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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