How to Hit a Batter: Zito vs. Fielder

Did Barry Zito send a message to Prince Fielder or to his Giants teammates?

What’s My Point?

Barry Zito did hit Prince Fielder because of the walk–off home run.  But I believe he is sending a message to the league that the Giants care about how the game is played. I also think that Zito is teaching his young pitching staff how to hit a batter.

Why does it matter?

  1. The Giants have a team that can win the NL West and Zito knows it.  The pitching staff is young, but Zito knows that opposing players take notice if they know that a pitching staff is willing to protect their teammates or the game.
  2. There is no better way for a pitcher to get position players on your side then to hit an opposing player.  Even though this was not retaliation because of a Giants batter being hit, it still proves that any perceived disrespectful action will be handled with a message pitch.  This is HUGE.

Reasons to Throw at a Batter:

  1. A player looks, yells, or points at an opposing player clearly showing that the game is secondary to making his point.
  2. A player slides hard into a base late or with their spikes high where the result is not to break up a play, but to hurt the opposing player.
  3. Any action that a player makes that causes fans to look at them instead of the play.  This could include hitting a home run and standing there too long or throwing your bat high in the air while you are watching the ball go over the fence.
  4. If the opposing pitcher throws around a player’s head more than once.  (Once can be assumed that the ball just got away)
  5. If opposing team hits your 3rd, 4th, 5th hitter, or best player with a fastball in the middle of the back with the 1st pitch.


Most important!!!!!  2 outs! Your team is winning by 4 runs or more.  Why?  After you hit this guy, the opposing team is going to be mad and you just gave them a motivator to fight back.  Also, winning the game is the top priority.  We will not give the opposing team a legitimate statistical chance of winning because of it.  The reason it is 4 runs is because that is the most runs possible with one swing of the bat.


In 2009 the MLB On Base Percentage Avg was .333.

In 2009 the chance of hitting a Home run was 0.03

So the probability of 3 men getting on base in a row are 1/3 x 1/3 x 1/3 = 1/27 or 0.037

We multiply 0.037 (chance of loading the bases) x 0.03 (chance a person hits a hr) = 0.001 or 0.1% (one tenth of a percent)

Now you have to understand that I am using overall 2009 Stats and this is not taking into consideration anything but the “absolute” numbers. Obviously a power hitter has a better chance of hitting a home run vs. a power hitter who is playing hurt.  You get my drift. This math problem is to give you a general understanding of probability.  All you SABR guys can cool off now.

Try and hit him in the RIBS not the back, butt, legs…with a 4 seemed fastball. This is the only real way to send a message. I have been hit countless times in the back by a 2-seamed fastball and never once am I sure I was hit on purpose.  Of course, I must have been, but since the ball was sinking into me I assumed he just missed.

Once you hit him, you don’t look at him, you don’t talk to him, you don’t walk towards the batter, you don’t look at the umpire and throw your hands up as if it got away, you don’t argue with the umpire.  If you get thrown out you walk off the field…message sent.   If you do any of the actions mentioned you have switched the focus from sending a message to saying you “didn’t mean it” which is opposite of your point.  You want the opposing team to know you did it on purpose.


You do not hit a batter because he “owns” you.  You don’t hit a batter because you don’t like him.


44 Comments on “How to Hit a Batter: Zito vs. Fielder”

  1. Desi says:

    I am so glad that Zito did something to let Prince know that what he did was not ok. I am sick, and tired of seeing someone hit a home run and either watch it, or do some sort of antic afterwards. I coached a traveling team, and one thing I taught was that when someone hit a home run the whole team was not going to go out on the field to congratulate him, and I was astounded to see how many teams/kids would do that or emulate something they saw on sportscenter. I wish more kids these days were being taught the gentlemans rules of the game. I think that would be something really cool to hear from the perspective of a Major Leaguer. I am sure there are plenty of things that you guys abided by that we as fans dont really know of.

    One more question why did no one retaliate on Albert Pujols after he hit that home run in game 5 of the NLCS with 2 outs in the ninth to send it to game 6, and 7. He watched that ball the whole way, and walked a bit down the line with his bat in hand.

    • Pujols definitely watched that ball. By the way, that game was lost before he hit that ball due to positioning of fielders. Maybe I will go over that on a post. But back to the issue. If I was a manager or team leader at the time I would have hit him the following year. Pitchers are not taught how to properly send a message anymore and that is why he wasn’t hit. If you are going to “police” then you have to be consistent and have defined rules as to when and why you hit someone.


      • Desi Montez says:

        First of all forgive me for saying that the series went to game 7. I knew it didnt, but for some reason in that moment saying it went to game 7 just seemed more dramatic. I watched any video I could find on this, and I saw that Lidge called in Everett, and then Bruntlett. Im assuming you are talking about their positioning, but I couldnt find a video that showed me exactly where they were playing, but more than likely you are talking about the positioning of the outfielders. As you can tell I am very intrigued in this, and cant wait to see what you have to say on this.

