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),