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).