Carlos Quentin: Best Ever?

Some players make their name for prodigious power and hit home runs in five consecutive games like Paul Konerko. Other players are known more for their feet and steal bags in four straight like Juan Pierre did earlier this year.

But, among these great luminaries of our time, there is one White Sox player who threatens to be the best ever at what he does: Carlos Quentin. That’s right, in more than 2,200 plate appearances, Quentin is already threatening the top of a certain leaderboard.

Yes. Carlos Quentin just might be the best hit-by-pitcher of all time. Since 2000, no one has managed to be hit in as many as four games in a row. Quentin was once hit in six games in a row, and is second on that same list with three straight earlier this month. To put that in context with his teammates in that same time frame, 11 people have hit home runs in more consecutive games than Konerko, and 26 players have stolen bases in more than four games in a row. In terms of streaks, Quentin has shown he is the king of his team.

Since his debut in 2006, Chase Utley has out-HBP-ed Quentin 113 to 90, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Utley had 956 more trips to the plate in which to earn his raspberry. Seen as a rate stat, Quentin has been plunked in 3.98% of his plate appearances — Utley is only at 3.34%. Give Quentin Utley’s plate appearances, and he’d have as many as 135 HBPs.

Set the plate appearance threshold at 200 plate appearances since 2006, and no one has been hit as frequently as Quentin. By a reasonable margin, too. The closest to Quentin, Reed Johnson, would have at least ten fewer HBPs if he’d amassed as many plate appearances. Or put it this way: Johnson is the only one within .5% of Quentin’s pace, but there are seven players who are within .5% of Johnson.

While it’s some sort of accomplishment to take one for the team at a faster pace than anyone in the late aughts, it’s more impressive when you zoom out even further. Since 1900, only one player has ever been plunked at a faster rate than Quentin. F.P. Santangelo managed to be hit in 4% of his plate appearances. Then again, Santangelo’s career is over. He was actually hit by pitches 83 times to Quentin’s 90, and he only leads the rate stat by .016%. If we give Quentin the slightest extra credit for the volume of his painful experience, he’d move into the lead.

Craig Biggio gets the nod for most hit-by-pitches of all time with 285. Don Baylor is second with 267. Give Carlos Quentin Baylor’s 9,401 plate appearances (not even Biggio’s 12,504), and Quentin would have 374 plunks on his resume. Biggio only managed to be hit in 2.28% of his plate appearances. Should Quentin last as long, and continue the pace, he will easily own the title as Best Hit-By-Pitcher Ever.

Of course, that only creates more questions. Is this really a skill? Is there an ideal plunking pace? The more you get hit, the more time you miss, as we’ve noticed with Quentin and Fernando Vina before him. With the negative health value factored in, how much less valuable is a hit-by-pitch to your team compared to a walk? Also, what role does body armor have in this conversation? Those are all things to consider.

So is it time for HBP+? I think we know at least one player who would say yes.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

44 Responses to “Carlos Quentin: Best Ever?”

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  1. Aaron says:

    Danny Espinosa is one to watch – currently at 3.23% (14/434). However he probably needs to cut down on the K’s before he’ll get more of those juicy inside pitches to lean into.

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  2. Temo says:

    Quentin also set a minor league record with 43 HBP’s across 2 levels in 2005.

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  3. Temo says:

    I also wonder if Chipper Jones has one the lowest HBP %’s of anyone in baseball history. He’s been hit 17 times in nearly 10,000 PAs– or about 0.17% of his PAs.

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  4. Person says:

    This year’s MLB HBP leader Danny Espinosa has been hit 4.3% of the time (14/322).

    I think Ron Hunt should have been mentioned in this article–after all, the man got hit 50 times in 1971 and led the Majors in HBP 5 years in a row. He got hit 3.94% of the time during his career, and a whopping 7.8% of the time in that record-smashing 1971 season (50/638).

    And I imagine HBP can be a “skill” in that I would think a player must have some control over getting out of the way, especially on the slower wayward stuff.

    On that note, and this would probably be hard to study, but I wonder if getting hit by breaking balls or changeups is any less hazardous to a ballplayer’s health than fastballs. If that were the case, then you’d have both means and motive to “try” and get hit by non-fastballs.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I had a mention of Ron Hunt that didn’t quite fit the flow of the article. What I said was this – he was the only person in the top ten that was hit more than 3% of the time. So he was really Quentin-esque. Still, Quentin will pass him even if he slows his pace.

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  5. TheGrandslamwich says:

    I don’t catch many (closer to any) White Sox games so brief question:

    Does Quentin use a Bonds-ian style elbow guard so he can just hover over the plate or does he take it like a man?

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  6. Rick says:

    Step 1. Be a big dude
    Step 2. Stand on top of the plate
    Step 3. Don’t move when pitches are coming at you
    Step 4. ?????
    Step 5. Profit

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  7. Ryan says:

    Players need to be more creative. How about Juan Pierre, who has a RC+ of 63? He has a his career bunting average is .338. He’s clearly underperforming based on his talents. He should have a triple slash line of .338/.338/.338 Bunt – every time! He also led the league in HBPs last year, so he should occasionally lean into one to bring up that OBP line.

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  8. Baltimore Chop says:

    “Craig Biggio gets the nod for most hit-by-pitches of all time with 285.”

    What about Hughie Jennings? Or are we not including the 9 from the AA?