        Also I would just like to say thank you for starting this blog.

  2. Ashitaka says:

    What’s your thought on the curtain call? I imagine traditionally it must have been frowned on, though I have no idea who did it first or when it became more or less acceptable. I know I’ve read that Berkman refuses to do it. Under the rules you posted, wouldn’t a curtain call count as a HBP-able offense?

  3. Steve Stein says:

    Just a quibble on your math – you have to assume you already hit the guy and he’s on first, so the chance of loading the bases when a guy is already on first is 1/9th, and the chance that it leads to 4 runs scoring on the next three batters after the HBP are 1%, not 0.1%. SABR guys never cool off. 🙂

    Hey, anyone can play baseball, but it takes real talent to construct an interesting and distinctive blog. Nice place you got here.

    • Steve you are right with the math. I was trying to generalize the chances of a grand slam without taking into consideration my example of hitting a batter. You are definitely correct though. Nice work.


  4. This is awesome. And as awesome as this is, high school-ers, totally ignore everything in this post! You will be ejected immediately.

    • It is the managers job to teach this and set the tone in high school. If the manager orders to hit a player, then he should know that his pitcher will be getting thrown out so he should have somebody getting loose in the bullpen ready to go.


  5. Ice Berg says:

    Too long; didn’t read.

  6. Eli says:

    Great start to your blog here! I’ll be coming back. Good post length on this one, short enough to read in under a minute while providing enough details to really make a point. I also like that you put the math section in grey instead of black to show that some people might want to skip past.

  7. tideturns says:

    i didn’t think it was too long! i always thought hitting batters on purpose was a taboo subject- but the way you talk about it you describe it down to a science.

    great post! glad to see you are twitter, also

  8. kevin says:

    I don’t think its too long as you’re interested in the topic.

    Anyhoo, I think your points are spot on. I noticed that Fielder did nothing but walk down to first base. I think he knew it would happen and it did. Move on. It wasn’t at his head or behind his head. Like you said, it about players policing the situation on their own. I understand the line that MLB and the umpires have to walk in allowing that though. There are always some idiots out there that will throw at someones head. And then its way too late.

    An analogy I can make is fighting in hockey. It is not prevalent in hockey but it does have its place. It allows the players to police the game. If it wasn’t “allowed” players would take cheap shot runs at players all the time knowing there would be no retribution. I could talk about that for hours but I’m sure that you get the point.

    I remember a few years back, not sure what season it was but you almost got your head taken clean off your head by a Reds pitcher. The game was in Cincy, you immediately got up dusted yourself off and got back in the box. Now there probably were some words from the dugout and that’s fine. I’m willing to bet the pitcher thought you were going to be bailing out pitch the next pitch. Well he threw you a belt high fastball that you CRUSHED into the second deck. You dropped the bat, ran the bases at your normal pace and played the game. Retribution at its best. End of story.

    • Great point on hockey. I think hockey has correctly handled the hockey fighting situation. Notice that it is only 2 guys fighting….you don’t see the benches clear. That is because hockey players understand that these 2 guys are clearing the air. In 1996 USC (Trojans) got into a dangerous bench clearing brawl with Arizona St. Once the dust settled we were all tired. Guys had busted lips and bruises, but we were able to handle the situation right there. The next time we played them both sides simply played the game because there was no “payback” owed. I run into guys who were on that A State team and all we talk about is that fight. After guys get into a fight, we gain respect for each other and drop the “little” things.


  9. Andy says:

    Fantastic post. Nice to see a player write some of the unwritten rules of baseball down for a change.

  10. richard koehler says:

    Hey Morgan,

    Just found your blog by way of Alyson Footer’s blog.

    Good to hear from you and to have you available as a baseball resource.

  11. Bil Porter says:

    Morgan, this is pretty cool thanks for doing it; I hope it turns into or leads to something good for you. By the way if you’re willing to write em I’m willing to read em no matter how long you want to make em.

    It’s always seemed ok to me that professional players and former professional players talk about or advocate hitting a guy but it has also seemed to me that fans or writers who do it and have never faced that “opportunity” are high end a-holes. Any thoughts on what I think ought to be an unwritten rule of fandom?

    • An unwritten rule for Fandom……WOW…..that is a great question Bill. Do you know what “kangaroo court” is? It is a actual mock trial where the guy with the most service time presides over the actions of the team. We have a rule that you are not allowed to comment on ability. example: If an outfielder drops a ball in the outfield we would never submit that the fielder has “stone hands”. That has to do with ability. We would submit that we saw the guy looking at the big screen “digging himself” during the game.

      The point is that you can yell at a guy for his effort not his ability. Does that make sense?


