DETROIT — Thank goodness the Detroit Tigers haven’t played the San Diego Padres this season.
With Tigers starter Doug Fister inadvertently plunking batters at an alarmingly record pace, you’d have to think the Padres’ Carlos Quentin — whose dislike for being nicked became glaringly obvious earlier in the month — might take umbrage.
With two more hit batters in Sunday night’s start, Fister now has eight in five starts this season, just four shy of his career high.
Then again, Fister would probably make sure that Quentin — who charged the mound on April 13 after being hit by a pitch, and broke Zack Greinke’s collarbone in the ensuing fracas — knew for sure it wasn’t on purpose.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s more mechanics for me. I’m not staying back at times, and kinda my arm drags, and the sinker gets away from me. For me, it’s never intentional to hit a guy. It’s (a matter of) looking over, making sure they know it’s not intentional,” Fister said Sunday.
“Yes, I’m trying to go inside, keep the sinker down and in, but by no means is it ever intentional.”
It’s not intentional, no.
But it has been glaringly frequent. Fister has twice as many hit batters as anyone else in baseball.
The record for most hit batters in a single season in the American League era (since 1901) is 32 by the Philadelphia A’s Chick Fraser in 1901. (According to BaseballReference.com, the most in the recorded history of baseball is 54 by Phil Knell of the 1891 Columbus Salons, in 58 games pitched.)
The Tigers’ franchise record is 23, by Howard Ehmke in 1922. The only pitchers more recent than that to crack the top 15 on the all-time list are Chicago’s Kerry Wood (21 in 2003) and the California Angels’ Tom Murphy (21 in 1969).
Right now, Fister’s roughly on a pace for 48, should he make 30 starts this season.
They’ve come in bunches already, too.
Fister had two in five innings in his first start against the Yankees.
He had another in his eight-inning start against the Blue Jays the next time out.
After none in seven innings in Seattle, he hit three guys in his April 21 start in Anaheim.
Then two more against the Braves Sunday.
“Well, really it’s part of his game — not to hit guys — but it’s part of his game to use both sides of the plate, and I don’t think the pitch to (Atlanta’s Justin) Upton was very far inside at all. I don’t know about the other one,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
“He keeps them honest. He’s certainly not trying to hit anybody, but he goes in, and sometimes his ball runs late like it does — that’s why they miss-hit some balls — and sometimes, if starts in there, then it runs in at the last second, you might hit somebody once in a while.
“But certainly he’s not trying to.”
It’s not been all bad, though.
It helps that Fister has issued only six walks on the season, and is in the top 15 in ERA among American League starters (2.38). He’s also tied for third in the big leagues in wins with four.