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Friday, July 07, 2006

Plunking Biggio

In my BP column earlier this season I took a three part look at the history and theories that have been posited to explain fluctuations in hit by pitches. At the time I didn't know about the site George Will recently referenced in one of his columns at the start of the season.

Michael Bourn needs to get out more. A database programmer in Nashua, N.H., he created the Web site that tells everything--
really, everything--about the 273 times that Craig Biggio of the Astros has
been hit by a pitch, the modern major-league record.

On average, Biggio's plunks have occurred 493 feet above sea level, up 36 feet after two plunkings last year in Denver. The shortest pitcher to hit him? Byung-Hyun Kim (5 feet 9 inches). The average age and weight of the plunking pitchers are 28.5 and 200.22. He has been hit most often by pitchers whose astrological sign is Sagittarius, but more Leos have hit him. He has been hit 15 times while Tiger Woods was on Sports Illustrated's cover. In 1997, the Dow rose an average of 28.63 on trading days after Biggio was hit. And on, and on.

Why does Bourn do this? "It is better than following Ruben Sierra's approach to the sacrifice-fly record." (Sierra is nine short of Eddie Murray's 128. Feel the excitement.) An obsessive-compulsive fascination with numbers is an occupational hazard of baseball fans. Baseball, unlike games of flow such as hockey, soccer and basketball, is a series of episodes that encourage quantification. This week, baseball resumes its prodigious production of numbers in another season of 2,430 games with 21,870 innings and approximately 700,000 pitches during 166,000 at-bats. The rage to quantify--to reduce reality to measurable units--is an impulse in modern

And aren't we all glad that our society has such an impulse?


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