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    • Elwin says:

      It’s because the cutoff used was 1900 and most of Hughie’s HBP were in the 1890s. But I’d say a cutoff that eliminates Hughie Jennings is a flawed cutoff. He had 2 more HBP than Biggio in less than half the PA. He was hit in 5.08% of his PA.

      Hughie Jennings is still the King.

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  9. Joel says:

    I thought Crazy Carl would be top of the list, because he essentially stood on top of the plate, but he only checks in with 1.6%.

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  10. brendan says:

    it bothers me that players aren’t penalized when the fail to dodge out of the way of a pitch. I beleive the rulebook says players must make an effort to avoid being hit. but I have never seen that rule enforced.

    did anyone here ever see an ump rule that a player ‘didn’t try to avoid being hit’?

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    • test says:

      I’ve seen it, although I can’t recall exactly where. It was a ball that hit the jersey after the player didn’t move…I can picture the replay closeup clearly, but can’t remember the player. I think it was also with the bases loaded, which is the one situation where almost every player would “take” the HBP if they could.

      I think getting out of the way is trumped by protection, so players aren’t expected to jump or hit the ground at balls in the middle of their bodies. But on marginal pitches only a few inches inside, I would like to see it enforced. If a ball isn’t over the batters box, then a player shouldn’t get credit for being hit, especially (and this is the one that bugs me) on check swings or bunts. Venture your arms over the plate at your own risk!

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    • JoeyPajamas says:

      I definitely called some little bastards out on it when umpiring little league games in my teenage years and was once ruled against for not attempting to move in a varsity game my junior year. That 50 MPH curveball was just too easy to not get hit by.

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    • James says:

      Joe Crede was called out on it once when he was with the White Sox. I don’t recall the game situation, but I think remember it was an inside curve that looked like it might get him, and when he realized it wouldn’t, he stuck his elbow out a bit farther and got hit. Ump was on it right away.

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    • Paul C. says:

      I saw the ruling once. I’m a Cubs fan, and it was the Cubs player who was disqualified. I think it may have been Glenallen Hill. The timing seems about right.

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  11. mattinm says:

    @brendan – Nyjer Morgan just the other day. In transit so can’t look it up right now, but he ended up striking out so it was pretty memorable.

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  12. J Rich says:

    Biggio didn’t add the HBP to his game until several years into his career. Just think of the numbers he could have reached had he started sooner.

    Greatest ever implies a high peak and a longevity at that peak. Q so far has had a nice HBP rate, but will be interesting to see if he can keep it up for as long as some of the other top HBP names. It also would seem like the more HBPs the more risk for injury, which could be another deterrent for players hitting all-time HBP numbers.

    Anyone know if Q wears Bondsian armor up to the plate to lean in to a pitch, or is he relatively unprotected?

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  13. mikecws91 says:

    Quentin gets hit so much because he bats on top of the plate in an exaggerated crouch that makes it hard for him to move out of the way. Also, it’s lazy to imply that the correlation between Quentin’s HBP count and injuries is meaningful; he’s had Tommy John, a torn labrum, a self-induced broken wrist, and plantar fasciitis since being drafted in 2003.

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  14. craig says:

    Nyger did indeed get called for not getting out of the way, but it was a terrible call. The pitch was pretty far inside and high so he turned his back to protect himself and got hit. he really did not have much of a chance to Dodge it. Nyger somehow kept his cool but the Brewers manager and hitting coach both got tossed

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  15. smb says:

    NYJER…it’s a J, I believe.

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  16. smb says:

    wouldn’t correct it but it looks really bad with a G

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  17. Mike says:

    I wrote about hit by pitches on my blog a couple years ago. I used data on active players and found that there wasn’t a correlation between HBP rate and how good a hitter was (used wOBA, OBP, SLG, and AVG). HBP rate did correlate for individual players, which suggests that there is some “skill” involved. It would be interesting to research more what that “skill” could be, since the reason doesn’t seem to be how good of a hitter the player is. You can read what I wrote here:

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  18. camisadelgolf says:

    Jason LaRue was hit in 4.12% of his PAs from 2002-5.

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  19. oneblankspace says:

    I was listening to an Indians game a few years ago while driving when a player was hit as he swung at strike three. Since he swung, it was a strike; since it hit him, the ball was dead and he did not get to advance to first when the catcher didn’t catch it.

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  20. Phantom Stranger says:

    The best way to regularly get hit is to do what both Quentin and Utley do at the plate. Stand right on top of it, and have your scouting report say the best way to get you out are fastballs up and in. When runs and getting on base are even more precious in a low-scoring environment, it is an unappreciated skill.

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  21. nolan says:

    Very strange that Espinosa leads the league in HBP rate this year considering he’s a switch-hitter.

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    • Ian R. says:

      Doesn’t that make sense? Being a switch-hitter means he bats lefty against right-handers and righty against left-handers, which means 99% of the breaking balls he sees will be breaking in, not away. I suppose it looks odd since none of the historical HBP heavyweights were switch-hitters (excluding 19th-century players), but then switch-hitters are fairly rare in general.

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  22. Jason says:

    As a Yankees fan I see Jeter get hit all the time. I think he leads the Yankees in HBP many years. He accrues tons of plate appearances though, so his rate may not be that high. ….or it might be biased perception based upon John Sterling always yammering on about how ofter Jeter gets hit every time it happens.

    ….I hope it’s the latter.

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  23. cardhorn says:

    Carlos was a college teammate of mine. He was hit FIVE times in one game in 2002 at Florida State. It was awesome. Almost certainly still a record.

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