Could the Astros Exceed 83.5 Hit by Pitches?

Alex Bregman warming up for the Houston Astros

No one’s very happy with the Astros right now. While most players have chastised Houston’s sign-stealing strategy, there are a select few who have suggested retribution. Take Braves outfielder Nick Markakis, for instance:

“I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating,” the veteran told reporters (via ESPN.com). “It’s wrong. They’re messing with people’s careers.”

That quote apparently got the oddmakers thinking, as SportsLine set an Astro’s hit-by-pitch over/under at 83.5. For comparison’s sake, that wouldn’t come close to reaching the modern-day record set by the Indians in 2008, when they were plunked 103 teams. The actual record belongs to the 1898 Baltimore Orioles, who took a whopping 148 pitches (in only 149 games).

Further, the over/under total isn’t all that far off from the team’s hit-by-pitch totals from recent years. Over the past three years (or, since the Astros emerged as legitimate, annual contenders), the squad has consistently exceeded 60 HBPs:

  • 2019: 66
  • 2018: 61
  • 2017: 70

Considering the clear target the organization will have throughout the 2020 season, it’s not crazy to think that they’ll be able to get to 84 hit by pitches. In fact, we wouldn’t be shocked if they approach 100. The only thing that could hold them back is the fact that Houston should still be competitive; I’m a bit skeptical that opposing pitchers will willingly put runners on base (although I doubt they’ll be swayed by Astros manager Dusty Baker’s opinion).

The real question is if a player can reach Ron Hunt’s modern-day record of 50 hit-by-pitches, which he set in 1971 (Hughie Jennings has the official record of 51 set in 1896). This will probably be tough, but we’ve seen a few players make a run at it in recent years. Brandon Guyer was plunked 31 times in 2016, and Anthony Rizzo was hit 30 times in 2015.

If any singular Astros player was going to set the record, it’d probably be Alex Bregman. The infielder has averaged more than 9 HBPs over the past three seasons, and his outspoken nature could lead to an increase in plunkings.

At the very least, we’ll all have a reason to watch some more Astros baseball next season.

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