"The trick against Drysdale is to hit him before he hits you." - Orlando Cepeda
Whatever happened to the brush back pitch? The days of “dusting a player off” are long gone and it makes me mad. Gone are the days of Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, and Sandy Koufax. Very few pitchers today throw inside. And it’s obvious. It’s a lost art and batters are taking advantage.
The “brush back” is a pitch thrown high and inside, usually a fastball, to force the batter away from the plate. Often to intimidate, this way, the pitcher can reclaim the inside part of the plate. Not to be confused with a “bean ball”, the purpose is not to hit the batter simply to push him off the plate.
The batter wants to dig in, get comfortable and stay on top of the baseball so he can “drive it.” Any pitcher that allows a batter to get comfortable in the batter’s box is losing a tremendous advantage.
"Show me a guy who can't pitch inside and I'll show you a loser." – Sandy Koufax
Recently Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez commanded respect inside but today I can’t name one pitcher that has a reputation for intimidating batters. Times have definitely changed in the game that’s for sure. Batters are the stars of today while pitchers of yester year are but a beloved memory.
Why? Cause batters are hitting bombs. Monumental homeruns fly off their bats because batters are given the inside of the plate while having no worries that the pitcher might hit them or intentionally knock them down. The terms “chin music” or “high & tight” are rarely said by broadcasters in this day and age. Hitters know they can crowd the plate in order to have a better swing at that hard to hit ball on the outside half of the plate.
"When I knocked a guy down, there was no second part to the story." - Bob Gibson
Is it any wonder we have more homeruns today than in years past? Nope, it can’t be a coincidence. The hitters know that pitchers are soft and scared to throw inside because they might hit the batter. The brush back helps a to "reclaim" the corners of the strike zone by forcing the batter to stand farther away.
Back in the day the pitchers would “plunk” batters much more than today trying to reclaim that valuable inside part of the plate. Home plate has always been 17 inches wide. I was taught that home plate should be divided into three parts. The inside allows four inches, the middle nine inches, and the outside four inches. ONLY the middle part belongs to the hitter, the inside and outside parts should belong to the pitcher.
The season record of hitting batters is 54 times held by Phil Knell back in in 1891. Since 1980, the number was only 20 times held by five different pitchers. In comparison, 2012, there were five pitchers all with a total of only 10 hit batters.
While controversial, the brush back can be an effective part of pitching, although the home plate umpire can issue a warning to, and even eject, a pitcher if the ump feels he is trying to hit a batter intentionally.
"He (Bob Gibson) couldn't pitch today because they wouldn't let him. The way he'd throw inside, he'd be kicked out of the game in the first inning, along with guys like Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax." - Red Schoendienst
The game of baseball has definitely changed. It has become less finesse and more clumsiness. Today you see more homeruns than stolen bases. Professional baseball is nothing more than glorified “softball” often seeing scores in double digits. In a steroid era, batters are handed an opportunity to hit the ball a country mile instead of pitchers taking advantage and knocking them out of box every once in a while.
I’d be all for bringing back the brush back pitch, allowing the pitcher to pitch inside and giving the advantage back to the guys toeing the rubber.
I’m tired of watching the heavy hitters, in all their arrogance, dance around the bases, flashing signs into the sky, after their gargantuan home runs all while showing up these pitchers. The game should not be played that way. Where’s the retaliation. Where is the intimidation? Where are the pitchers the batters used to fear? Nowhere, that’s where.