FanPost

Danny Espinosa - the most plunked rookie in Nationals franchise history

Normally I like to wait a while before I get too excited about a new player's ability to get hit by a lot of pitches.  There's a fine line between showing an exceptional willingness to not get out of the way of pitches, and a quick trip to the disabled list.  But for a select few, this is a skill, and one that can be used (almost) safely.  Craig Biggio, to use the most extreme example, got hit by 285 pitches, but was only pinch-run for after a plunk once, and never missed a game due to a plunk-related injury.  It's still early in Danny Espinosa's career... but we're seeing signs of greatness there.  Greatness at being hit by  pitches.

Yesterday, Espinosa took his 11th and 12th HBPs of the season.  That makes him the most plunked rookie in Nationals/Expos franchise history, breaking FP Santangelo's record of 11 set in 1996.  Here are the most plunked rookies in the history of the franchise:
Danny Espinosa (2011, 59 games) - 12
FP Santangelo (1996) - 11
Fernando Seguignol (1999) - 7
Vlad Guerrero (1997) - 7
Mark Grudzielanek (1995) - 7
Wil Cordero (1993) - 7

He's already tied for the the 16th highest single season total in franchise history, and while there's very little chance that he's going to come close to Ron Hunt's franchise record of 50, he's currently on a pace that would put him over the 30 plunk mark.  Since Hunt's 50 plunk year, only Don Baylor, Craig Biggio, Jason Kendall and Craig Wilson have cracked the 30 HBP mark.  However, HBPs don't usually take kindly to that kind of linear projection.  They're unpredictable - prone to show up in bunches, and disappear for long stretches... particularly when one of them sends a batter to the DL.

Since 1969 when the Expos came into existence, only 11 batters have been plunked 12 times in their team's first 59 games.  Espinosa makes 12.  Of the others, 3 were Montreal Expos.  7 were 2nd basemen.  Don Baylor, Ron Hunt, Craig Biggio and Jason Kendall account for 8 of those seasons, and those four guys have been plunked 1049 times.  They're 4 of the top 6 of all time, with Hunt being the least plunked among them at 243 career HBPs.  The other three batters to get hit 12 times in their first 59 games in recent history are Chase Utley (3 time league HBP champ), Fernando Vina (157 career HBPs, two time league HBP champ), and FP Santengelo (mitchell report alumnus, who had a couple of good HBP years).  Of those 11 previous batters who got hit 12 times in the first 59 games of their season, only once did that player fail to reach 24 HBPs for the season.

If Espinosa gets hit 11 more times, he can break the MLB (post-1900) rookie record for plunks - 22 by Charlie Babb in 1903.  If he only gets hit 10 more times he can break the 21st century rookie record (21 by David Eckstein in 2001) and the rookie record for teams in Washington DC (21 by Bucky Harris for the 1920 Senators).  If he gets hit 18 more times, he can break the all time rookie record, which stands at 29 HBPs, by Tommy Tucker in 1887 in the old American Association.

So because of all this, I'm not rooting for Espinosa to get hit by a pitch - I'm rooting for him to get hit by a lot of pitches.  That means he has to take each one safely - he's not going to break any records if he starts breaking bones.  Getting plunked in the face or the wrist tends to lead to a short career, and that's not the goal here.  The goal is a long and plunkful career.

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