Wednesday, August 27, 2008

milestone shyness

Any day now, the Colorado Rockies are going to throw their 1000th plunk in franchise history. However, now that they're so close to the historic milestone, they've suddenly decided on a unilateral cease fire, and they're stuck at 998. The Rockies are in the midst of their 7th slowest month ever, in terms of handing on HBPs per batter faced. They've hit just 5 batters this August. They've only had 3 full months in franchise history in which they hit fewer than 5 batters - two were in 1993, their first year in existence, and one was September of 2001 when they might have been feeling particularly pacifistic. They haven't hit anyone since August 15th, and only the White Sox have gone longer without hitting an opposing batter.

If the Rockies can hold out another 7 years without hitting two more batters, they can avoid becoming the quickest expansion franchise to hit 1,000 batters, and probably the quickest ever. Previously, the quickest 1000 plunks among the post-1960 expansion teams was thrown by the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners hit their 1000th opponents on July 22, 1999 (John Jaha), in their 23rd season in existence, but the Rockies will make it in just 16 seasons - again, assuming they can't make it the rest of the year without hitting 2 batters. Even without Craig Biggio's help (34 hbps vs the Rockies), they would have probably done it in 17 seasons. Of the senior citizen franchises, the quickest was the Detroit Tigers, who reached 1000 plunks thrown in 1919 - their 19th season. It's probably no coincidence that all-time HBP king Hughie Jennings managed the Tigers from 1907 to 1920. HBP stats for pitchers weren't kept very accurately back then, but they're probably close enough to go with 1919 as the season the Tigers reached 1000. It's a little more difficult with the NL teams that existed prior to HBPs being tracked at all, but particularly given the shorter schedules of the 19th century seasons, we can be pretty sure that the Rockies will be the first franchise to hit 1000 batters in their first 16 seasons.

The Rockies aren't the only ones having trouble getting over an HBP hump though. The Astros are creeping slowly toward 2,000 HBPs collected by it's batters in franchise history - but they've only been hit 39 times this year, and they're stuck at 1,994 at the moment. They've actually picked up the pace a little, getting hit 13 times so far this month, after only 10 in June and July combined.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is one plunk away from tying the Padres single season HBP record, but he's been one plunk away from tying the Padres single season record since July 8th. He has the longest active plunk drought of any player with 10 or more HBPs this season by 15 days. Jason Kendall, who's supposed to be chasing the all time HBP record, has the second longest drought among those with double digit plunks, having been left un-plunked since July 23rd. He's stuck at 229 HBPs, which is one short of tying Dan McGann for 6th place on the all time list.

Maybe they've all been waiting for the right time though. Starting Friday, the Rockies will be playing the Padres, so maybe the Rockies could cross the 1000 plunk mark by hitting Kouzmanoff twice, for the Padres record. Or, if the Rockies can hold out another week, and the Astros can make up some ground by September 5th, they could coordinate the Astros 2000th batter hit with the Rockies 1000th plunk thrown.

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