Time and time again, pitchers intentionally hit batters who show them up (or for whatever reason), yet they (the pitchers) hardly ever get seriously penalized. Further, when they are penalized, it's usually only a 4-6 game suspension (of a 100+ game season). So my question is, given how incredibly dangerous a pitcher's fastball is, why doesn't MLB punish pitchers harder for hitting the batter?

I'm aware that there are "unwritten rules of the game", but honestly I think that's just an incredibly terrible excuse for bad behavior. The batter is completely defenseless, and the argument can even be made that the batter can't even properly do his job as an offensive player, due to the psychological effect of thinking that he's gonna get dinged. Parallels can be drawn between this and the NBA's rule of "allowing shooters to come down in their space". In the NBA, you can no longer contest a shot and move into the shooter's space, because doing this prevents them from coming down safely, and also prevents them from developing a psychological block (thinking that they're going to come down on someone's foot and twist their ankle when they go up to shoot). This leads to better shooting, better offense, and more entertainment for fans.

Though we can't always determine a pitcher's intention, shouldn't a reasonably hard suspension be enough to deter throwing at batters no matter what? If a pitcher knows he's gonna get a hefty suspension regardless of his intent, I feel like he'd be much more careful in his pitch placement.

I personally just feel like it would just be better for the game of baseball to leave out the intentional hitting of batters. So why hasn't baseball worked to change this yet? Does MLB feel like this isn't an issue? Is it just too deeply rooted in the culture for this ever to change?


The main problem with handing out huge suspensions is that you cannot prove intent. When the batter goes up, he assumes some risk of being hit with a ball. The NBA rule punishes blocking the landing zone of a shooter. That rule is enforceable because blocking a landing zone is always intentional. There's no other reason to do that than to interfere with the shooter. In baseball, the psychological block you mentioned for the shooter is already present. There is a good chance a batter will be hit with a ball, whether the pitcher has intent behind it or not.

If the MLB were to punish pitchers no matter intent, well, they already do that! The batter gets a free base. If the MLB increases the punishment too much, the batters will become incentivized to get hit. They would crowd the plate, allow themselves to be hit, etc. Some players already do this, notably Chase Utley, because they feel that getting hit by a pitch is worth the reward of a free base.

Getting hit by a pitch is already part of the game, and it is impossible to prove intent, because it happens accidentally as well as on purpose.

  • The NHL can't prove intent for e.g. hits to the head, but that doesn't stop them handing out large bans. – Philip Kendall May 31 '17 at 15:12
  • @PhilipKendall If a NHL player is worried about accidentally hitting someone in the head, then they won't hit anyone. You don't have to hit to play hockey. You do have to throw the ball within feet or inches of a batter to play baseball. – Frank Anderson May 31 '17 at 15:19
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    I couldn't disagree more. Any potential professional hockey player who never hits anyone isn't going anywhere in the game. – Philip Kendall May 31 '17 at 15:29
  • My point being that the game of baseball cannot be played without the ball going through the strike zone, very close to the batter. Pitchers aren't perfect, they will occasionally hit a player. – Frank Anderson May 31 '17 at 17:38
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    From ESPN's coverage: "MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre's explanation of the disciplinary decisions said Strickland intentionally hit "Harper with a pitch" (my emphasis). Seems like MLB are happy enough to state that it was intentional. – Philip Kendall May 31 '17 at 19:52

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