“Absolutely not. No. This game’s been played the way it’s been played for a long time,” he said. “And when you sign up to play this game, no one’s forcing you to play. No one’s pulling you out there to do it. You’re choosing to do it. It’s what we love to do and obviously when you choose to play you take the risks that come with doing it.”
Each major league game has at least a couple hundred pitches thrown. And there are more than 2,500 games a season. Out of all those games and all those pitches, no more than a few have a pitcher getting hit in the head.
The rarity of those occurrences is such that most pitchers put it completely out of mind _ out of necessity, if nothing else.
“If you think about it while you’re out there, you’re not going to get your job done,” said Chris Jakubauskas, who was hit by a line drive early in the 2010 season.
He sustained a concussion but recovered fully and is now in the Cleveland minor league organization, trying to return to the big leagues. He has more immediate problems than something that statistically improbable.
“When you take into account how many balls are put in play every single year,” Jakubauskas said. “The risk is there, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you just hope you’re in a place where you can protect yourself a little bit.”
Of the more than a dozen pitchers and managers The Associated Press interviewed for this story, the one thing they all emphasized was just how much bad luck it takes to be hit in the head.
Sure, when a player gets hit, everyone notices, but the vast majority of balls put into play come nowhere near hurting anyone. And even the close calls emphasize how unlikely it is for a pitcher’s head and a batted ball to wind up in the same place in such a way that the pitcher is unable to turn or get his glove up.
“That ball’s not big, so for that ball to hit me right there, the percentage of chance of that happening to me is not worth doing all the headgear,” Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said. “Unless you have to, I’m for that. That’s just your livelihood, I’m not going to die. I’m not going to do it.”
Reds starter Mat Latos, meanwhile, actually calculated some chances.
“Let’s see. You have five starters. No, wait, you have, what, 12 pitchers on a team? Do the math,” he said, pulling out his phone to use the calculator function.
“You have 360 pitchers … and two have been hit in the head. It happens. It’s a terrible thing. When guys like Happ and Cobb get hit in the head, you feel terrible. It’s not because they’re your teammate or your friend. You feel terrible.”
Nevertheless, Latos was skeptical of mandating safety improvements.
“It is what it is,” he said. “You know comebackers can happen.”
And they will continue to do so. The question is what can be done to prevent these rare but dangerous incidents.