Marlins outfielder and NL MVP award contender Giancarlo Stanton was hit in the face by a Mike Fiers offering in Thursday night’s game against the Brewers. He suffered multiple facial fractures and dental damage, likely ending his season.
The incident has resulted in no shortage of angles from which to form an opinion, whether it’s who should be fined and suspended, the non-HBT ruling on Stanton, or the necessity of more protection in the batter’s box. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg found a unique angle, though. Via Stephen Gross of The Morning Call:
Sandberg said it’s possible Stanton misjudged the pitch, however, the game being played differently today than when he played, could also have played a part.
“There were certain pitches whether you blink or whether I did not pick up the ball at the time, you were usually trained to turn your back to the pitch,” said Sandberg. “In my day there weren’t too many games where I didn’t either have to hit the dirt or get down on a pitch or turn my back because the game was played differently. In some regards, the hitters do get pretty comfortable standing in there, not even thinking it is a possibility any more. If I was a hot hitter even more soft on my feet almost expecting to get brushed back and go in the dirt. Today is a different game.”
For what it’s worth, the HBP rate in Sandberg’s era was much less than it is now. Per Baseball Reference, in the prime of Ryne Sandberg’s career (1982-1992), the HBP rate per game wavered from 0.13 to 0.20. The HBP rate over the last five seasons has wavered from 0.30 to 0.34. Though the difference seems small, it adds up over the course of 2,500 games. Excluding data before 1901, the ten-highest HBP rates have all come in the 2000’s.