The Year’s Longest Plate Appearance

Technically, or literally, the year’s longest plate appearance was probably this one, in which a visiting Miguel Cabrera insisted upon the re-drawing of the batter’s boxes. The discussions and subsequent work by the groundskeepers caused something like a nine-minute delay before Cabrera flew out on the very next pitch. So that’s one way of looking at this, but that’s probably the most annoying way of looking at this. Let’s look at this in a more standard way.

On May 12, 2004, Alex Cora batted against Matt Clement in the bottom of the seventh in Los Angeles. The first pitch was a ball, the second pitch was a strike, the third pitch was a ball, and the fourth pitch was a strike. The next 14 pitches were also all strikes, and the 18-pitch at-bat culminated in an Alex Cora home run. Even though video highlights are no longer widely available — I remember first seeing this on RealPlayer — this at-bat has stuck with me ever since. Sometimes I forget the number of pitches, but I always remember Alex Cora, Matt Clement, a long at-bat, and a home run.

So I have an interest in unusually long plate appearances, and I have an interest in the longest plate appearances of the year. I wondered what might have been the longest plate appearance of 2012. If you’re like me, or if you’re like my colleague Dave Cameron, you might think the longest plate appearance of 2012 was this one by Ryan Braun:

That’s 14 pitches and a home run, against Fernando Rodriguez on August 1. That was one of the longest plate appearances of the year, but that was not the very longest plate appearance of the year. It turns out the longest plate appearance occurred on July 5, between Juan Francisco and Matt Garza. There were two outs in the bottom of the first in Atlanta, and Garza had already allowed four runs, thanks to a pair of dingers. With no one on, Garza walked Andrelton Simmons on nine pitches. Garza retired Francisco to prevent any more damage in the inning, but it took him 16 pitches to do it. That was the season’s longest plate appearance, by one pitch.

I tried to make a .gif, but it wound up being too large to upload to the site. There’s one clue that the plate appearance was really freaking long. (Another clue: the number of pitches.) In lieu of a .gif, here is an image that is about seven stories tall:

Not only 16 pitches to home plate — also three pick-off attempts to first base. Those pick-off attempts aren’t completely negligible. Garza would’ve wound up worn out. Francisco would’ve wound up worn out. And Simmons would’ve wound up worn out, because look at all of those Foul (Runner Going)s. Ten of them, including nine in a row, before the ball in play. Simmons then immediately had to get his glove and play shortstop. If there’s anything that could make Andrelton Simmons a subpar defensive shortstop, it’s probably preceding the defense with about six minutes of wind sprints.

It was a full count after six pitches. Garza threw six full-count breaking balls with Francisco being an aggressive hitter and the Braves’ pitcher waiting on deck. Francisco kept battling, and even the groundball was only very barely fair. This could’ve gone on longer. This could’ve been way shorter — the seventh pitch was only barely touched — but this could’ve gone on way longer.

There’s an idea out there that long at-bats wear the defense down by causing lapses in concentration. It’s hard to maintain focus if a plate appearance just won’t end. I don’t know if that idea truly applies to big-league defenders, but it seems to apply to big-league ball boys:

By the end, the Braves’ dugout was having the time of its collective life, which made sense given that Garza couldn’t get Francisco out and the Braves were already on top by four runs:

Garza did finally get Francisco out to end the inning. Garza’s inning lasted 44 pitches, and here’s where I remember to tell you that the official game-time temperature was 96 degrees. This was Atlanta, Georgia at the beginning of July. The Cubs didn’t score in the top of the second, and then Garza had to go right back to work. He lasted four innings in all.

That’s not the end of it. Garza faced three batters in the second, and four batters in the third. He faced Francisco again in the bottom of the fourth, and walked him. The walk took 12 pitches. Previously, Garza had faced Francisco three times in his career, all on September 5, 2011. In that game against Garza, Francisco went 0-for-3, seeing a total of 11 pitches. Against Garza on July 5, 2012, Francisco saw 12 pitches and 16 pitches. They were the longest two plate appearances of Francisco’s 2012 season. They were the longest two plate appearances of Garza’s 2012 season. They were consecutive Juan Francisco/Matt Garza plate appearances.

We close. Francisco grounded out on five pitches against Scott Maine in the sixth. He came up to bat again in the eighth. From the Atlanta broadcast:

Francisco stood in against Manny Corpas, who was seen warming up in the Cubs’ bullpen during Francisco’s first plate appearance all the way back in the bottom of the first. Francisco, to that point, had seen 33 pitches over three plate appearances. Francisco’s plate appearance against Corpas:

First-pitch dinger! At 443 feet.

In the game, Juan Francisco faced a total of 34 pitches. In no other game in Juan Francisco’s big-league career has he faced more than 23 pitches. Against Matt Garza, Francisco had his two longest plate appearances of the season, and he had the longest plate appearance of the season in all of baseball. Ryan Braun hit a home run after 14 pitches. Scott Rolen drew a walk after 15 pitches. Juan Francisco grounded out sharply after 16 pitches. It wasn’t as epic as Alex Cora’s 18-pitch at-bat, but it was epic still, if a plate appearance can indeed be epic, which it probably cannot to be honest.



Print This Post



Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
AJ
Guest
AJ
3 years 9 months ago

How the heck did Francisco of all people have the longest AB…baseball is a funny game.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 9 months ago

Was Jayson Werth’s walk-off playoff home run on pitch #13 or 14?

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro
3 years 9 months ago

i remember rafael palmeiro fouling off 17 pitches in a row with 2 strikes. dont know what the total pitch count for the at bat was, but it had to be over 20.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
3 years 9 months ago

I’m guessing that the last 5 or 6 of those “runner going” were more like “runner takes a few half-hearted steps towards second, sees the ball go foul and rolls his eyes while mouthing ‘not this sh!t again!'”

