The Cubs are Getting Hit By Pitches at a Historic Pace

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.  

Rk Year Tm Lg #Matching
1 2006 Pittsburgh Pirates NL 11 Jose Bautista / Jason Bay / Jeromy Burnitz / Sean Casey / Jose Castillo / Ryan Doumit / Chris Duffy / Nate McLouth / Xavier Nady / Freddy Sanchez / Craig Wilson
2 2008 Cleveland Indians AL 10 Casey Blake / Jamey Carroll / Shin-Soo Choo / David Dellucci / Ben Francisco / Ryan Garko / Franklin Gutierrez / Travis Hafner / Kelly Shoppach / Grady Sizemore
3 2006 Arizona Diamondbacks NL 9 Eric Byrnes / Craig Counsell / Damion Easley / Johnny Estrada / Luis Gonzalez / Shawn Green / Conor Jackson / Carlos Quentin / Chad Tracy
4 2005 Washington Nationals NL 9 Carlos Baerga / Jamey Carroll / Vinny Castilla / Ryan Church / Jose Guillen / Nick Johnson / Brian Schneider / Brad Wilkerson / Preston Wilson
5 1998 Toronto Blue Jays AL 9 Jose Canseco / Carlos Delgado / Tony Fernandez / Darrin Fletcher / Alex Gonzalez / Shawn Green / Ed Sprague / Mike Stanley / Shannon Stewart
6 1911 New York Giants NL 9 Art Devlin / Josh Devore / Larry Doyle / Art Fletcher / Buck Herzog / Fred Merkle / Chief Meyers / Red Murray / Fred Snodgrass
7 1908 New York Giants NL 9 Roger Bresnahan / Al Bridwell / Art Devlin / Mike Donlin / Larry Doyle / Buck Herzog / Tom Needham / Spike Shannon / Fred Tenney
8 2011 New York Yankees AL 8 Robinson Cano / Brett Gardner / Curtis Granderson / Derek Jeter / Russell Martin / Alex Rodriguez / Nick Swisher / Mark Teixeira
9 2010 New York Yankees AL 8 Robinson Cano / Francisco Cervelli / Brett Gardner / Derek Jeter / Austin Kearns / Jorge Posada / Nick Swisher / Mark Teixeira
10 2006 Philadelphia Phillies NL 8 Chris Coste / David Dellucci / Ryan Howard / Mike Lieberthal / Jimmy Rollins / Aaron Rowand / Chase Utley / Shane Victorino
11 2002 Boston Red Sox AL 8 Johnny Damon / Brian Daubach / Nomar Garciaparra / Shea Hillenbrand / Lou Merloni / Trot Nixon / Manny Ramirez / Jason Varitek
12 2001 Milwaukee Brewers NL 8 Ronnie Belliard / Jeromy Burnitz / Geoff Jenkins / Luis Lopez / Mark Loretta / James Mouton / Richie Sexson / Devon White
13 2001 New York Mets NL 8 Benny Agbayani / Edgardo Alfonzo / Matt Lawton / Joe McEwing / Jay Payton / Desi Relaford / Tsuyoshi Shinjo / Todd Zeile
14 1998 Boston Red Sox AL 8 Mike Benjamin / Darren Bragg / Nomar Garciaparra / Scott Hatteberg / Darren Lewis / Troy O’Leary / John Valentin / Mo Vaughn
15 1909 Philadelphia Athletics AL 8 Home Run Baker / Jack Barry / Eddie Collins / Harry Davis / Paddy Livingston / Danny Murphy / Rube Oldring / Ira Thomas
16 1907 Boston Doves NL 8 Johnny Bates / Dave Brain / Al Bridwell / Del Howard / Tom Needham / Newt Randall / Claude Ritchey / Fred Tenney
17 1905 New York Giants NL 8 Frank Bowerman / Roger Bresnahan / Bill Dahlen / Art Devlin / Billy Gilbert / Dan McGann / Sam Mertes / Sammy Strang

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.

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