Monday night, in the bottom of the sixth inning, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke pinch-hit for Zack Greinke with Craig Counsell. There was nothing particularly remarkable about that in isolation. Greinke had thrown 103 pitches. Counsell's an experienced bench player. Most of the time, nobody would've thought anything of it.
Facing Octavio Dotel, Counsell popped out on a 1-0 fastball. There was nothing particularly remarkable about that, either. Dotel's a fine reliever. Batters make outs more often than they don't. Most of the time, nobody would've thought anything of it.
But there's a twist, here. As you might have already heard, Counsell's hitless at-bat was his 45th consecutive hitless at bat. If that seems long to you, it's because it is. It's the second-longest hitless streak for a non-pitcher in baseball history, just behind Bill Bergen's 46. After a long pursuit, Tuesday night, Craig Counsell could set a new record for offensive futility.
It's time we talk about this, and it's time we talk about it in my usual scattershot way. Below, an assortment of thoughts, free of unnecessary segues that just clutter everything up and add to word counts.
(1) Craig Counsell's last hit came on June 10, against the Cardinals. On June 11, he went 0-for-3. Since June 11, Dustin Pedroia has 70 hits. Jacoby Ellsbury has 60 hits. Melky Cabrera has 65 hits. Daniel Murphy has 65 hits. Michael Young has 64 hits. R.A. Dickey has six hits.
(2) You would think that a hitless streak spanning 45 at-bats would be the mark of a terrible hitter who was lousy, even before the streak began. Prior to the streak, Counsell had a .345 OBP. On June 10 - the day before everything started - he went 3-for-3 with a double and a triple.
(3) It's fitting that the longest hitless streak belongs to Bill Bergen, who was probably the worst hitter in baseball history. Bergen posted a career 21 OPS+. Mario Mendoza posted a career 41 OPS+. The longest shutout streak doesn't belong to the best pitcher in baseball history. The longest hitting streak doesn't belong to the best hitter in baseball history. The longest hitless streak does belong to the worst hitter in baseball history. Soon, it might not.
(4) I didn't know this, but Craig Counsell has a new batting stance. It isn't even a new batting stance; it's four years old. From The Old Milwaukees:
When the hell did that happen? Or rather, since I know when it happened, why the hell didn't anyone tell me? Counsell's old stance was iconic. It was a reason for people to be familiar with Craig Counsell. Then he changed his stance in an effort to improve his hitting. Just scant years later, he's one out away from tying a terrible record. Smooth move!
(5) One of the amazing things about Counsell's streak is that there's little evidence he's been unlucky. I mean, I'm sure he's gotten unlucky in that you'd figure he'd knock a seeing-eye single or a blooper to left, but since the streak began, FanGraphs credits Counsell with 18 fly balls, 23 ground balls, and zero line drives. Counsell has earned this.
(6) When Counsell came to the plate Monday night, he received a rousing ovation from the Brewers fans in Miller Park. Granted, the Brewers are in first place and were ahead 5-2 at the time, but Counsell was hitless in his last 44 at bats. He was batting .147 overall, with zero home runs. I'm a Mariners fan. When Chone Figgins bats at home, he gets booed. Generally, bad players are treated badly. Is there something different about Brewers fans? Is there something different about Counsell? Has something changed, where Counsell was getting booed a few weeks ago but now everybody just feels really heartbroken about him? Can a player become so bad he goes all the way around to being beloved?
(7) On July 10, Counsell pinch-hit for Carlos Gomez in the bottom of the ninth and lifted a walk-off sac fly to left field. That meant Counsell made an out, but went 0-for-0 in the box score due to a scoring quirk. We can't say whether or not Bill Bergen lifted any sac flies during his hitless streak in 1909, but it's possible that inexplicable quirk is the only thing keeping Counsell from already being a part of history.
(8) Craig Counsell may be starting to feel it.
(9) We're talking about a hitless streak, here, but Counsell hasn't actually reached base since July 5. On July 4, Counsell pinch-hit for Shaun Marcum and got drilled by Micah Owings on a 2-2 pitch. Owings, of course, is known more for his bat than his arm, as he has a career 91 ERA+ and 112 OPS+. The only time Craig Counsell has reached base since June 22 came as a consequence of facing a pitcher known for his hitting.
(10) Counsell is a scrawny little dude. He's always been a scrawny little dude. If anybody has to go 0-for-45, it makes sense it would be a player like Craig Counsell. It's enough to make you wonder which is more representative - Counsell beginning his career by going 1197-for-4656, or Counsell most recently going 0-for-45. Counsell just looks like a guy who would never get a hit, and it's mathematically possible that those 1,197 hits were a fluke.