This Isn't Getting the Attention It Deserves
Craig Counsell is about to set perhaps the most significant record of any player in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history. Yet, you haven't heard much if anything about it. When Craig Counsell makes his next two outs, he will reach 47 straight at bats without a hit, a streak that will best the previous record for a position player set by Bill Bergen in 1909. Bergen is widely considered to be the worst hitting position player of all time. Even though he played in an extreme pitchers era and was a catcher at a time when catchers wore wildly inadequate protective gear, there was no excuse for his career .395 OPS in 11 seasons and 3028 at bats. Those are real numbers, and there is no hyperbole here. Bergen was the worst hitter of all time. And we are talking about 140 years of baseball.
What Counsell has done is nothing short of amazing. 45 consecutive at bats without a hit. 29 games in which he has appeared without a hit. A batting line of 0/45, 1 BB, 5K since June 10th. So much is made of Joe Dimaggio getting a hit in 56 straight games. That's an impressive feat, no doubt. But in my opinion it's hardly as impressive as going 45 (likely will be the record of 46+) at bats without a single hit.
About a decade ago, Voros McCracken published his theory that pitchers have little control over what happens when a hitter makes contact with the baseball and puts the ball into the field of play. That theory has developed over the years, but the theory in its most fundamental form has remained the same - a ball that is put in play will be a hit about 30% of the time. Counsell has only struck out 5 times in those 45 at bats. Conventional wisdom would therefore say he'd have about 12 hits during this stretch. Instead, he has zero.
Is Counsell just supremely unlucky right now? Most statisticians would say yes. I agree with statheads virtually all the time, but in this case I'd say no. Counsell hasn't really even come close to a hit in the at bats I have seen (which is probably about 25-30 of them). He is singlehandedly busting McCracken's theories on balls in play. The theory is not designed to account for players who swing with utter disregard for driving the ball. You would think Counsell has been playing tennis with how he has just tried to serve the ball up off his bat for the opposing second baseman to trot under and catch. When Counsell makes contact, it is as if the ball is heavier than his bat, pushing his bat backwards as the ball is hit. The result is a soft groundout or fly ball that cannot clear the infield. That result has occurred with a consistency that is nearly impossible to replicate. If Counsell does not hit into a catcher's interference in his next two at bats, he will likely set the Major League record for hitless at bats.
Consider the significance of this streak further. We are talking about a hitless streak that has only been done once before - and done by the worst hitter in major league baseball, at the height of the dead-ball era, and done by someone who was probably playing with 5 to 10 injuries at the time that would set any current player on the DL. Then think of the tens of thousands of position players who have played in the Major Leagues. Think of all the rookies who have never seen Major League pitching. Think of all the players playing through significant injuries and slumps. Think of all the defense-first players who hit around the Mendoza line. None of them have done what Counsell has already done and likely will do. A streak made only more amazing by how he did it (40 consecutive balls softly put into play). Now try to think of any significant record held by a Milwaukee Brewer. You won't think of any as remarkable, long-lasting and significant as Craig Counsell's Great 2011 Hitless Streak.
Labels: worst + hitter + ever