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The longest plate appearance in Cardinals history* - A Hunt and Peck

*since 1988

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
it was not by him, but it basically was
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Those somewhat in tune with baseball happenings might be aware that a record was broken on Sunday afternoon. The record had stood for just under twenty years, set by Rickey Gutierrez and Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998. As you have probably guessed from the title of this post, this record was for the most pitches in an at-bat (and probably in a plate appearance, too). The new record-holders are batter Brandon Belt and pitcher Jaime Barría, who bested the prior record of 20 with 21 pitches in an at-bat.

A little less than ten years after that record was set and just more than ten years before the new one replaced that one, a Cardinals batter set a franchise record for most pitches in a plate appearance.

It is a tricky one, but here are some hints:

  • This batter’s career O-Swing rate (the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone): 33.6%
    For reference, Matt Carpenter’s: 20.5%; Randal Grichuk’s: 35.3%
  • His career O-Contact rate (the percentage of times a batter makes contact with pitches he swings at out of the strike zone): 52.9%
    For reference, Matt Carpenter’s: 69.3%; Randal Grichuk’s: 54.8%
  • His career percentage of contact when swinging at any pitches: 70.7%
    For reference, Matt Carpenter’s: 84.3%; Randal Grichuk’s: 71.5%
  • His career swingING strike percentage: 15.2%
    For reference, Matt Carpenter’s: 5.7%; Randal Grichuk’s: 14.8%

Because this plate appearance happened ten years ago, we can eliminate Randal Grichuk as an answer, but imagine Randal Grichuk putting up a plate appearance that went like this:

  1. Called Strike
  2. Strike Swinging
  3. Ball
  4. Ball
  5. Foul
  6. Foul
  7. Foul
  8. Foul
  9. Ball
  10. Foul
  11. Foul
  12. Foul
  13. Foul
  14. Foul
  15. Foul
  16. Foul
  17. Ball

Pretty noteworthy, yes? lboros thought so, which is why he wrote about it at the time:

it was nearly as long as the brewers’ entire 9th-inning rally (19 pitches); that’s what type of an at-bat it was. the pitch-per-AB data at Baseball-Reference’s playfinder index stretch back 20 years, to 1988. in that entire span, no cardinal hitter ever took a 17-pitch at-bat. the longest lasted 15 pitches: mike deflice against bartolo colon on june 14, 1997 (he walked) and pedro guerrero against don robinson on april 25, 1989 (also walked). another 4 st louis at-bats of the last 20 years lasted 14 pitches (one of them happened last year, rolen vs jake peavy on august 8; he popped out); 7 at-bats lasted 13 pitches.

... so we’re talking about an historic event here...

Before I finally unveil to you who this batter was, let me first thank tehzachatak and isawgodingibbysrightarm for nobly volunteering their help when I attempted to research this. Using Baseball Reference’s Play Index, we searched for plate appearances that were greater than ten pitches going back to 1998 - before that, the data is a little porous, so it was difficult to find accurate results. There were 449 results (expanding the search to 1925 yielded 632 results). Of those 449:

  • 175, or 39.0% occurred with someone on base
  • 98, or 21.8% occurred with a runner in scoring position
  • 74, or 16.5% occurred with high leverage

This plate appearance happened with a runner on second, in the first inning with no outs and the Cardinals win expectancy already at 80%. It ended as a walk and added two percentage points to the win expectancy.

So, which Cardinals hitter had the longest plate appearance over the last thirty years? It is none other than Rick Ankiel, whose 17-pitch PA was so notable, that VEB founder lboros wrote a post about it ten years ago, quoted above, which we found by accident when searching for information on Ankiel’s PA.

It has been ten years and Ankiel’s record still stands. See you all in 2028. Maybe it will have fallen by then. Maybe it will not.

Personally, I hope it does and by someone even more unlikely.

Plate Discipline Statics courtesy of Fangraphs

Game info courtesy of Baseball Reference

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