Baseball has been played for more than 100 years. Pitchers have been taught to throw inside to get hitters off the plate. Today, it seems like pitchers are losing control and putting hitters in danger of being hit by the pitch.
According to MLB.com, there were 15 official hit batsmen in the 11 games on Thursday. This does not even include two other players that swung while being hit.
The most serious situation was when Giancarlo Stanton was hit in the face by Mike Fiers during the Marlins’ game against the Brewers. Stanton immediately fell to the ground. Stanton lay motionless at the plate for several minutes as medical personnel attended to him, with blood clearly visible in the dirt around home plate. Fiers, visibly shaken, stood on the mound with his hands on his head, despondent over the pitch.
Stanton was then attended to by medical personnel from both teams. He was placed on a gurney and taken from the field on an ambulance cart.
“It’s very tough,” Fiers told reporters. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like that. It was very hard for me to take in everything at the moment and come back and throw another pitch.”
Stanton, of course, has been one of the brightest stars in a somewhat desultory major league season. According to Miami.Marlins.MLB.com, Stanton leads the National League with 37 home runs and 105 RBIs.
The Marlins announced that Stanton suffered a laceration and was undergoing X-rays and a CT scan. Marlins manager Mike Redmond acknowledged after the game that he was not optimistic about the extent of the injury.
“We’ve lost our MVP,” Mike Redmond said. “It doesn’t look good.”
Stanton retuned to Miami on Friday after spending Thursday night in a Milwaukee hospital.
The umpires ruled Stanton had swung at the pitch. So when pinch-hitter Reed Johnson was sent in to resume the at-bat the count was no balls and two strikes. On the very next pitch, Kohnson was hit by Fiers. When home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that Johnson had also swung, both benches cleared. Marlins manager Mike Redmond and third baseman Casey McGehee were both ultimately ejected.
Fiers did not return to the game, as manager Ron Roenicke replaced him with Jeremy Jeffress for the top of the sixth inning.
An inning later, Miami reliever Anthony DeSclafani was tossed after he hit Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez in the elbow. He was later suspended three games.
According to MLB.com, Stanton wasn’t the only player to be hit in the face Thursday. The Yankees’ Chase Headley took a 96-mph fastball on the chin from Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jake McGee in the ninth inning of New York’s 5-4 walk-off win. Headley was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with the help of Yankees staff, after which he was replaced by a pinch-runner.
The biggest danger epidemic in baseball that can lead to injuries is hit batters. Batters continue to get hit by pitches at much higher rates than back in the 1960s.
According to ESPN, a batter was hit once every 177 plate appearances in 1964. Today, a batter is hit once every 112 plate appearances.
Baseball has to address this very significant problem. According to Forbes.com, at least one batter is hit per game. Luckily, most are not direct hits to the head. Pitchers have to be able to control pitches. Even so, batters have very little time to react to a pitch coming toward them.
According to efastball.com, hitters have roughly 0.40 seconds before a 95-mph fastball reaches them.
The only Major League Baseball player to die from an injury on the field was Ray Chapman. He was a batter, not a pitcher, who was hit in the head. Several other players, most famously young slugger Tony Conigliaro of the Boston Red Sox, were never the same after being similarly injured.
On Aug. 18, 1967, Conigliaro was hit by a pitch on his left cheekbone. He sustained a linear fracture of the left cheekbone and a dislocated jaw with severe damage to his left retina.
Conigliaro lost vision in his eye and his career was over before he turned 30.
Henry Aaron was hit 32 times through his terrific career. Singles-hitting Jon Jay has been hit 18 times this year, most in MLB. Hopefully, we see less of this in the very near future.