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.



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