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Is it time to eject pitchers for HBP?


What should MLB do about the HBP?  

52 members have voted

  1. 1. Should pitchers be ejected for hitting batters?

    • No, the HBP is part of baseball, even if the number continues to rise
      24
    • Yes, eject immediately, keep batters safe, and hopefully increase offense at the same time
      1
    • Eject the pitcher after two HBP in one appearance
      14
    • Eject the pitcher after two HBP in one inning
      4
    • Award the batter two bases for a HBP
      9


Buxton's injury is devastating for a few reasons but it's also tied to some problems MLB has been facing recently:

1. Pitcher foreign substances to enhance grip - we've all heard about this and the actions MLB has taken to ban them, potentially causing more instances of HBP as pitchers try to maintain velocity but lose grip on the ball

2. Ever-increasing velocity - we all know pitchers are throwing harder than ever with the number continuing to rise every year, causing offense to plummet and spurring hitters to chase Three True Outcomes more every year

3. Pitchers using the inside pitch as HBP numbers escalate (not a great combination with added velocity)

From a FG article in 2019, here is the HBP rate over MLB history:

image.png

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-hit-by-pitch-continues-to-reach-new-heights/

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Just thinking outside the box here, and perhaps this isn't a good way to handle this, but .....

How about have a league safety goal of a certain number of hit by pitches that decreases each year?  My workplace has a goal like this that measures safety incidents per 100K employee work hours or something like that.  It decreases each year.  Obviously, the real goal is zero, but you have to work to improve within reason.

Looking at the graph above, I will just somewhat arbitrarily suggest 1600 HBPs for the next season.   That would be about 54 per team.  If you stay under that number, you get a sandwich round draft pick between rounds 2&3.  If you are above that number, you lose your 3rd round draft pick.  

I thing something like that would make an incentive for teams to develop players not to hit batters.  The Mitch Williamses, Jim Hoeys and this guys of the world may never see an MLB field again, but that's the breaks. Get better.

Edit: For reference, the Twins had 61 HBPs in 2019 and have 27 so far this season.  They would be losing draft picks.

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First question is I wonder why there were so many hit batters in the late 90's early 2000's??  I wonder if some of it has to do with hitter's approaches?  I mean this is a little radical, but remember how close to the plate Barry Bonds used to stand?  Is there something that the hitters are doing differently that is not allowing them to get out of the way?  These are just things that cross my mind first before I start blaming pitchers for hitting batters. 

 

Maybe the hitters need to use more equipment, again I'll refer to Barry Bonds, he was well protected when he stepped into the box.  

 

I mean ejected for hitting a batter?  What if the ball hits the dirt and then hits the batter?  How many times have we seen a batter take 1B after having his uniform grazed, I mean it's a little ridiculous to me to think that a player can get ejected because he hit the batter?  Should we eject all hitters who hit the pitchers with line drives?  I mean I'm sure occasionally some of them want to hit that pitcher, but most of them are just doing what they are taught and driving the ball back up the middle, but I mean hey, if a pitcher gets ejected for hitting a batter then I think the batters should get ejected for hitting the pitchers too? 

 

I think most times you can tell when someone is intending to bean someone as opposed to an inside pitch getting away from him, I mean I have seen numerous occasions where a ball could have been called a strike and yet hit the batter.  So I think the hitters take on some of the responsibility as to where they stand in the box and how they load up and swing nowadays so as to not be able to get out of the way.  

 

Sucks about Buxton, but I know if I were playing I would be loaded up with body armor just like Barry Bonds was and less injuries would happen.

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Too difficult to legislate on the field. 

Some inside pitches are dangerous and some are merely passing nuisances.  There are batters who are adept at leaning into a pitch and taking it off of a nonvulnerable body part.  If the penalty is increased from the current free pass, the incentive will also increase.  Think about how much we make fun of "flopping" in soccer and basketball.

The penalty is not just possible ejection, but that the batter now can anticipate only middle-out pitches. I don't think that leads to good baseball.

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24 minutes ago, Twodogs said:

I think most times you can tell when someone is intending to bean someone as opposed to an inside pitch getting away from him

That's essentially the question I'm asking: given increased velocity and pitcher reliance on sticky stuff, is it time to take away going inside against a batter when every guy on the mound throws 96mph?

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There is already a rule in place that allows umpires to eject a pitcher who intentionally hits a batter. 
 

The Fangraphs chart is interesting but it is missing supporting data. Are pitchers throwing inside more than they did decades ago. Are batters standing further from the plate or are they crowding the plate. 
 

 

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1 minute ago, ashbury said:

The penalty is not just possible ejection (under some of the proposals), but that the batter now can anticipate only middle-out pitches. I don't think that leads to good baseball.

That's the tricky balance of all this. Batters are stronger and faster than ever and pitchers are forced to go hard inside to get them out a lot of the time. On the other hand, pitchers are ridiculously dominant right now and the rate at which plunking guys with 95mph pitches needs to start declining, not continuing to escalate... and pitchers were hitting batters at this rate while using sticky substances. What's going to happen now that they can't do that?

