In light of recent events, Jays From the Couch looks into the Toronto Blue Jays and the fact that they are no strangers to being hit by pitches.
It happens and quite often. A batter steps into the box and gets beaned by the ball. It is a phenomenon that has been a part of baseball for as long as the game has been played. It is the reason why command is spoken of so often in development circles. If a 98 mile an hour fast ball gets away, it’s going to make contact with the batter and it could cause serious injury.
Batters hit by pitch is defined as a direct hit to a batter’s body, clothing or equipment other than his bat. Provided the batter made an attempt to avoid the pitch and didn’t swing, he is awarded first base. The avoidance, or lack there of, is at the umpire’s discretion. Rule 6.08(b) has become quite familiar to Blue Jays fans of late, but it hasn’t only been recently that this has been an issue in baseball. Hughie Jennings holds the record for the hit by pitch honour. In the 1891-1903 seasons he was hit an unbelievable 287 times. Jennings also holds the single season record and was hit 51 times in the 1896 season alone.
The all time record for a pitcher hitting batters goes to Gus Weyhing who managed to hit batters 277 times between the years 1887-1901. The modern day record holder is none other that hall of famer Walter Johnson with 205 batters hit. Brady Anderson gets the dubious honour of being the first to be hit twice in the same inning, and in 2014, Brandon Moss (with the Oakland A’s at the time), became the second batter with this honour.
According to Blue Jays’ club records, it was in 2011 they took the most hit batters record with 77, and the Blue Jays pitchers had the most hit batsman – five – in the May 15 2017 game against the Atlanta Braves.
Now whether this is intentional or not – and yes, most times it is completely unintentional – it’s time to look back at some recent Blue Jays players who have been struck by the hit by pitch phenomenon.
The game was against the Kansas City Royals on August 6, 2016. The Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson was up to bat in the top of the ninth inning. With a one run lead and the count 2-2, he was hit in the face. Though he walked to first base on his own, the change up thrown by Kelvin Herrera hit Donaldson on the cheek and earpiece, and it was horrible to watch.
Kevin Pillar was hit in the head by Joe Kelly on April 8, 2016 in a tied game against the Boston Red Sox in the bottom of the fourth inning. Luckily, the 97mph fastball hit the lip of his helmet and Pillar was able to stay in the game. The go-ahead run walked home and the very next pitch Josh Donaldson hit a grand slam.
The year was 2013, the day September 9, when the Blue Jays played a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Brett Lawrie was hit in the mouth by a fastball from Roberto Hernandez in the seventh inning. Still bleeding, Lawrie shook his head and walked to first base, determined to stay in the game.
Jose Bautista seems to have quite a few hit by pitch stories, both with attempted hits and those that made contact. The most recent happened just days ago in the game against the Atlanta Braves. Said to be in retaliation for a bat flip of all things, it happened in the first inning of the game. Julio Teheran‘s first pitch missed Bautista, but he made contact on his second, a fastball and his fastest pitch since the 2015 season.
This was not Bautista’s first turn on the rodeo however. Last year, in a game against the Texas Rangers, Bautista was hit by Matt Bush and a warning was issued to both benches immediately because of the contentious history between the two teams.
Bautista’s history with getting hit by a pitch goes back farther than a year ago. On July 6, 2011 he was hit in the head by Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta and was forced to leave the game.
Keeping in mind the thought of serious injury that could be career ending, a warning has to be issued when the idea that some sort of retaliation for whatever happens on the field is put into play. While accidents and unintentional hits do occur, what has to stop is using a pitch to hit a batter on purpose. While an unwritten rule in baseball circles, it is a rule that should be erased. There has to be a better was to deal with losses and over the top celebrations right? The best retaliation is and always will be to win.
*Featured Image Credit: Terry Foote UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.