Athletics

Why A's rise in hit by pitches could be viewed as positive

Athletics
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Ramón Laureano was hit twice by a pitch in the game that ultimately resulted in a bench-clearing brawl between the A’s and the Houston Astros on Aug. 9. 

That, in addition to Astros’ hitting coach Alex Cintrón yelling a slur about Laureano’s mother, is what resulted in this:

https://twitter.com/NBCSAthletics/status/1292590434510929920?s=20

Still, Laureano has been hit by six pitches this season. The A’s, in total, lead the American League with 19. Only the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets had more with 24 apiece entering Saturday to lead Major League Baseball.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was tied with Laureano for the MLB lead in HBP heading into the day. Oakland, Chicago and New York have five of the six most-hit players this season.

So … what does that mean? A’s hitting coach Darren Bush chalked it up to Oakland's fearless mentality at the plate.

“I mean, pitchers have to pitch in. Especially against a lineup like ours, they have to,” Bush said on Friday. “If they continually pitch out over the plate, and they don’t push you back, then they’re going to get in a lot of trouble. Because they’re going to make mistakes.”

Bush said if a hitter begins to get comfortable in the box, “you’re in trouble.”

“Against a lineup like ours, if you don’t pitch us in, and you don’t push us back, you’re basically just giving us the outer part of the plate,” Bush added. “That’s pitching.”

 

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Over the last few years, the plunkings have come at an all-time high. There could be several reasons why that is with the way the game is changing. One reason could be to shorten long at-bats, but we aren’t seeing pitchers pitch games in their entirety these days.

Another theory, from FiveThirtyEight, says the uptick in velocity could be the cause. When pitchers concentrate on adding miles per hour to their pitches,  control often takes a back seat. Plus, pitchers also are throwing inside more than they ever have.

With so many home runs in today's game, is it possible a pitcher would just hit a batter in hopes of ridding the hitter of the opportunity to homer? Rather than walk a home-run threat, like pitchers did in Barry Bonds' heyday, are they just plunking guys?

Or is it just out of plain-old retaliation? What if some bat flipped or, gosh forbid, tried to make baseball fun?

But that’s another article.

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No matter the reason, Oakland is embracing feeling the hurt more than just about anyone else this season.

“It’s been going on forever, and so do we get hit by pitches? Yeah. But our guys also -- they get hit by a pitch, they get right back in there,” Bush said. “They get right back in there and say ‘OK, you have to come here again -- if you hit me by a pitch, the guy on deck can hurt you just as bad as I can.’

“So, when they’re hitting somebody, they’re getting us the opportunity to score more runs and our guys do a good job of taking advantage of that and they do a very good job of saying ‘Hey you hit me, the next at-bat, I’m going to be right back in there, the exact same spot doing the exact same thing.’ ”