Prince Fielder ranks 12th among active players in hit-by-pitches, and you can spare us all the fat jokes because Reed Johnson ranks fifth. There are guys for whom getting hit is basically a skill, and this seems to be the case for Fielder, as he’s happy to find another way to reach base. Some of the balls that’ve hit him have hit him in the back. Some of the balls that’ve hit him have hit him in the butt. Some of the balls that’ve hit him have hit him in the elbow. Bringing us to a Prince Fielder HBP on Tuesday.
Fielder led off the bottom of the second inning against Dan Straily, and after falling behind 0-and-2, he got drilled by a fastball that ran up and in. The next guy struck out and the guy after that hit into a double play, so what happened to Fielder hardly mattered in the end, but this nevertheless seems like an excellent opportunity to gauge reader opinion on something.
Here’s the pitch:
An excerpt from the ensuing conversation on TBS:
Eckersley: That ball’s not that far inside, he almost throws his elbow at it. You see, Prince — he did. He could have got out of the way of that ball, but, might as well just take it there. Get something going for Detroit, it doesn’t matter how you do it.
Martinez: Yeah, he had plenty of opportunity to get out of the way of that. He knew what he was doing. He needed to get on base and get something going.
An excerpt from baseball’s official rules:
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when —
(b) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;
If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.
This is a rule lots of people know about, but it’s also a rule that’s almost never ever enforced. When it is enforced, it seems arbitrary, like the umpire’s involving himself just for the sake of involving himself. I wish the rule were enforced, and after Fielder got hit I expressed as much on Twitter. Then someone responded with a question I hadn’t thought about before: why is this a rule? Why should there need to be an attempt to avoid? Obviously there needs to be some kind of rule to prevent strikes from being hit-by-pitches, and to prevent hitters from getting in the way on purpose, but there’s a difference between trying to get hit and trying to not get hit. In this case, it looks like Fielder kind of dropped his elbow in the path, but that pitch was at least going to hit his jersey had he not moved. He didn’t move, and by the letter of the law that should’ve just been a ball, but. But, now I’m thinking about this a lot, and I wanted to get an idea of reader opinion. So there is a poll right here!
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