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.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.