  12. Susan says:

    So, you’re being a childhood Dodgers fan and all…. Almost decade before you were born, in 1966, Sandy Koufax pitched 323 innings with an ERA of 1.73, won 27 games, threw 27 complete games, with 5 shutouts, struck out over 300 batters, etc etc etc…

    He did not hit one batter that season, even though there must have been at least a few uppity ones.

    I’m wondering if he would have gotten more respect if he’d plunked a few…? It’s hard to imagine.

    What do you think?

  13. PJ says:

    I saw the highlight on sportcenter and the comment was made that it was like a 70mph “fast” ball. Not sure if that’s accurate but it didn’t look like Zito was throwing more than bp speed…and Fielder did pick up the ball and flip it back to him. What are your thoughts on this? Should Zito be throwing as much heat as he can (not that he’s a flamethrower anyway)?

    • I don’t think it matters how hard he throws the ball as long as it is a 4 seamed FB. That is the point I am trying to make. It is about the message not hurting a guy.


  14. James Frascona-Cochran says:

    Having played the game in my youth and being an avid baseball fan I know that retaliation will happen. My question is this. How can it be considered sending a message when any hitter of the game knows that if they do something outlandish, the pitcher will respond with the next possible chance? Prince knew that one of the Giants pitchers was going to respond. He had six months to prepare for the fastball. We all know the response pitch will be a fastball anyways. To me the beaning lost its meaning since the two teams never played again last year.

    • It is true that the Giants never faced the Brewers after that home run. But it doesn’t matter. Can you imagine spending 4 months of your off-season wondering who is going to hit you from the Giants? Remember, the Giants have Cain, Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Dan Runzler, Jeremy Affeldt, and I am missing a few others that can throw in the mid–90’s or higher. Yes Prince is very thankful that Zito was the one that hit him. Imagine if it was Dan Runzler? The guy throws 98 mph from the left side….Prince could be killed with that pitch.

      Sometimes holding the possibility of hitting a batter is more effective until the time is right, but the fact that is was Zito shows us that something else was going on there. Does that make sense?


  15. Matt Wood says:

    On this topic, my favorite pitcher-hitting-batter moment has to be Nolan Ryan hitting Robin Ventura, and the ensuing meeting that then took place at the mound. 😉

    • That is actually a good example of old guys having wisdom. I think the part that we all were surprised with was Nolan putting Ventura in the head lock. That was the first Ultimate Fighting Challenge…..where was the octagon?


  16. Becky B. says:

    I remember when Ryan Braun hit a BIG homerun in Houston, in his
    first year with The Brewers. He sort of walked to first base, where
    Lance Berkman had a few “words of wisdom” for him. By the time he
    got back to the dugout, his manager was standing on the steps waiting for him. I believe he told him to NEVER be a show-off again. Fielder had it coming. Barry Zito just got it out of the way in Spring training, instead of plunking him after the season
    starts. Fielder is a vegetarian….those vegetables must be REAL fattening!! HA! HA! HA!!!!!

    • I believe there is more of an emphasis on the “look at me” vs. “we are a team”. My high school coach, Tim Ammentorp, would say “Act like you’ve done it before!” I always thought it was more intimidating when a guy hit it and just ran with his head down. That’s just my Norwegian upbringing I guess.


  17. This kind of candid honesty is going to make you an excellent commentator or analyst. Keep up the blogging, don’t slow down, and you’ll be an author soon too. Come on my show this Sunday on Sports Radio 610 in Houston. 1:30pm central is my preference but let me know when between 11-3p works for you.

  18. Wolfefan says:

    Excellent points. I think baseball over-reacts when they want to punish a pitcher for “intentionally throwing at a batter.” It’s part of the game. Now, if you’re throwing at a guy’s head, that’s out of line, but your guidelines (so to speak) are intelligent and reasonable. As for Prince Fielder getting hit, yes, he deserved it, but I could even see justifying plunking any of their better hitters for that tasteless display by the entire team at home plate. The manager should have been disciplined for allowing that.

    • What is most important to me is that the other team knows exactly what would cause us to hit him. The goal is also to win the game so I will wait until we have a virtual lock on the win.


  19. Stone says:

    I bookmarked your blog based on this post alone. The Pujols HR post was magic as well.

  20. Jim says:

    This was a really good post. Keep it up! I wish you the best of luck!

  21. orlando says:

    wow! great post! Thanks for the insight, hitting a batter, a true art. for some reason, i just remembered when Roger Clemens threw a broken bat at Mike Piazza, i think he send a message with that too.

  22. […] wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago about the Barry Zito/Prince Fielder spring “beanball” in it he had rules for […]

  23. Stephen Luftschein says:

    I agreed with it all until the last line. In my day, and earlier, if someone was to comfortable against someone, or if you were Bob Gibson, you’d drill him just to get him out of his comfort zone. But it truly was if someone owned you.

    Otherwise, I wish they’d paste this in every bullpen as an instruction for young pitchers.

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