MLB has announced that they have approved the use of a protective baseball cap for pitchers. Over the last three years, MLB has been working with different companies testing various designs created to protect pitchers from dangerous line drives. The caps, which have half-inch thick padding in the front and one-inch padding over the temple, will be offered to pitchers upon the arrival at spring training. Players will not be required to wear the caps, but will have the option if they so choose.
After hearing about the design of the cap, it seems as if the cap could be more of a distraction than anything. The league will be asking pitchers, the player on the field that requires the most concentration, to try this bigger, heavier, bulkier, design. Some pitchers have already tried the cap on and have their reservations about this cap being practical.
The league announced earlier this year the elimination of collisions at home plate. Taking away one of the most exciting plays in all of baseball. Now they will ask pitchers to wear a padded cap to protect against line drives. Is Major League Baseball going overboard with the protective measures? Twelve pitchers have been hit in the head with line drives over the past six seasons. One of which was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb, who was hit with a 102-mph line drive off the bat of Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Cobb was taken away on a stretcher suffering from a concussion. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ was also hit by a line drive and taken off on a stretcher with a concussion. Former Oakland A’s and current Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy was struck by a line drive off the bat of Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar just below the cap line and suffered a fractured skull. These are unfortunate occurrences, but when you take into account all of the pitchers who have pitched in a Major League Baseball game over the past six seasons, 12 pitchers is a small percentage who have been struck in the head by batted balls.
Is a padded cap really the answer? In two of the three examples named above, the newly designed cap probably would not have mattered as McCarthy was hit just below the cap line. The ball that hit Cobb was clocked at 102 mph, meaning the padded cap probably would not have made much difference as they are designed to provide protection at 83 mph. So at the end of the day, I say put the New Era cap back on, get out on the mound and get back to practicing the “chuck and duck.”