After first couple of months in the 2016 season, it looked like the Cubs were going to break the all-time single-season wins record of 116, set by their 100-years-ago selves and the 2001 Mariners. However, after a sub-optimal stretch that saw them go 6-15 to finish the first half, the odds seem to have plummeted.
But it’s still too early for Cubs fans to give up the hope for the ultimate triumph, as there is another area of the game in which they are likely to set a new single-season mark, though it comes at the expense of a little pain.
Anthony Rizzo is well known for his tendency to get hit by pitches. Last year, the first baseman was hit by a pitch 30 times, which was the seventh-highest single-season mark since 1901, tied with Craig Wilson in 2004. Throughout his career, he has been plunked 71 times, making him one of the only three players with more than 70 hit by pitches through their age-26 seasons, along with Jason Kendall, who had an astronomical 104 and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who had 77.
Whatever Rizzo is infected with (standing close to the plate, mostly) appears to have spread through the entire club like a plague, as if like a disease that turns players into baseball magnets. On Wednesday afternoon, a Bartolo Colon fastball got a piece of Addison Russell’s jersey, giving him the fifth hit by pitch of his season. It was also the 63rd for the team as a whole, in first 94 games of the year, or on pace for 110 on the season.
Since 1913, which is as far as Baseball-Reference’s Play Index can go back, no other teams have been hit by pitches at a higher rate than the 2016 Cubs through this point of a season. They are two ahead of the 1996 Blue Jays, who wound up with 92 that year, tied for 5th-highest mark in last 100 years. The 2008 Indians, the all-time single-season record holders with 103, had had a mere 57 through the first 94 games that year. In other words, the Cubs have a decent chance to set a new record in this mold.
For individual players, Rizzo has been plunked 13 times so far this season and is on track for his third consecutive 15-HBP campaign, and second straight with 20 or more. Should he be joined by Kris Bryant, who has 11 as of this writing and Dexter Fowler, who has about as many and is reportedly close to coming back from a DL stint, they would become the fourth 15-HBP trio on the same team since 1901.
Furthermore, five other Cubs have been hit or gotten very realistic shots at being hit by a pitche five times. If it happens, they’ll be just the 18th team to have at least eight players hit by pitches five or more times in a season, as you can see in the list below.
Of course, getting hit by pitches is not necessarily a good modus operandi to win the championship. But this is a trend worth paying close attention to. And when the Cubs clinch the long-awaited title, it can be a nice side story to go with.
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports.