Derek Dietrich of the Cincinnati Reds is having a breakout season on two fronts.
He's already established a career high with 18 home runs, and he's already gotten under the skin of half the Reds’ division foes.
After Dietrich's bat flip helped spark a wild bench-clearing brawl with the Pittsburgh Pirates back in April, his propensity for getting hit by pitches is now irritating the Milwaukee Brewers.
It was carryover from Thursday’s series opener, where Dietrich was hit twice. In the live ball era, no player had ever been hit by a pitch more than four times in a single regular series of any length in MLB history. Dietrich was up to five through two games before being hit again on Saturday.
Derek Dietrich is the first player in the modern era to get hit by a pitch 6 times in a series of any length.
— Reds Media Relations (@RedsPR) June 22, 2019
With one game still remaining in the series, you can see where this might be headed.
When batter(s) are getting hit frequently in a series, there are going to be hard feelings. Here though, we’ll explain why it’s the Brewers who are more angry about Dietrich getting hit, and why Dietrich doesn’t seem to care.
Why the Brewers are angry
The Brewers clearly felt Dietrich made more effort to get hit by at least one pitch in Friday’s game than he did to avoid it
Said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, courtesy of MLB.com:
"It's the umpire's judgment if he is intentionally putting himself into the balls. I don't know, but the second one, especially,” Counsell said. “But that's what he does. He's done it his whole career. And he gets hit a lot because of it. In Major League Baseball, I don't know when I've seen [an umpire call it]."
Brewers fans certainly felt Dietrich illegally stuck out his heavily padded elbow to create contact.
Added Brewers starter Chase Anderson:
Anderson on Derek Dietrich, who tied the record with 3 HBPs tonight and scored 4x: "The first one I hit him, but the next one I threw a cutter in there and I don't think it would have hit anybody else. ... That's kind of his game. We need to figure out what to do to get him out."
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) June 22, 2019
Dietrich has been hit by a league-leading 14 pitches this season. For his career, it’s 107 times in 677 games. So yeah, it's nothing new to him.
That part is one source of contention from Milwaukee.
That the plunkings are paying off in runs for Cincinnati has likely added to the Brewers’ frustration. Here’s Dietrich’s wild box score from Friday: 1 at-bat, 0 hits, 1 walk, 3 HBP, 4 runs scored.
Not that Dietrich cares how it reads.
Why Derek Dietrich is unapologetic
What’s a little pain when you’re scoring runs and leading the team to a season-best six-game winning streak.
That’s Dietrich’s philosophy.
“It’s funny, the guys were asking me, ‘How many of those do you think you’re getting hit by and how many did you try to get hit by?’” Dietrich said. “I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really try to get hit by any of them. If they come up and in, they come up and in.’ It just kind of happens. It’s part of the game. I’ve never really shied away from it. Guys try to get out of the way. I don’t try to get out of the way. I hold my ground. I stay in the box.
“Getting on base is big whether it’s a walk, hit, hit by pitch, it doesn’t matter. When you’re on base, you’re creating chaos. The way we’re hitting now, it’s important.”
The bruises sound more like a badge of honor than a source of pain.
Now it will be interesting to see how opponents, and specifically the Brewers, adjust to Dietrich’s approach. And it will be just as interesting to see if the league and the umpires start paying more attention.
As Counsell pointed out, umpires rarely enforce Rule 6.08 (b-2), which says the batter will not be awarded first base if no attempt is made to avoid being touched by the ball.
With Dietrich, it’s front and center now. Every time he’s hit there’s going to be a reaction that will be difficult to ignore.
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