Hit By Batter and a Present Danger

I’m pleased to present a guest post from Gerry Garte, who sent me the following piece on Thursday. I encourage anyone who’s interested in writing for this site to do likewise.

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Shattering bats are causing injuries and havoc on the baseball diamond.

Some bats being produced today are splintering and separating long-ways. From time to time, the flying wood has become a threat to players on the infield.

The most difficult of these injuries came on September 19 at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida.

Cubs Tyler Colvin was running third to home, watching the flight of a ball hit by Cubs Welington Castillo. As Colvin watched, a large piece of splintered wood hit him in the upper chest. The wood bounced off, but it had punctured his chest. Colvin was recovering the last two weeks of the season.

A few days after Colvin was hurt, ace pitcher Cliff Lee of Texas was struck behind his ear by a piece of shattered bat from Oakland’s Jack Cust. Light bleeding, but Lee was able to continue.

How close do we need to get to a critical injury or fatality?

Major League Baseball is well aware of the situation, and seems to be moving in a positive direction. Timeliness is the concern. With safety as a priority, new standards for bats should be in place well before next season. In the event that something isn’t done to correct splintering bats before next season, I have concocted a Plan B: Hit By Batter (HBB).

When a batter loses grip of his bat or the bat breaks and then hits a defensive player, on that defensive player’s next at bat (or his position in the batting order), he will be awarded first base. This is Hit By Batter (HBB). This award of first base, like Hit By Pitch (HBP), will not be an official at bat. However, it will be different in one regard, the batter will have an option:

  • Being awarded first base with no at bat
  • Accepting an official at-bat

If he accepts the HBB, he reports to the home plate umpire and is directed to first. Players on base would advance one base if forced, as if the batter had been walked. If a batter wishes to accept a plate appearance and risk an out– and this would depend on game situation– he will inform the umpire and immediately step in the batter’s box.

With the implementation of HBB, a team would be less likely to support the use of a bat made of material more likely to shatter/break.

If a lost/broken bat incident is somehow determined to be intentional by Major League Baseball, a suspension would be strongly considered.

On the other hand, if the defensive player makes no move to avoid a tumbling bat, the defensive player’s next at bat (or his place in the batting order) could be ruled an out in advance by the umpiring crew.

Only baseball could consider such an unlikely event as reason to establish a new rule.

But a new rule, Plan A, is needed.

A thorough, updated investigation by Major League Baseball to determine the exact types of bats causing the most problem has been warranted for several years. We’re discussing player safety.

In two-year-old data, it was noted that maple bats were used by more than half of the players in MLB.

As baseball has added rules requiring batting helmets, an updated safety standard on the wood in bats is overdue.

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Email Gerry Garte at garte@comcast.net

0 thoughts on “Hit By Batter and a Present Danger”

  1. Is some of this supposed to be exaggeration to make a point? Which umpire is going to be focused on the bat/bat shard? Intention not to move away from a piece of bat?? Umpires can’t get black and white calls right, how they gonna divine intention to not be hit by a bat? (When the defensive player is hit he, obviously, wasn’t moving away from the piece of bat!)
    MLB needs to limit bats to those made less fragile.

  2. You bring up a good point about splintering bats and something needing to change. Really, the company making this bats needs to figure out a better way or baseball just needs to ban them. I know this wood is better for hitting but you are right that this needs to be fixed or someone will eventually be seriously injured. Last night the Giants-phillies game the bat just stuck into the ground. You don’t see that often and it has to be due to the new bats.

    I honestly think your plan B is not a good idea at all. I don’t understand how you can reward the hitter who has let go of their bat or had their bat broken. On top of that couldn’t a player technically let go of his bat on purpose and hope it hits someone so they would get first base. If I am understanding this right, it doesn’t seem like a good idea at all.

  3. Hi Joe:
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. In Plan B, the FIELDER is awarded first base, not the batter, on his next plate appearance.
    But if MLB works quickly to ban the wood or the bat-making process causing the problems, Plan B is unnecessary — but still interesting. gg

  4. Am I wrong to assume you are being facetious win your Plan B? Plan A is the only method to resolve the current danger that exists. The likelihood of instituting a new rule, a new statistic, well, there is no likelihood. That’s a zero probability. The umpires already can’t make the correct calls on the field in regards to strike zone, fair and foul, and safe or out, that the idea of instituting another, likely more difficult to see and interpret occurrence, is a bit silly. They won’t even improve the replay system, which is moronic given the high number of blown calls we’ve seen. Furthermore, the frequency in which a fielder is actually hit with a bat is so rare, that it wouldn’t be anywhere significant enough for a player to actually discontinue using the harder, higher performing maple. Otherwise, this is a topic worth discussing and Rob Neyer wrote about it recently. But let’s face it, like so often in life, nothing will happen until someone loses an eye. And that seems infinitely more likely that a fatality, to me anyway. I’m glad you chose to write on this subject, so please don’t be offended by my strong opinion; it stems from my belief in the importance of the issue, and less so in my perceived improbability of your “Plan B.”

  5. Hi Paapfly:
    Thanks for the comments. I agree, let’s not wait until somebody loses an eye. I’m worried MLB will drag its feet and not get the issue corrected for next season.
    If MLB does restrict usage of certain woods or bat-making processes, the ballplayers effected will need time to adjust, and obtain new bats.
    Plan B is not the best answer, or maybe even a likely answer, but something’s got to be done by MLB to avoid another Colvin-type injury or worse. gg

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