Nobody takes one for the team like Canha
The primary job of a leadoff batter is to get on base, and Mark Canha is coming through by any means necessary.
Canha was hit by a pitch on Sunday for the seventh time already in 28 games this season, a total that leads the majors so far. But on a grander scale, it was the 60th HBP of his career, spent entirely wearing green-and-gold, and that sets an all-time Oakland A’s record.
The previous leader was Sal Bando, who was pegged 59 times since the club moved to the Bay Area in 1968. What’s more, since his arrival in 2015, Canha collected his free bases much faster than Captain Sal or anyone else high on the list. Here are the top five, including games played for the team:
- Mark Canha, 60 (in 532 games)
- Sal Bando, 59 (in 1,410 games)
- Reggie Jackson, 57 (in 1,311 games)
- Jason Giambi, 55 (in 1,036 games)
- Rickey Henderson, 55 (in 1,704 games)
To find someone on the leaderboard who played fewer games than Canha, you have to go down to 12th for Olmedo Saenz (42, in 347 games) and 15th for Jason Kendall (35 in 373 games). The next current A’s, tied for 21st place with 28 apiece, are Ramon Laureano (251 games) and Matt Olson (442 games).
A couple more interesting names, both tied for 16th with 32 HBPs: Don Baylor (in just 249 games), and more recently Khris Davis (in 617 games).
If you expand to all of franchise history, back to 1901 including the Philadelphia and Kansas City days, then the list changes. Bando and Jackson both debuted in KC before the club moved to Oakland, so they tack a few onto their totals and inch past Canha.
- Jimmy Dykes, 93 (in 1,702 games)
- Reggie Jackson, 62 (in 1,346 games)
- Sal Bando, 62 (in 1,468 games)
- Mark Canha, 60 (in 532 games)
- Bing Miller, 58 (in 1,361 games)
Dykes was an infielder for Philly from 1918-32 and won two World Series rings for Connie Mack’s squad in 1929-30, and outfielder Miller played alongside him in two separate stints that spanned most of 1922-34.
Of course, it’s not like Canha needs the help to get on base. He works some of the longest at-bat in the majors, ranking in sixth in pitches-per-plate appearance and using his expert eyes to work his customarily enormous walk rate. And when he does swing he gets his money’s worth, making plenty of contact and launching the fourth-most homers on the team since 2019, and tied for third-most this year.
Nevertheless, pitchers keep handing him free bags anyway, helping boost his strong .389 OBP. Well, not entirely free. Canha get an ice pack?
— Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) May 2, 2021
Bonus HBP facts
At Canha’s current pace of 7 HBP in 28 games, he’s at once every four games. If he continued at that rate and only missed one more game, he would tie Dykes (with 93) atop the franchise leaderboard by the end of the year. Ouch.
That would mean finishing the summer with a total of 40, so, 33 more starting now. That wouldn’t be unprecedented, as the modern record is 50 by Montreal Expos infielder Ron Hunt in 1971, and after that is Don Baylor with 35 (in 1986 for the Red Sox, at age 37). The modern career leader is Craig Biggio with 285, while 19th-century player Hughie Jennings had 287 and once racked up 51 in a season in 1896.
“Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball.” — Ron Hunt