Impasse: Marathon Plate Appearances

Brandon Belt last Sunday turned in a 3 for 5 afternoon, including a home run, to lead his Giants to a 4-2 win over the AL West-leading Angels. But, the talk of the game was not Belt’s three hits or his home run, but rather his first inning line out on a 3-2 pitch, the 21st pitch of that AB. That is the most pitches in a single plate appearance since MLB started officially recording such things in 1988. More after the jump on marathon plate appearances.

That wasn’t the only long PA of Belt’s day; his 3rd inning single on a 1-2 count came in the 8th pitch of his AB, and his 5th inning home run on a full count was the 9th pitch of that AB. Perhaps drained by those confrontations, Belt went after the first pitch on each of his last two ABs, drilling a single to right and flying out to left.

Here are the longest recorded pitcher-batter confrontations (my thanks, as always, to for making these data available).

Belt’s marathon PA breaks the previous record 20 pitch AB in 1998, ending with a swinging strikeout by Bartolo Colon, the only such conclusion to these 17 longest battles between pitcher and batter. That encounter broke the previous record of 19 pitches, established in the first year that pitch counts were recorded, an epic struggle between defending CYA winner Steve Bedrosian and All-Star outfielder Kevin Bass.

These longest PAs are among over 2500 of 12 pitches or more recorded since 1988, as show below.Notwithstanding the increasing number of games due to expansion (from 26 to 28 teams in 1993, and from 28 to 30 teams in 1998), these events have grown in frequency, with just one season before 2000 with a count above 80, and every season since above that level, including 16 of those subsequent 18 years at 90 or higher.

With those large pitch counts, it’s hardly surprising that most of these PAs (86.5%) have concluded on a full count, with the balance ending on 2-2 (12.6%) and 1-2 (0.9%). Walks and strikeouts are the most common conclusion, accounting for 45.6% of these events, almost evenly split between whiffs (22.4%) and free passes (23.2%). When a ball is put in play, the fielders, understandably on their heels after the long battle, have performed a bit below normal in posting a collective .957 fielding percentage. Hits resulted from 18.7% of these battles, with those comprised of 57.6% singles, 21.4% doubles, 2.5% triples and 18.5% home runs. Overall, batters have posted a .245/.425/.452 slash in these encounters.

High pitch PAs can occur at any point of a game, though the 8th, 9th and 1st innings respectively show the three highest totals, each above 11% of these events, with extra inning occurrences amounting to 12.4% of the total. These events occurring in the 12th inning or later are shown below.Included in the above games is the WOHR earlier this season by Belt’s teammate Andrew McCutchen.

The players below have recorded the most 12 pitch PAs since 1988.
14 – Ichiro Suzuki
13Todd Helton
12 – Ken Griffey Jr.
11Jason Giambi
10Kevin Millar, Derek Jeter
9 – Martin Prado, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Jay Bell, Johnny Damon, Jeromy Burnitz, Carl Crawford. Carlos Beltran
8 – Scott Rolen, Roberto Alomar, Ronny Cedeno, Juan Uribe, Jonathan Lucroy, Curtis Granderson, A.J. Pierzynski, Brian Roberts, Bill Mueller, Brady Anderson
The most 12 pitch PAs recorded in one season are four by Chris Sabo (1990) and Ichiro (2002).

For pitchers, the list looks like this.
12Pete Harnisch, Jack McDowell
11David Wells
10 – Russ Springer, Jon Garland, Justin Verlander, Jason Johnson, Doug Davis
9 – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Vicente Padilla, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, John Lackey, Andy Pettitte, Aaron Harang
8 – Tom GlavineTyler Clippard, Rick Helling, Johnny Cueto, Kenny Rogers, Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, Glendon Rusch, Bartolo Colon
Tyler Clippard is notable in making this list as a reliever; his 8 career 12 pitch PAs represent a frequency one per 357 batters faced. The most 12 pitch PAs recorded in one season are four by Pete Harnisch (1990) and Frankie Rodriguez (1996). Relievers leading the majors with at least three 12 pitch PAs include Kirby Yates (2017), Tyler Clippard (2014-15), Ernesto Frieri (2013) and Jonathan Papelbon (2010).

The most 12 pitch PAs in a game is 3, all by the Twins when they lost 6-4 to Tampa Bay on Apr 23, 2002. There have been 60 other games with a pair of 12 pitch PAs, 28 games with one team having both and 32 with each team having one. These eight players have had two 12 pitch PAs in the same game.Kudos to Tim Raines for hanging in there for 12 pitches (and drawing a walk) with his team trailing 10-1 in the 9th.