Yaz
Guest
Yaz
3 years 9 months ago

Was at the game. I did wonder if it was that at-bat when I saw the title of the piece. By about the 10-11 pitch the crowd really woke-up and started getting into the at-bat, hoping for it to continue. I will remember it for a long time, especially as the player in question was the Juan Francisco and the complete improbability of him of all people having a long at-bat.

Jarvis
Guest
Jarvis
3 years 9 months ago

I remember watching that at bat live on TV. The exasperated & almost hopeless look on Garza’s face was priceless. Len & Bob announcing it were all in. I think it was like a 41 pitch inning. Crazy.

David G
Guest
David G
3 years 9 months ago

44 pitches if you read the article.

Ron
Guest
Ron
3 years 9 months ago

The great thing about Mr. Sullivan’s posts are that there are usaully pictures and moving pictures so I don’t have to read. In my day we didn’t need to read to know baseball.

Jarvis
Guest
Jarvis
3 years 9 months ago

Ahh, I don’t know how to read David G. Forgot how.

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro
3 years 9 months ago

i believe you meant: thank you david G for politely pointing out the correct info that was right in front of me that i didnt notice.

Choo
Member
3 years 9 months ago

A 33-pitch, run-on sentence punctuated by a first-pitch, 443-foot exclamation point. How awesome is that. I hereby declare July 5 “Juan Francisco Day.” On the morning of July 5th, as the damp sulfuric aroma badgers ill feelings concocted of booze, sun, smoke, chlorine, and legion of grilled meats, we shall be cleansed by memories of Juan Francisco. Plus a shower, two Gatorades, breakfast and coffee.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
3 years 9 months ago

Even though there’s something inherently entertaining about long plate appearances, I can’t help but feel for the pitcher. I feel like I’m watching the screws come out of his arm.

d240z71
Guest
d240z71
3 years 9 months ago
big red machine
Guest
big red machine
3 years 9 months ago

Not to knock Alex Cora and his 14 year MLB career, but that has to be one of his career best highlights… that was an amazing AB. Thanks for the link!

chief00
Member
chief00
3 years 9 months ago

Everything about this clip is terrific including, and perhaps especially, Vin Scully’s commentary. NB his comment at 5:07–>”That’s one of the finest at bats I’ve ever seen.” How long has he been ‘around’ MLB baseball…?

wily mo
Member
3 years 9 months ago

i liked the part at the beginning where he talked about how cora is 0 for 2 with 2 fly balls which is a waste of time because he has no power. foreshadowing!

Dr.Miraculous
Guest
Dr.Miraculous
3 years 9 months ago

I was at the game in Atlanta on July 5th 2012, and it was one of the most miserably hot and humid days I have seen in a long time, even by Braves home game standards.

Everyone in the crowd was soaked with persperation just from standing for the national anthem. Not an exaggeration, as the humidity was higher than the 96 degree heat.

The crowd was aware of the long at bat, the extended full count and repeated foul balls with the runner going. When the out was finally made the fans gave hearty applause for the long face off.

It was big moment in a good game, and definitely didn’t go unnoticed by the fans.

B N
Guest
B N
3 years 9 months ago

I’ve always wondered about the viability of the strategy of wearing down a pitcher by having a lineup of grinders: guys who foul off a ton of balls. On very tough pitchers, so long as you can take pitches, then make contact and keep the ball off the field, you can theoretically knock out an elite pitcher earlier and get into a softer bullpen. I saw the Red Sox manage that against Roy Halladay a few years ago (2007?) when he was on the Jays and always wondered if that strategy was intentional or if it just happened by coincidence.

Graham
Guest
Graham
3 years 9 months ago

I’ve long been curious about this as well — I’ve never seen a study of whether there is any correlation between pitches per plate appearance and scoring runs / winning. The Giants did a good job of running up pitch counts during the 2012 playoffs, and certainly, various Yankees and Red Sox teams of recent vintage have had reputations for this (and have also been successful).

Anybody know of any data or surveys on this?

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 9 months ago

I think most good hitters do this to a degree, so you generally see this from teams with good offenses. Of course, I think what you are suggesting is to somehow accumulate a group of bargain pieces who are unusually good at this considering their overall talents. The old-school moneyball players might be the closest thing to this. Bobby Abreu probably couldn’t slug .350 in 2013, but he could probably manage to see 5 pitches per PA.

joser
Guest
joser
3 years 9 months ago

The trouble is, a lot of bullpens aren’t “softer” — they’re actually tougher than the starters. They just don’t go for many innings. So it might work out for you in later games, if the bullpen gets burned out, but not necessarily help in the game you’re actually in.

The other thing is, if there was a guy who was consistently really good at this, he’d just start getting IBBs unless the guys behind him were threats… which they wouldn’t be if they were just “grinders” also. And nobody is consistently good enough at this to make this a strategy — more often than not, he’ll chase strike 3 in the dirt (especially now that lots of pitchers have a split-finger or similar pitch in their back pocket).

wily mo
Member
3 years 9 months ago

i also still think about that cora/clement AB. it’s not just you

James K
Guest
James K
3 years 9 months ago

Interestingly, following that start, Garza pitched only 10 more innings before being shut down for the rest of the season. Can’t help but wonder if the injury was connected to the stressful pitch counts that game.

Ziggythebeagle
Guest
Ziggythebeagle
3 years 9 months ago

After reading this I came to the conclusion that you are a real life Sheldon Cooper ????.

wpDiscuz