The Oakland A’s lead the American League in being hit by a pitch, which is familiar territory.
The Oakland A’s have hit by more than just the COVID-19 virus, which has forced the postponement of four games in late August and early September.
The A’s are getting hit by the baseball in record numbers. And around Major League Baseball, it is becoming an epidemic.
According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s have been hit 25 times in the shortened season’s first 34 games. Projected through a normal season, the total would be 119 HBPs and would shatter the American League record of 103 held by the 2008 Cleveland Indians.
This is not something new to Oakland. The A’s led the American League in hit batsmen last season with 87. Only the National League’s New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds had more.
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In general, baseball has never been chippier. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was initially suspended for eight games (later reduced to five) for throwing inside against the Houston Astros. Kelly didn’t even hit a batter.
After the Tuesday, Sept.1 game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, the benches emptied onto the field for an “animated discussion” about Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman throwing a 100-mph fastball over the head of Rays pinch hitter Mike Brosseau. Home-plate umpire Roberto Ortiz warned both benches, which led to the ejection of Rays manager Kevin Cash.
In the postgame press conference as reported on ESPN, Cash put his money where his mouth is.
“It’s poor judgment, poor coaching, it’s just poor teaching what they’re doing and what they’re allowing to do,” Cash said. “The chirping from the dugout. Somebody needs to tell me, go pull up the numbers, who has hit who more, but I can assure you that other than three years ago, there hasn’t been one pitch thrown with intent from any of our guys. Period. Somebody has to be held accountable.”
Cash put an exclamation point on the battle of thrown baseballs. “The last thing I’ll say on it is that I have a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph. Period.”
Recently, A’s manager Bob Melvin, not known for retaliation practices, weighed in. “Same thing last year,” Melvin said. “We have some guys that you have to pitch in, we have some guys that are on the plate a little at times. But it’s a big number and it gets frustrating at times.”
It is not just the A’s getting plunked. This season, teams are averaging 0.47 hit batters per game, on track to tie the highest rate for a season in MLB history that was set 121 years ago.
While waiting for play to resume, Oakland A’s hitters have a few days to recover from bumps and bruises cause by HBPs. But in the scheme of things, unlike the symptoms caused by the coronavirus, these pains are avoidable if MLB will do something about it.