Thursday, June 30, 2005

« Biggio's new record probably stings a bit »

By Suss
Don't rub it. It'll sting more.

Biggio grimaces after being hit by Byung-Hyun Kim Wednesday, setting the modern HBP record. (
Craig Biggio has heard that from commentators for 268 times, the most recent time being Wednesday when he was hit by a Byung-Hyun Kim pitch on the elbow.

Biggio is known for his arm brace to catch a few extra balls. But he's a great hitter and now that arm brace that caught HBP #268 will go to the Hall of Fame, for that pitch broke the modern-era record for being hit the most times by a pitch in a career. The previous record of 267 was set by Don Baylor two decades ago. The overall record has yet to be broken, which is 287 held by Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings, who played from 1891-1918, and was last hit by a ball in 1903.

'88-'94: 3808 plate appearances, 36 HBP = once about every 106 AB
'95-'05: 7188 plate appearances, 232 HBP = once about every 31 AB

What happened between '94 and '95? The baseball strike. Clearly this had a direct impact on Biggio getting hit more. The pitchers were upset over not working for a few months and took it out on the Astro second baseman.

Or not.

Biggio's average and power numbers also went up starting in the '95 season.

You gotta hand it to the man. It's even more believable that he's taken all those hits, and yet he's only been on the DL once his entire career. He's also stayed with the same team his entire 17-year career, an active record.

He was a good sport when Jeff Kent came into town, so he moved from second base and played center field for a season and a half. He even moved to left field in 2004 when they traded for Carlos Beltran in midseason. And with both gone, he's back at second base. Many other players would have demanded a trade, but Biggio stuck with Houston and has gained the respect of many baseball purists for it.


As he continues on his "quest" to be hit by #288, is his record safe?

Besides Biggio, seven other players have been plunked at least 100 times. Of those, Oakland catcher Jason Kendall is the youngest and has the most at 177 HBPs and 31 years old. On average, he gets hit about 20 times a year. If he plays eight more years, he will be as old as Biggio is currently and just might surpass 300 HBPs. But if Biggio plays a couple more years, he may eclipse the 300 mark as well.

Not exactly A-Rod chasing Hank, but it's something to watch out for in eight years.


HBP record aside, there's a good case for and against.

For: Should reach 3,000 hits by 2007. Over 4,000 times on base. Six All-Star appearances. Four Gold Gloves. Only been on the DL once. Has played full seasons as a catcher, infielder and outfielder. When he gets 13 more doubles, he will reach 600, making him only one of five players with 600 doubles and 400 stolen bases (Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Paul Molitor). On base average (.372) is about average for HOFers.

Against: Never in the top 3 of MVP. Career .286 hitter, only four seasons were above .300. 1,500 strikeouts; only two HOFers have 1,500+ strikeouts and fewer than 450 homers (Lou Brock and Tony Perez) and Biggio -- with 244 -- has far less homers than either them. Less than a career .200 postseason average*, never played in a World Series and probably never will.

Biggio might want to call Jim Rice and ask what it feels like to be a candidate on the fence with the hearts of future ballot voters.

*EDIT: Changed from "Less than a career .200 average."