It's possible that pitchers both need to be ejected for multiple HBP and batters need to be forced to stop standing on top of the plate. I'm not sure those two things should be exclusively addressed.

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HBP is part of baseball, except when done intentionally. There should be 0 tolerance for intentional HBPs.

If you want to up the ante for what happens when a batter is hit, which I don't think is necessary, how about having a HBP worth 2 bases? Significantly reduces the ability for a double play from the next hitter which theoretically makes the pitcher now have to work much harder. Flip side to this is umpires need to have some discretion for when a hitter is trying to get hit and act accordingly.

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1 minute ago, JW24 said:

HBP is part of baseball, except when done intentionally. There should be 0 tolerance for intentional HBPs.

If you want to up the ante for what happens when a batter is hit, which I don't think is necessary, how about having a HBP worth 2 bases? Significantly reduces the ability for a double play from the next hitter which theoretically makes the pitcher now have to work much harder. Flip side to this is umpires need to have some discretion for when a hitter is trying to get hit and act accordingly.

This is intriguing and the prevention for the flip side is already on the books, if unenforced.  A batter does have a responsibility to try to avoid a HBP.  Body shots might be hard to avoid, but leaning an armored elbow into something that wanders a little too far in COULD be called a ball instead of awarding the base.

https://www.mlb.com/glossary/standard-stats/hit-by-pitch

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44 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

That's essentially the question I'm asking: given increased velocity and pitcher reliance on sticky stuff, is it time to take away going inside against a batter when every guy on the mound throws 96mph?

No 

Nolan Ryan threw hard.  Lots of guys have thrown hard, guys like Gibson basically told people he'd hit them if they crowded the plate. I mean there are guys who go up there in certain times in the game and allow themselves to get hit so as to get a base runner.  

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2 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Buxton's injury is devastating for a few reasons but it's also tied to some problems MLB has been facing recently:

1. Pitcher foreign substances to enhance grip - we've all heard about this and the actions MLB has taken to ban them, potentially causing more instances of HBP as pitchers try to maintain velocity but lose grip on the ball

2. Ever-increasing velocity - we all know pitchers are throwing harder than ever with the number continuing to rise every year, causing offensive to plummet and spurring hitters to chase Three True Outcomes more every year

3. Pitchers using the inside pitch as HBP numbers escalate (not a great combination with added velocity)

From a FG article in 2019, here is the HBP rate over MLB history:

Brock, I wouldn't mind seeing this poll redone but with an option for increasing the award for HBP to be on 2nd base instead of first.

The more I think about that, the more I like it.  It requires only one minor rule change, and the rest is just economics.  The natural punishment for a HBP might very well take care of the issue.

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10 minutes ago, Twodogs said:

No 

Nolan Ryan threw hard.  Lots of guys have thrown hard, guys like Gibson basically told people he'd hit them if they crowded the plate. I mean there are guys who go up there in certain times in the game and allow themselves to get hit so as to get a base runner.  

Nolan Ryan peaked at 15 HBP in 1971.

Bob Gibson peaked at 13 HBP in 1963.

That would have ranked them third and fifth, respectively, in HBP in 2019 and those were their peak seasons of HBP. Most years, both pitchers were in the single digits in HBP.

Nolan Ryan hit a batter once every 5.1 starts or once every 34 IP.

Bob Gibson hit a batter once every 5.2 starts or once every 38 IP.

In 2019, Trevor Bauer hit a batter once every 1.8 starts or once every 11 IP.

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2 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I've seen that article before but they use HBP per PA. I'd like to see an analysis using HBP per pitch, as the number of pitches has risen in modern times too. Could still be going up, but not as dramatically as claimed?

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12 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Nolan Ryan peaked at 15 HBP in 1971.

Bob Gibson peaked at 13 HBP in 1963.

That would have ranked them third and fifth, respectively, in HBP in 2019 and those were their peak seasons of HBP. Most years, both pitchers were in the single digits in HBP.

So let's ask ourselves what were the hitters doing differently to avoid them, because we know for a fact that Gibson used his inside pitch as a weapon, he has said as much.  Also, the HBP were almost identical from the late 90's to the early 2000's??  What was the difference then?  Why did no one worry about it back then?  So what were the hitters doing differently so Gibson wouldn't hit them, and he did some of them on purpose.

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4 minutes ago, Twodogs said:

So let's ask ourselves what were the hitters doing differently to avoid them, because we know for a fact that Gibson used his inside pitch as a weapon, he has said as much.  Also, the HBP were almost identical from the late 90's to the early 2000's??  What was the difference then?  Why did no one worry about it back then?  So what were the hitters doing differently so Gibson wouldn't hit them, and he did some of them on purpose.

People did worry about it. MLB banned some arm and elbow padding to get hitters off the plate.

20 years later, we're back at the same point again, except now pitchers throw ~5mph faster.

