Bumped to the front page -- because it's good to celebrate Rays history.
Since the Rays joined the league in 1998, only one team has hit more opposing batters than they have - the Red Sox. The Rays have hit 990 batters, and the Red Sox have hit 1,050 since the league expanded to 30 teams. But 139 of the HBPs the Red Sox have thrown were tossed by Saint Timothy Wakefield, the high priest of the benevolent plunking. If you exclude those 60mph plunks, the Rays have a commanding lead in the field of hitting batters during the span of their existence. The Rays have hit 401 more batters than the Braves pitching staff has, since 1998.
But, despite all those plunks, no Rays pitcher hit more than 43 batters in his career with the team before yesterday. Prior to this year, only Ryan Rupe and Victor Zambrano hit 40 batters while pitching for Tampa Bay. Rupe hit 42 batters from 1999 to 2002, and Victor Zambrano broke his record, hitting 43 batters from 2001 to 2004. Zambrano broke Rupe's record on July 25, 2004, hitting Reed Johnson.
Zambrano's record didn't quite live to see its 8th birthday. James Shields hit John Jaso in the first inning yesterday, pushing his career total to 44 - a new record for career plunks by a Rays pitcher. That's a remarkable accomplishment, because Shields doesn't really hit very many batters, compared to the rest of the league. He averages one plunk every 129 batters face - the median rate for pitchers who have hit at least one batter is one plunk every 113 batters faced. The average for that group is one plunk every 115 batters faced. Since 2006, Shields ranks 25th league wide in plunks, well behind AJ Burnett's 69 hit batters in that span.
Among Shields' 44 plunks, he's hit every American League team except the Indians and Rangers. And he's hit batters on the Marlins, Phillies, D-backs and Astros in the NL. He's hit the Red Sox most often, with 6 plunks against Boston. Shields has hit 19 batters in home games, and 25 on the road. The average age of batters Shields has hit is 30.7 years old, and he's hit batters ranging from 23.46 years old (Hanley Ramirez) to 39.1 years old (Jorge Posada). He's hit Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira and Travis Hafner twice, but he hasn't hit any other batter more than once. Shields has hit 12 batters on Fridays, but only 3 on Mondays, and he's hit 13 batters in June but only 2 in September.
The Rays are now the only team with an active player at the top of their career HBP list for both the batting and pitching category. The Red Sox had that last year, before they let Wakefield retire and traded Youkilis.
The Rays career leaderboard for hit batters is below. (Regular season only)
Also of note, as of the end of last night's game, there have been 997 HBPs recorded in Tropicana Field history. You could see the 1000th plunk in park history as soon as tonight. I like to think they'll stop the game and have a little ceremony for the occasion.