Kendall needs 40 more HBPs to break the record. There is a bit of confusion around the record, because many media outlets reported that Craig Biggio broke the "all time" hbp record when he was hit for the 268th time, on June 21, 2005, passing Don Baylor's total. But that was only the Modern era HBP record. Hughie Jennings got hit 287 times between 1891 and 1903, and the record still stands 107 years later. Craig Biggio came close to cracking it, but decided he'd had enough after 285. But if Kendall can get hit another 40 times, the record is his - no "modern record" designation, no "post 1900" record, just one all time unified HBP record.
I just wanted to stop by Royals Review to congratulate the Royals on signing Jason Kendall. Lots of teams go out and bring in the hired gun - a veteran pitcher or accomplished batter late in his career. Lots of teams go out looking for a veteran catcher - the one they think will bring out the full potential of a young pitching staff. That's what the Royals say they got in Kendall. But what you've really got is the Hired Target. Not a professional hitter, but a professional at getting hit with a career total of 248. With the professional target, you also get his pursuit of the all time major league HBP record - one of the longest standing records in baseball. That chase is going to put fans in the seats, and draw the national spotlight to Kansas City just as it did in Houston a few years back when Craig Biggio fell just short. But ask the Astros how many tickets they sold to fans who were just there for that record chase - ask them how many fans were in the seats sporting tshirts saying "Plunk 288" or "HBP:BGO". Just ask them. (The correct answer, I think, is 2.)
It may strike some as an odd thing to root for - a player on your own team getting hit by a pitch. But there are qualifications - you'll want to root for him to get hit by a pitch without getting hurt. Nobody breaks records on the DL (well, at least not good ones). You'll also want to root for him to get hit without actually trying to get hit. Nobody wants to see a guy lean into the ball, but there's nothing wrong with protecting a fragile part of the body, like a wrist, with a more resilient part of the body, like the back, butt, or the elbow pad. There's no sense taking a pitch in the ulna when you've got an elbow pad right there to block with, and a 2 year guaranteed contract. In general though, there's not much chance of Kendall getting hurt on his chase for the record. He's good at this. He's a professional target. He's played over 130 games in 13 of his 14 major league seasons and that's pretty outstanding just for a catcher - more so for a catcher who's been hit by 248 pitches.
It's not clear whether Kendall will be able to get the 40 HBPs he needs during the span of his current 2 year contract with the Royals, but perhaps if he gets most of the way there, and the fans are clearly behind him, the Royals will capitalize on the excitement the chase will undoubtedly generate and sign him for another year. His career high is 31 plunks, and he did that twice - back to back in 1997 and 1998. He hasn't broken the 20 plunk mark in a season since 2005, but maybe moving back to the American League will benefit him - particularly if Jamey Wright manages to stick with the Cleveland Indians. Wright holds the record for plunking Kendall, having done so 6 times. Also, Kendall may be motivated by the Royals other frequently plunked players, Jose Guillen and David DeJesus. Guillen is 6th among active players, with 131 career HBPS, making the Royals and the Yankees the only teams with two players over 100 career plunks. DeJesus has 67 in his career, and only needs 11 more to tie Mike MacFarlane for the Royals club record. It may not be obvious that the rest of the lineup would help a player get hit by more pitches, but how can you face guys in the clubhouse knowing you ducked out of the way of a pitch that at least two of them would have taken for the team?
Here are a few more random facts to help you enjoy Jason Kendall's time with the Royals (because if you just focus on his hitting, you're really not going to enjoy it):
Opposing batters have been hit by 655 pitches while Kendall was catching. That's more than any other catcher in the Jamie Moyer Era (1986 to present). Ivan Rodriguez is the next closest 635, and Brad Ausmus is behind him with 612. That may sound like a strategy to get himself hit more, and move him closer to the record - have his pitchers throw at the other team, so he'll get hit in retaliation. But, Kendall has only been hit 37 times in situations where the other team had already been plunked in the game.
Last year, Kendall became just the 2nd player in history to get hit by all 30 Major League teams. Rondell White is the other, but that's more a tribute to the length of his transactions list than his skill at getting hit. Jose Guillen could join this club with a plunk against the Braves (Aaron Rowand and David Eckstein are the only other actives with 29).
His 248 career HBPs have been thrown by 195 different pitchers. He's scored a run after reaching base on 73 of those 248. He's been hit with the bases loaded 10 times. He's been hit 7 times by 2 pitchers born on December 24, 1974 (Jamey Wright 6 times, Kevin Millwood once), but that's just 1 of 6 days in history on which two people were born who would grow up to plunk Jason Kendall. He's been hit 92 times with no outs, and scored after reaching base on 41 of those earned passes.
Jason Kendall's 248 career HBPs are more than the combined career totals of the entire spring training rosters of 7 different teams. And he's only 1 plunk behind the Braves spring roster.
The Yankees are the only team who can put together two players who have combined for more hbps than Kendall has alone.
Kendall's favorite day of the week to get plunked is Saturday, when he's been hit 45 times. Only about 7% of the 1,156 players who recorded a plate appearance last season have been hit 45 times in their career.
He's only been hit 4 times on the date of a full moon, which ranks tied for 4th among active batters. And might prove he is not a werewolf. In case you were concerned.
Of the 195 pitchers who have plunked Kendall before, only 3 are on 40-man rosters in the AL Central. Jamey Wright would make 4 if the Indians find a roster spot for him.
In 2009, Jason Kendall was hit 12 times in ballparks named after kinds of beer, leading the majors in that category.
Kendall has been hit 129 times by pitchers older than him, and 119 times by younger pitchers.
And, he's been hit 17 times while Scott Rolen was playing 3rd base for the other team.
That's a lot of things to keep track of - but don't worry about it. I'll keep track of it all for you and keep you updated on his progress. Just sit back and enjoy a rare master working at his craft. A baseball player chasing the purest kind of record - one he's probably not really trying to break. Or you can follow the action at plunkeveryone.com.