Brent Morel almost had it.
He occupied the vaunted catbird seat in the third inning on Wednesday after watching three straight pitches from C.J. Wilson miss the strike zone. Only one more errant pitch stood between Morel and his first walk of the season.
You can guess what happened next:
Strike one looking.
Strike two looking.
Strike three swinging.
Morel grounded into a double play in his second at-bat, and he was lifted for pinch-hitting Adam Dunn before he got a third shot. Ozzie Guillen's decision left him unable to tie a White Sox record: The most plate appearances without a walk to start the season.
Morel currently has 107 walkless PAs, and according to Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, the only White Sox who has him beat in the modern-day era is Mike Colbern, who didn't walk in any of his first 108 trips to the plate in 1978, when he served as the backup catcher.
Colbern is an interesting case for a couple of reasons. Like Morel, he was a prospect with some buzz -- he was the second-round pick in the 1976 draft, and posted good minor-league numbers for a catcher. Yet he only lasted in the big leagues for parts of the 1978 and 1979 seasons, and never surfaced in the majors again.
Morel's bosses should be able to sympathize with him. When looking at the list of most walkless plate appearances to start a season, two names stick out in particular:
- Colbern, 108 (1978)
- Morel, 107 (2011)
- Don Kolloway, 105 (1946)*
- Ozzie Guillen, 86 (1994)
- Ken Williams, 83 (1987)
- Dayan Viciedo, 82 (2010)
- Wayne Nordhagen, 76 (1977)
- Ike Eichrodt, 75 (1931)*
- Chris Singleton, 73 (2001)
- Aaron Rowand, 72 (2002)
(*Denotes incomplete play-by-play data. Kolloway walked in one of four plate appearances the following game, meaning he might have maxed out at 108. The same goes for Eichrodt, who could have maxed out at 78.)
The good news is that Morel isn't even halfway to the record. Rob Picciolo failed to draw a walk in any of his first 260 plate appearances back in 1980. Richard Dotson looked kindly upon him and issued a free pass on Oct. 2.