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 baseball-reference.com 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
13 – Todd Helton
12 – Ken Griffey Jr.
11 – Jason Giambi
10 – Kevin 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.
12 – Pete Harnisch, Jack McDowell
11 – David 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 Glavine, Tyler 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.