Five of the players with two 12 pitch PAs in the same game recorded both of them against the same pitcher. To those can be added these six players with a pair of 12 pitch PAs against the same pitcher in different games.Also notable are Nolan Ryan‘s two 12 pitch PAs against Ken Griffey, Jr. and Sr.
To close, these are the batters and pitchers with the best lines in 12 pitch PAs, with a qualifying minimum of 5 such PAs.


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e pluribus munu
The unwritten history is now written. I suspect you have produced the definitive exploration of this topic, Doug. I remember reading as a boy a novel about a player who batted 1.000 because he was able to foul so many pitches that he walked every time but one (naturally, the one was a HR in the final game: it was a kid’s book). Belt’s AB brought that book back to mind. One tangential item caught my attention, because it illustrated the limits of using some stats for small databases. In your final list of the most successful marathoners, you rank… Read more »

One thing that surprised me is how two free swingers like Ichiro and Griffey would be at the top of the list. Perhaps a case of fouling off pitches instead of taking ball four.

Among the more unlikely batters to record multiple 12 pitch PAs is Pedro Martinez, both in 2008 and both ending with a swinging strikeout. One came against Zach Duke, who extended another HOFer (a future one) for 12 pitches: Albert Pujols.

Mike L

Aren’t there two types of free-swingers: The ones who hack at anything (sometimes with their eyes closed) and the ones with exceptional bat control? Berra, for example, never walked more than 66 times in any season, and never struck out more than 38 times.

Paul E

last year, 5 qualified hitters had more BBs than SOs. Votto, with 36, had the most homers and all 5 had more than 20 HRs.

Mike L

To show just how much times have changed, I randomly picked the 1950 Yankees (Berra, Jerry Coleman, Rizzuto, Woodling, DiMaggio) all of whom had more BB than Ks. 1950 Red Sox had seven, if you include Williams, who had 416 PA


As to the two types of free swingers, absolutely agree. I would put Ichiro and Griffey in the “good bat control” group, even though each had just one season with more walks than whiffs. Griffey put up decent walk totals (three seasons above 90, and five more above 75), while Ichiro has avoided too many strikeouts (just two seasons above 75 whiffs, and none above 90) with a career strikeout rate just a tick above 10%, third lowest among 51 active players with 5000 PA.

Voomo Zanzibar

Tyler Olson shattered a record in 2017.
Most Games Pitched with an ERA of Zero:

30 … Tyler Olson
14 … Erik Gunderson
14 … Mike Hinckley
12 … Bob McClure
12 … Evan Scribner
11 … Erick Threets


And of course that dominance continued into 2018 – by which I mean he gave up a HR to the second batter he faced. This baseball stuff is hard to predict, ain’t it?


In addition to the ERA of zero, he didn’t allow any unearned runs, so his RA was also 0.00. He went most of the season without letting any inherited runners score, either, though he did eventually allow 2 of them (out of 17 total inherited runners) to cross the plate, both in the same game.


Indians split a double-header today with Toronto, and scored 11 runs in each game. That makes three straight games for Cleveland with 11 tallies, the 79th such streak since 1908 and 7th for the Tribe. Only 10 of the previous 78 also included a loss, the last by the 2010 world champion Giants.

Richard Chester

In recent Yankee games Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge have batted in the number 1 and number 2 positions in the lineup. Those are the first times Aarons have batted in those positions. From 1871 to 1990 there were 4 MLers with a first name of Aaron. Since then there have been another 36.

Paul E

Hail to the Levite

Richard Chester

Here’s something I just read on Twitter. The Yankees W-L record is currently 22-10. There have been 17 other seasons in which they have won 22+ of their first 32 games. In 13 of those seasons they won the WS and in 3 of them they won the pennant but lost the WS. The other time was 1994 when the season was cut short by a strike. But they were in first place when it did end. Order your WS tickets now!


I saw a 15-pitch at-bat by Dave Martinez to lead off a game at Wrigley in June 1989. Around the 9th pitch, I said “He’s either waiting for a walk or one he can hit out of here.” On the 15th pitch, he found the centerfield bleachers (or at least the basket). He hit three homeruns that season — two of them that afternoon.


Just wanted to mention that there are many games from 1988-1998 that have all or some pitch counts missing. Here is the list by year by my count. These are number of team games.

Year Missing
1988 87
1989 141
1990 341
1991 1
1992 4
1993 204
1994 166
1995 288
1996 487
1997 347
1998 8