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1 minute ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

I've seen that article before but they use HBP per PA. I'd like to see an analysis using HBP per pitch, as the number of pitches has risen in modern times too. Could still be going up, but not as dramatically as claimed?

Yeah, that's a weakness in the article, once I spotted right off the bat. They really need to adjust for number of teams and/or number of pitches, neither of which is addressed in that graph.

But I've heard it mentioned on podcasts recently and the number is definitely still increasing so the problem isn't resolving itself... and now pitchers don't get to use glue to hold the ball to their hand.

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1 hour ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Nolan Ryan hit a batter once every 5.1 starts or once every 34 IP.

Bob Gibson hit a batter once every 5.2 starts or once every 38 IP.

In 2019, Trevor Bauer hit a batter once every 1.8 starts or once every 11 IP.

Bauer is renowned for speaking frankly when you catch him in the right mood.  A question about that would be a podcast to remember.

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Like @ashbury mentioned, I think this would be hard to legislate.  I don't think taking away the inner half of the plate is good, nor do I want to incentivize crowding the plate.  Though, one could question the intelligence in that, there will be times where a player may feel the risk is worth it.  Obviously, if it is intentional then there are already mechanisms in place to deal with it.  

Giving max effort on every pitch, things like this will be inevitable unfortunately.  Not sure how one gets around the wildness that comes along with that.  If they do, I'd like to know that for my golf swing! 

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45 minutes ago, ashbury said:

Bauer is renowned for speaking frankly when you catch him in the right mood.  A question about that would be a podcast to remember.

Catch him in the right mood and you might get a touch of socially regressive idiocy sprinkled into the frank baseball analysis.

(Bauer is a real love/hate guy with me)

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12 minutes ago, wsnydes said:

Giving max effort on every pitch, things like this will be inevitable unfortunately.  Not sure how one gets around the wildness that comes along with that.  If they do, I'd like to know that for my golf swing! 

I think "max effort" is part of the problem here and I'm not sure how to solve it. Pitchers are increasingly going all-out on every. single. pitch. Perhaps some HBP solution, with some other rules changes, can start to encourage fewer max effort (and more likely to be wild) pitches, thereby reducing both HBP and increasing pitcher durability and innings pitched.

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2 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

Accidents happen. No way someone should be ejected for an accident. 

What if those "accidents" keep happening in ever-increasing numbers because pitchers with limited control are routinely encouraged to go max effort 100% of the time and throw the ball beyond their capacity to control it?

And are they actually "accidents" at that point or a flaw in the approach promoted by coaches and teams?

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1 minute ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

What if those "accidents" keep happening in ever-increasing numbers because pitchers with limited control are routinely encouraged to go max effort 100% of the time and throw the ball beyond their capacity to control it?

And are they actually "accidents" at that point or a flaw in the approach promoted by coaches and teams?

I don't know how I want to answer that. Part of me .... "stuff happens"......part of me .... "some kind of limit for a pitcher". But I have NO IDEA what that might look like.

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1 minute ago, Mike Sixel said:

I don't know how I want to answer that. Part of me .... "stuff happens"......part of me .... "some kind of limit for a pitcher". But I have NO IDEA what that might look like.

Me either, I'm just talking options here. It's a complicated problem that, if left unaddressed, will lead to more injuries like Buxton's last night.

On the other hand, MLB forced this issue a bit by banning all grip substances but I didn't see any good options left them because pitchers were cheating so dramatically and often that it was literally damaging the game itself.

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8 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I think "max effort" is part of the problem here and I'm not sure how to solve it. Pitchers are increasingly going all-out on every. single. pitch. Perhaps some HBP solution, with some other rules changes, can start to encourage fewer max effort (and more likely to be wild) pitches, thereby reducing both HBP and increasing pitcher durability and innings pitched.

I think it's a lot of the problem.  While repeatability is emphasized, very few can harness the notion while giving everything they have consistently.  Those that can are the elite players.  It's an even rarer air that players can do it with the adrenaline flowing in big spots.  

I don't know how to fix it either.  There are clearly benefits for not going all out every pitch, but teams and players have decided that it's worth the trade off.

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If the Buxton incident precipitated this topic, the pitch did not hit Buxton, Buxton hit the pitch. Unfortunately, Buxton's hand was between the ball and the bat. I am amazed that more aren't hit because the target is never the middle of the plate. It is always on the outer or inner quarter of the plate and many times off the plate. So the margin of error on an inside pitch which has to be in the pitcher's arsenal is next to none.

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Just now, Number3 said:

If the Buxton incident precipitated this topic, the pitch did not hit Buxton, Buxton hit the pitch. Unfortunately, Buxton's hand was between the ball and the bat. I am amazed that more aren't hit because the target is never the middle of the plate. It is always on the outer or inner quarter of the plate and many times off the plate. So the margin of error on an inside pitch which has to be in the pitcher's arsenal is next to none.

The Buxton incident only prompted the creation of a poll/thread about it. The conversation at large has been happening in baseball circles for a few years now as HBP numbers have been on the rise year after year.

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