Print and Go Back ESPN.com: MLB Playoffs 2013 [Print without images]

Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: October 15, 3:03 PM ET
Justin Verlander speaks up on HBP

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

DETROIT -- Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander gave voice Monday to a topic that surprisingly had not created more of a stir before now.

Asked about Shane Victorino's penchant for being hit by pitches -- he has been hit five times in the postseason, beginning with his first plate appearance in Game 1 of the ALDS -- Verlander suggested that umpires should take into account the way Victorino appears to hang over the plate from the right-handed batter's box.

"I've seen pitches that he got hit on that were strikes," Verlander said during a formal media interview session. "So, I mean, I don't think you can worry about that. I think just whoever is the home plate umpire needs to be aware he's up there.

"Anything on the inner half, occasionally he's looking to get hit. He's up there, he's right on top of the plate. And his arms are over the batter's box and over part of the plate. If he doesn't get out of the way, there could be an occasion that it could be a strike and it actually hits him. That's something that I think that those guys [umpires] are aware of.

"But you can't think about not hitting a guy," Verlander said. "You've got to think about executing your pitches and not changing anything because of that. And hopefully, if something like that happens, those guys are on top of it."

According to Major League rule 6.08 (b), umpires have the discretion to call a pitch a strike if the ball hits a batter while in the strike zone, saying in part that the batter is awarded first base when "he is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) the batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball." 

Victorino was hit an AL-leading 18 times in 2013, including 11 times in the 38 games since he began batting right-handed against right-handed pitchers. Customarily a switch-hitter, Victorino abandoned hitting from the left side because of hamstring and back issues that have plagued him all season.

"I think Victorino doesn't really care if he gets hit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday. "He's a tough kid. He stands up on top of the plate, so he does get hit a lot.

"When you try to throw the ball inside, you hit a guy like Shane because he's so close to the plate. I don't have any problem with that. It is what it is. You play the game and see how it all plays out."

To date, no one has made such a direct challenge as Verlander to Victorino's setup at the plate, though Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Alex Torres, who hit Victorino in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS, gestured to plate umpire Paul Emmel, indicating displeasure at what he considered Victorino's lack of effort to avoid the pitch.

Fangraphs.com took a detailed look at the issue here and for the most part absolves Victorino of liability, although it cites one egregious example in which Victorino appears to have stuck his elbow into the strike zone to be hit by a pitch thrown by Kansas City's James Shields.

For the record, Verlander hit four batters this season. All were right-handed hitters.