Oakland Athletics’ Stephen Vogt Not Hit By Pitch On Purpose


“The two-two… Look out! It hit Stephen Vogt! Oh goodness! Stephen Vogt hit by a pitch.”

That was Oakland Athletics radio broadcaster Vince Cotroneo’s call in the bottom of the ninth inning when Stephen Vogt was hit in the wrist by a fastball from Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Franklin Morales.

This hit by pitch incited the wrath of the Oakland faithful, who serenaded the Royals’ defense with a loud chorus of booing. Why wouldn’t they? After all, this is the same Royals bullpen that headhunted Brett Lawrie in a series back in April. Salvador Perez was set up low and outside; did Morales miss the mark that much?

Actually, he did.

The FanGraphs chart below plots the vertical and horizontal movement of Morales’ pitches from all appearances in the 2015 season. The chart shows that, although his fastballs do not tend to break very much, there is a fairly distinct tailing motion on his fastball. This movement is consistent enough to show that Perez was likely calling for a pitch that started inside, but ultimately would slide back over the plate. The fastball that Morales threw just happened to be lifeless.

Chart showing vertical and horizontal movement on all of

Franklin Morales

‘ pitches in 2015. Credit: FanGraphs

Although FanGraphs notes that Morales’ average fastball velocity this season has hovered just under 93, he threw six fastballs last night before the pitch that hit Vogt. Five of them came in at 91, and only one at 92. Morales was having trouble firing his fastball in at his average speed. The pitch that hit Vogt came in at 93, which shows that Morales may have been rearing back for a little extra. And why not? Vogt is currently one of the league’s best hitters, and the last thing a pitcher would want is to need to throw a 3-2 pitch to him.

Morales was going for the strikeout, and the extra ounce of energy he put into the pitch caused it get away from him.

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There is also a matter of context. Remember the April 18th game, which was the game that Yordano Ventura was ejected for hitting Lawrie the first time. Morales was called in to finish the ninth inning of a game where the Royals were trailing 5-0.

On April 19, the Royals called on Morales to resume the game after Kelvin Herrera was ejected for throwing a 100 MPH fastball behind Lawrie’s head.

In both instances, Morales was in a position to make the situation worse. When trailing 5-0 in the ninth inning, there is little for a relief pitcher to lose by throwing malicious pitches. When replacing a pitcher that just got ejected for throwing at a batter’s head, the reliever is in a position to incite an all-out brawl on the next pitch. Morales did neither of these things.

A’s fans can and should be upset with the antics that the Royals displayed back in April. Every hit-by-pitch in this series will deserve intense scrutiny, and every pitcher’s intentions will be examined and questioned.

With that in mind, the verdict on Franklin Morales: Not Intentional.

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