Graham Blog: What Can Be Done To Protect Pitchers On Batted Balls?
Submitted by Carson Now Reader on Thu, 10/25/2012 - 11:16pm
Event Date:October 25, 2012 (All day)
A batted ball comebacker to a pitcher is the single most dangerous situation in baseball that results more often than not in serious injury.
Can enough steps be taken to protect the pitcher in baseball from a batted ball comebacker that they cannot react fast enough to? Most pitchers throw a pitch with their follow through momentum turning their body to one side, on one foot, leaving them completely vulnerable and mostly defenseless to a screaming batted ball coming right at them.
The pitcher is the most vulnerable player on the field during a pitch. When a ball is pitched to the plate the batter has more time to react more often than not. When a pitch is hit right back to the pitcher they are most likely in a position where they cannot protect themselves with their glove. When a pitch reaches 85 mph and is batted right back to the pitcher the typical speed of the batted ball is 135 mph.
Now how in the world is Major League Baseball supposed to protect the pitcher? Putting helmets on them would not protect very much at 135 mph AND when a pitch reaches 90 mph or more, just imagine how fast the batted ball would be then. Obviously, putting helmets on the pitchers would be better than nothing but they would have to be lightweight and that may not serve as any protection at all.
If I am a pitching coach, the first thing I do to protect my pitchers would be to teach them how to finish a follow through in a defensive position so that they may react to a ball coming back at them. The best pitcher I have seen that ended up in the best position to field a ball or protect himself was the now retired pitcher Kirk Rueter of the San Francisco Giants. The lefty did not have the fastest velocity, but he did have filthy stuff. When he finished a pitch, he had both feet on the ground with his whole body square to home plate and in ready fielding position. There are a lot of pitchers who do finish in a good fielding position, but most of them, especially the power pitchers who throw 90-100 mph who do not.
It will take much more than just putting helmets on the pitchers to protect them from serious injury. I mean, just look at all the batters who get hit in the head from a ball thrown at 90 mph. The helmet can shatter even at that speed, and the batter more often than not is injured enough to be taken out of the game and may miss even more time. If that happens at 90 mph, just think how bad the injury would be at 135 mph or more even with a helmet.
It is something that cannot be avoided, it is just the game of baseball but the coaches can start teaching their pitchers on how to finish in better defensive positions. That is the only way, in my mind, that injuries will substantially go down with comebackers to the pitchers. Nothing is fool proof but something needs to be done.
We can all thank God that it does not happen too often, but when it does, it leaves everyone involved breathless and praying. Safety measures really need to be considered. Although, again in my mind, there is not enough equipment that can be put on a pitcher that would really protect them to matter. It all comes down to coaching adjustments on a pitcher’s delivery.