9th inning of the 7th game of the NLCS last year, before losing to the Cardinals last season, but coming so close to the World Series was probably only slightly more disappointing than their failure to hit Craig Biggio with a pitch during the 2006 season.

The Mets finished tied for 12th in the Majors in the category of hitting batters last year, with a total of 62 plunks thrown by 18 different pitcher. Having 18 different pitchers throw at least one plunk ties a franchise record, and 62 total hit batters is the 2nd highest total in Mets history. Of those 62 plunks, 41 were thrown at Shea Stadium, while just 21 were recorded on the road. They hit just three Astros's batters (Lance Berkman, Adam Everett and Luke Scott) in 2006, but they also plunked Alfredo Amezaga, Jose Bautista (twice), Barry Bonds, Miguel Cabrera, Brady Clark (three times), Chris Coste, Johnny Damon, David Dellucci, Matt Diaz, Ryan Doumit, David Eckstein, Andre Ethier, Choo Freeman, Jason Giambi, Marcus Giles, Todd Greene, Jose Guillen (three times), Scott Hatteberg, Wes Helms, Aaron Hill, Ryan Howard, Nick Johnson (twice), Andruw Jones (twice), Brian Jordan, Austin Kearns (twice), Felipe Lopez, Mark Loretta, Nick Markakis, Brian Moehler, Chad Moeller, Melvin Mora, Trot Nixon, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Reese, Edgar Renteria, Jimmy Rollins (twice), Aaron Rowand (three times), Freddy Sanchez, Alfonso Soriano (three times), Dan Uggla (twice), Chase Utley (twice), Rickie Weeks, Bernie Williams, and Randy Winn.

Craig Biggio has been plunked 18 times by the Mets in his career, and of his 2,930 career hits, 147 were recorded against Mets' pitchers. The Astros and Mets don't face each other until July 5th this season, but unless Biggio takes some time off, or struggles at the plate, he should be past the 3000 hits milestone by then. Last season, Biggio recorded his 70th hit on June 18th. If he doesn't get there by the time they face the Mets, it will be the latest into a season he's gone without recording 70 hits since 1995, when he notched his 70th hit on July 5th, oddly enough. However, the 1995 season started late due to the labor dispute. 1989 was the only other (full) season in which Biggio did not have 70 hits by the beginning of July.

But, if you're hoping to see Biggio record a milestone against the Mets, they may be visiting Houston at just the right time to throw plunk 288, if he gets hit at about the same rate he did in 2006. Last year, he got plunked for the 6th time of the season on July 8th, which is the final day of the Mets' visit to Houston.

14 of Biggio's 18 plunks against the Mets have come in odd numbered years, so 2007 should be productive. The Mets's 2007 roster includes 5 past plunkers of Biggio, including Chan Ho Park, who's done it 3 times. Park and Pedro Martinez are 4th and 5th among active pitchers on the hit-batters list, with Park at 126 and Pedro at 129.


Friday, March 02, 2007

How many arms does it take?

As you've probably noticed by now, Spring Training is underway, and 30 Major League teams are tuning up for the 2007 season. From a look at the rosters for each team, there are 907 different pitchers trying out for a chance to throw baseballs at people at the Major League level. Among those 907 pitchers are 74 of the 212 pitchers who have hit Craig Biggio with a pitch. Last year, there were 79 pitchers invited to spring training who had previously hit Craig Biggio with a pitch, and 72 of them made a good enough impression that they got to pitch in the majors in the '06 regular season.

26 teams have at least one pitcher in camp who have plunked Biggio, including all 16 National League teams. The Nationals are the only NL team without a member of the Biggio-plunkers club on their 40 man roster, but they do have Brandon Claussen and Jason Simontacchi in camp as non-roster invitees. The only team on the Astros' 2007 schedule who doesn't have someone in camp who has hit Biggio before is the White Sox.

Obviously though, there is a first time for everyone to hit Craig Biggio with a pitch - since 212 pitchers have hit him, you can safely assume that he's been hit 212 times by pitchers who have never hit him before. Last year, 7 of Biggio's 9 plunks were thrown by first timers. At least 6 pitchers who had never done it before have plunked Biggio in each of the last 15 seasons and in 16 of the last 18 seasons. 2 or more new plunkers have emerged in 18 consecutive season.

So, among those 907 pitchers in major league camps, a handful will become first time Biggio-plunkers this season. One will throw the record breaking plunk 288. One will throw the pitch that becomes Biggio's 3000th hit. And if last year's trend continues, more pitchers will have a chance to do those things than ever before. In the 2006 season, 486 different pitchers hit a batter. That breaks the previous record of 480 set in 2004. 635 different players made a pitching appearance last year, which is also an all time record, breaking the 2004 mark of 632. Teams seem to be using an ever increasing number of pitchers and spreading their workload thinner - the average pitching appearance in 2006 lasted just under 2-1/3 innings, making it the first year pitchers averaged less than 7 outs per appearance. In 2006, teams used an average of 3.85 pitchers per game continuing a clear trend over the last 30 years. In 1980, teams used 2.56 pitchers per game; in 1990 they averaged 3.02; and in 2000 the average was up to 3.54 pitchers per game. It looks as though the average game will require over 4 pitchers per team by 2010, and in 100 years the trend suggests we'll be seeing 1 pitcher per inning.

Here's the full list of pitcher who have hit Craig Biggio with a pitch who are participating in 2007 spring training:

Arizona: Juan Cruz, Livan Hernandez, Jorge Julio, Jose Valverde, Brandon Webb

NY Mets: Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Martinez, Chan Ho Park, Dave Williams

Atlanta: Chuck James, John Smoltz, Oscar Villarreal, Bob Wickman

Cincinnati: Bronson Arroyo, Todd Coffey, Brian Meadows*, Paul Wilson*

Colorado: Aaron Cook, Josh Fogg, Danny Graves*, Dave Veres*

LA Dodgers: Jason Schmidt, Chin-hui Tsao, Randy Wolf, Rudy Seanez*

Milwaukee: Chris Capuano, Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Matt Wise

Oakland: Dan Haren, Joe Kennedy, Jay Witasick, Erasmo Ramirez*

San Diego: Greg Maddux, Jake Peavy, David Wells, Shawn Estes*

Saint Louis: Chris Carpenter, Josh Kinney, Braden Looper, Kip Wells

Texas: Joaquin Benoit, Scott Feldman, Vicente Padilla, Jamey Wright*

Chicago Cubs: Jason Marquis, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano

Pittsburgh: Shawn Chacon, Salomon Torres, Kevin Gryboski*

San Francisco: Matt Morris, Russ Ortiz, Sun-Woo Kim*

Toronto: A.J. Burnett, John Thomson, Geremi Gonzalez*

Baltimore: Kris Benson, Chad Bradford

Cleveland: Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook

Houston: Jason Jennings, Brian Moehler*

NY Yankees: Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Villone*

Washington: Brandon Claussen*, Jason Simontacchi*

Boston: Matt Clement

Detroit: Chad Durbin

Florida: Dontrelle Willis

LA Angels: Hector Carrasco

Philadelphia: Jon Lieber

Seattle: Miguel Batista

*- Non-roster invitees

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