Thursday, May 24, 2007

Biggio vs active leaders

The news from Phoenix tells us that Randy Johnson will miss tomorrow's start against the Astros, denying Craig Biggio a chance to be plunked by the Major League's active plunk leader for the first time in his career, and denying the fans a chance to see a pitcher vs batter matchup in which the pitcher's plunks thrown and the batters plunks received add up to 464.

Randy Johnson has never plunked Biggio, and they haven't faced each other since June 26, 2002. At that point, Johnson was 3 hit-batters behind Roger Clemens for the lead among active pitchers. Johnson would take the lead before the end of the season, but hasn't faced Biggio since. Roger Clemens faced, and plunked Biggio in the '98 all star game, but that was before Clemens took the active lead in plunks, and all-star game plunks don't really count anyway. The last time Biggio faced the active leader in hit-batters in a regular season game was August 25, 1993 against Charlie Hough, who had hit 162 batters at that point. Biggio had been plunked just 26 times, but he never got hit by Hough.

The closest Biggio has come to being plunked by the active plunk leader was on May 20, 2000. Oral Hershiser plunked Biggio twice, tallying his (Hershiser's) 113th and 114th hit-batter, but Roger Clemens was sitting just ahead with 117 batters plunked. Kevin Brown, who would plunk Biggio later that year for his 110th hit-batter, was in 3rd place on the active list at the time, but would tie Hershiser by the end of the year. Brown would record his 129th hit-batter against Biggio on September 3, 2003, making that the highest plunk total achieved by any pitcher on a plunking of Biggio, but he was behind Clemens and Johnson on the active plunk list by then.

The last time any active leader in hitting batters hit the active leader in getting hit was on June 16, 1989 when Bert Blyleven plunked Chet Lemon. That was Blyleven's 138th hit-batter and Lemon's 143rd hit-by-pitch.


As mentioned above, Johnson's hit-batter total and Biggio's HBP total add up to 464 plunks. Their has been only one time in baseball history when an active batter and active pitcher finished a season with that many plunks between them - in 1909, Hughie Jennings played 2 games while his record sat at 287 plunks, and Chick Fraser pitched his one final game, with a career total of 177 plunks - for a total of 464. They didn't face each other though, because Jennings was in the AL and Fraser the NL. Cy Young may have faced Jennings that year, with as many as 155 plunks under his belt, for a total of 442 between them. The highest plunk total for a batter/pitcher matchup that we actually know for sure happened was last season, on August 11, 2006 when Biggio, with 280 plunks, faced Chan Ho Park who had hit 126 batters, for a total of 408.

On September 28, 1988, the active leader in hitting batters, Bert Blyleven recorded his 133rd career plunk, which landed on Don Baylor for his 267th plunk. Obviously, Baylor was the active leader, but that plunk also gave the two of them a combined 400 plunks thrown or received (not counting the two times Blyleven was hit by pitches). None of the possible matchups lifted in the previous paragraph resulted in plunks. The only matchups that might have produced a plunk where the batter and pitcher had collected more plunks are nearly 100 years ago. Dan McGann may have been hit by Chick Fraser in 1908 when the two of them ended the season with a combined total of 407 plunks, or McGann could have been hit that year by Joe McGinnity for a maximum total of 412 if they recorded their last plunk of the season against each other. Hughie Jennings record his final plunk in 1903, and only 1 that year. It might have been thrown by Chick Fraser, who finished the season with 149 hit-batters, or Ed Doheny who got up to 132 plunks. But the highest total Jennings last plunk could have created, when added with the pitcher's total who hit him, would have been 436. Biggio and Johnson could have hooked up for Biggio's 284th and Johnson's 182nd, for a total of 466, or more if Johnson hit someone else before Biggio, or plunked Biggio more than once.

But, Johnson had to go and miss the game because he's got tendinitis, denying the opportunity for a truely unique moment in baseball history.

I guess Biggio probably won't be too sad about it though...

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