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There are only eight pitchers in modern baseball who have hit over 22 batters in a season. (We’ve done it twice: a turn-of-the-century mainstay for the Philadelphia A named Eddie Plank.) And until this year, the band was easy to understand, woven together by a few obvious common threads.
All of these pitchers had finished their careers before the Great Depression. All were typical workaholic starters of their day: each pitched at least 200 innings with over 25 starts in the season as they hit as many batters. There was less commonality when it comes to finer points here – a few of the eight were otherwise great pitchers, two of whom went on to become Hall of Famers, and a few weren’t at all. – but there was at least some consensus on these basic facts. It wasn’t difficult to sketch out a prototype of the type of guy that had gone past 22 RAPs: a launcher from the deadball era, perhaps a generally loose cannon playing in an era when control was lacking. hardly valuable, recording many innings and ending with many successful batsmen as a result. All of these pitchers match the type.
Until this year. Because this year, for the first time in almost a century, a launcher has passed 22 RAPs, and it doesn’t exactly meet any of the aforementioned criteria.
He is not a product of his time; teams use an average of 35 pitchers per season. He’s a reliever. He pitched less than 50 innings with a few weeks of the season to go. His name is Austin Adams and he’s on the verge of a very strange and somewhat scary story.
After hitting three batters in one inning on Sunday – his second multi-hit per pitch game of the month – Adams has 23 RAP in 48 2/3 innings. It’s hard to accurately describe how amazing it is. “No one has done this for a hundred years” may sound like a good start. But that doesn’t translate to what’s more bizarre here, which is that it’s not happening for the first time in decades, but is happening from a reliever, from someone who has faced only a fraction of as many hitters as the pitchers who did a century ago. Looking only at the raw counting statistic, Adams sits near the top of the HBP rankings: again, at 23, he’s one of eight pitchers to have hit so many batters, and it’s with the weeks that ‘it still remains in the season. He already holds the hit-by-pitch record for the Expansion Era, since 1961, by a considerable margin. (It seems unlikely that he could reach the modern record of 32, set by Chick Fraser in 1901, but then again, given that he reached Three in a single run a few days ago it might come closer than you think.) And when you look at that as a rate statistic? Adams was, literally, almost off the charts.
We will only compare him to his peers to make things easier. Here are the 200 pitching seasons with the greatest RAP / PI ratios (minimum of 20 innings) with the two numbers plotted against each other. As you can imagine, all the pitchers who got such a high ratio are either relievers or starters who cut seasons short for one reason or another, with none of them registering more than 80 innings: these are the launchers that most closely resemble Adams. They represent the extreme here. They group together according to an obvious pattern. And Adams is always a clear and ridiculous outlier, with the largest APR / PI ratio in history:
Adams is the one in red. But you already knew that.
(Curious about the other notable outlier? The point with 11 RAP and 24 innings pitched is a 41-year-old Orel Hershiser in a shortened attempt in a final season.)
It’s hard to find an answer on what went wrong for Adams. The Padres reliever is 30, in his fifth season in the major leagues, and he’s never approached anything like this before. (His previous blow-by-blow season record was… one. It’s the first time he’s been hitting multiple hitters in a year, and boy, has he ever done that.) If you ignore all of them RAP, he’s probably having a solid season. its best ever. This is the first time he’s had more than 40 innings of work in the major leagues, and he did so with a personal best 3.51 ERA. But, of course, you can’t ignore all PCRs. All 23 came to his cursor, but that’s only because cursors make up a large majority of his pitches in the first place, 88%. There is no discernible pattern in when he’s more likely to slip and hit someone: seven of the 23 RAPs were first throws, eight were counted as two shots, and the other eight were located. somewhere in between. He hit left-handed and right-handed people almost tied:
It’s not a record that anyone wants to chase. At best, it suggests a breakdown in the mechanics, a breakdown in order, a game that escapes completely. At worst, it suggests meanness, something much darker. (“He’s a slider, he’s not meant to hit anyone,” receiver Austin Nola told reporters in San Diego after Sunday’s tough outing. “It’s just one of those cursors that have so much turn that… sometimes it’ll back up and hit guys. ”) Adams sure wouldn’t like to be here, but he did take the story.
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