How Can MLB Help Pitchers Avoid Line Drives?
How To Make Pitchers Safer
It’s one of the scariest plays in baseball and can happen at any given time and on any given diamond.
The pitcher throws the ball, a 95 MPH fastball, the batter connects with it square and rockets the ball right back up the middle. The pitcher, despite their best efforts, can’t get out of the way. The ball crashes into their skull and they drop to the ground holding their heads with an inevitable concussion diagnosis.
We’ve seen a number of pitchers get in the head by line-drive hits over the years. It’s something that has happened since the beginning of baseball. However, with batters finding more and more power for their swings, baseballs are being hit harder and harder.
This season, Toronto Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ and Tampa Bay Rays’ Alex Cobb have headlined when it comes to taking a rocket-shot off the head. Both pitchers are still with concussions and most believe that Happ won’t return until mid-July.
So what can the MLB do about these scary line-drive hits that come right back to the pitcher? Many experts are currently trying to come up with solutions to protect pitchers from being hit in the head with hard-hit baseballs.
Similar to what is used during batting practice, installing some sort of barrier between the pitcher and home plate that they could duck behind in the event that a ball is hit right back up the middle at them. The only drawback is that you have a structure now in the middle of the diamond that could drastically change the outcome of a game.
Move The Mound Back
Moving the mound back two-to-three feet could give the pitcher that extra split second they need to either get out of the way or put the glove up to make the catch. The rest of the diamond can stay the same, but the mound would be moved back a little bit. This may be the simplest solution, but could still pose problems to pitchers as they would have to re-work their pitches in order to compensate for the added distance.
While using a full-on batting helmet like the one shown above may be a bit uncomfortable for the pitcher, there’s not doubt that using that is much safer than a fabric hat when it comes to protection. Another avenue that has reportedly been investigated when it comes to protective headgear is lining the regular hat with a layer of Kevlar to give it some added strength. The only drawback is that it may not be very comfortable for a pitcher.
Make A Softer Ball
Logistically, this would be extremely difficult to do. Trying to figure out the best way to soften a baseball while still keeping hard enough to be effective and then mass producing the thousands of balls that are used during the season would be a chore for any manufacturing company. However, making the ball softer would help to soften the blow when it connects with a pitcher's head.
Perhaps There Is No Solution?
Pitchers being hit in the head by line-drives has been a part of the game since the earliest days of baseball. Regardless of what level it is, that is always a danger. While it does happen, it doesn’t happen often. You could likely count on one, maybe two, hands the number of times that a pitcher has been hit by a line drive each season.
As rare as it is, pitchers have been said to claim that they simply put it out of their minds since it can be such a rare occurrence. However, other pitchers say they have nightmares at while they sleep where this exact scenario plays out.
No matter what they decide, the MLB would be wise to take a good, hard look at all the ideas and options they have to make the game safer for pitchers. It doesn’t matter how rare the play is. Whenever it does happen, it is just as unnerving and as scary as the time before it.