A Proposed Change to the Hit-by-Pitch Rule of Major League Baseball

In this article, we propose a change to the Hit-by-Pitch rule in order to increase safety, sportsmanship, and level of excitement in the game.


In Major League Baseball (MLB), the batter is sometimes hit by a pitch (HBP). Safety and sportsmanship suffer due to HBP. Batters are sometimes seriously injured. Sometimes the hit batter runs to the pitcher mound and attacks the pitcher. If one pitcher hits a batter, then the opposing pitcher may retaliate by hitting another batter in a later inning. Clearly, HBP is a problem. But the penalty for HBP is rather small. The hit batter goes to first base. At first base this runner is not yet in scoring position, while the defense has a possible double play opportunity. The offending pitcher can be ejected from the game but this seldom happens.

We propose to increase the penalty for HBP. In the new penalty, the hit batter continues his at-bat, while the offense sends a fast base runner to first base. As the at-bat continues, other new rules give advantages to the batter. Thus, pitchers have more incentive to avoid hitting batters.

One might expect an increased penalty to lead to a decrease in level of excitement among the fans. But the opposite happens. As explained below, the new penalties lead to an increase in the level of excitement.

Summary of the Proposed Rule Change

In the proposed HBP rules, when a batter is hit by a pitch, he does not go to first base, but instead his team sends another player to first base. The offense can send any player and he does not lose his place in the batting order. Naturally, the offense will send the fastest runner on the team. We will call the base runner in this situation a “Special Base Runner”.

The at-bat continues with the same batter who was hit by the pitch. But the batter is now in a “Special At-Bat” in which he does not strike out until the sixth strike. If this batter is hit again during the Special At-Bat, then he takes first base, while the pitcher is automatically ejected from the game. See the section below for more details of the proposed rules.

Effect on Incentives of the Pitcher

The proposed HBP rules will give pitchers more incentive to avoid hitting batters. The increased incentive begins with the stronger penalty. But the incentives of the pitcher transcend the penalty in itself. If the pitcher hits the batter, then he finds himself in a situation with many difficulties. He has to worry about the fast base runner stealing second base. Due to the six strike rule, he is behind in the count of balls and strikes. At the same time, if he pitches too aggressively or makes a mistake, then he may hit the batter again, which automatically ejects him from the game. If that were to happen, his fans will not be pleased.

Effect on Level of Excitement in the Game

Once the batter is hit by a pitch under the proposed rules, then the level of excitement is increased among the fans of the team on offense. The batter is seeking revenge. The level of anticipation is increased as the other penalties stack the odds more in favor of the batter. Tension is also increased because the fastest runner on the team is threatening to steal a base. Still more tension comes from the threat of automatic ejection of the pitcher due to a second HBP. On the other hand, if the pitcher strikes out the batter under these difficult conditions, then a special achievement can be recognized by the fans of the team on defense.

Details of the Proposed Rule Change

The following details help clarify the proposed new rules.

If the HBP is the fault of the batter, then there is no penalty. For example, the batter may be at fault if the point of contact is in the strike zone, or if the batter leans too far into the pitch. After each HBP event, the officials must decide whether the pitcher is at fault. Video replay might assist in this call.

In the HBP penalty a Special Base Runner goes to first base. The team on offense can replace the Special Base Runner with any other player at any time between batters. Typically, the Special Base Runner would be replaced upon arrival of his turn in the batting order.

If the HBP event injures the batter, then the team on offense can send any of its players to replace the injured player in the Special At-Bat. The player entering the Special At-Bat does not lose his previous place in the batting order. If he reaches base, then he becomes another Special Base Runner who can then be replaced with another runner.

The increased penalty for HBP does not mean that officials can no longer eject pitchers for HBP. Officials can still eject pitchers according to the previous standards.


We have proposed a new set of rules for the penalty when a batter is hit by a pitch. The new rules provide special incentives for the pitcher to avoid hitting batters. As pitchers hit batters less often, safety and sportsmanship increase. The new rules also increase the level of excitement among the fans. Therefore, Major League Baseball (MLB) should adopt this new set of rules in order to increase safety, sportsmanship and excitement.