Beanballs on a historic rise
We are back with the continuing evolution of an experiment that last appeared
Today's topic is a winding conversation about beanballs.
Before giving the answer, I'll give you my thought: I would have guessed the 1960s. I think about the pitchers from that era --
If it's not the 1960s, then I would certainly have guessed the 1950s -- you know, when men were men, and
So, yes, it comes as a huge surprise to me that there are BY FAR more batters getting hit by pitches in the decade we are in now than in any decade in the 20th Century. Pitchers are hitting batters at almost double the rate they did in those when-men-were-men 1950s.
Here are the per-game percentages of batters getting hit by pitch.
So you can see ... a huge upsurge in batters getting plunked. And yes, this is shocking to me because people always seem to talk about how much bigger a part the beanball played in the old days -- you know, how much tougher and meaner baseball players used to be.
If you go back 100 years, men got into fistfights as a regular part of being a man. People weren't condemned for this, or asked to apologize for it.
This didn't disappear suddenly.
Not entirely to confuse fighting with toughness; they were tough in positive ways as well. And in other ways that weren't positive.
These days, though, who can tell intent?
But what that generation of hitters learned was not that they couldn't hit the outside pitch hard to the opposite field, but that they COULD. It was like ... before Babe Ruth, hitters were told that it was foolish to hit hard fly balls, because, while a few of them would be homers, many, many more of them would just be fly ball outs. Ruth changed the game because he proved that you COULD, in fact, hit enough long fly balls to make it pay off.
Same thing in the late 1980s -- the young hitters simply proved that conventional baseball wisdom was wrong. This led to a greatly increased number of young hitters who stood right on top of the plate -- and also to a greatly increased number of opposite-field home runs. And as more hitters began to stand on top of the plate and/or stride into the plate and try to crush the outside pitch to the opposite field, pitching coaches began to stress the importance of pitching inside --not conceding the inside part of the plate.
The increase in hit batsmen in the last 10 years is not a consequence of beanballs -- which are deliberate attempts to intimidate a hitter -- but a consequence of these other changes.
And, all of this just makes it trickier than ever for everyone. Umpires and players and managers suddenly have to guess: "What was that pitcher THINKING?" Was
One thing about the old days -- batters mostly knew the rules. They mostly knew when the pitcher was going to knock them down. You know the famous story about
Baseball will eventually reach the same point -- the realization that allowing players to "protect" themselves with unlimited padding is dangerous. Which they do, I guess ... the body armor is regulated by the leagues. Some of it, you have to have a doctor's statement in order to use it.