Ryan Zimmerman gives theory what led to Bryce Harper’s hit by pitch

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Matt Weyrich
·3 min read
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Zimmerman gives theory what led to Harper’s hit by pitch originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

A scary moment unfolded in St. Louis on Wednesday night when Cardinals reliever Génesis Cabrera hit Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper in the face with a 97 mph fastball. Harper was quick to get up and gave fans a positive update after the game, but Cabrera’s control issues persisted when he hit shortstop Didi Gregorius in the side the next at-bat.

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Umpires issued warnings to both benches after the pitch to Gregorius, which prompted an on-field rant from Phillies manager Joe Girardi that earned him an ejection. MLB’s three-batter minimum rule prevented the Cardinals from pulling Cabrera, something even St. Louis skipper Mike Schildt acknowledged was a “failure.”

“I understand why they give the warnings, right?” Girardi said after the game, as quoted by The Athletic. “I understand they don’t want things to escalate. They don’t want people to get hit. But if a guy hits a guy in the face and a guy in the ribs with two pitches, he’s got to go, right? If you’re really protecting the players, obviously, he doesn’t have command. He’s got to go.”

Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is a former teammate of Harper, who spent the first seven years of his career in D.C. He joined 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Thursday morning and talked about a shift he’s seen across MLB that poses a threat to hitters.

“Obviously, glad he’s OK,” Zimmerman said. “That’s the thing with the game now is all these guys throw 95-100 and half of them don’t know where it’s going or know how to pitch…You see these teams just call up these guys that throw 95 or 100 mph and the team doesn’t really care. They’re just trying to see if they have anything in them.

“A couple years ago, these guys would be in Double-A or Triple-A for another year trying to learn how to pitch but these teams just call them up to see if they can kinda hit lightning in a bottle. If not, they send them back down. They don’t care if they hit four guys on the other team. What does it matter to them? The GM of the other team is not in the box, so he doesn't care. It’s a different kind of game but it is what it is and that’s where we’re at.”

The numbers back up Zimmerman’s claim. In MLB’s last full season in 2019, the league set a record with 1,984 hit by pitches. That beat the previous record of 1,922 set in… 2018. Wild pitches are also on the rise. The seven highest wild pitch totals in MLB history were all recorded in the seven seasons from 2013 to 2019. So far in 2021, there have been 354 hit by pitches and 291 wild pitches, both of which are on pace to once again set new records.

Neither Harper nor Gregorius are listed in the Phillies’ lineup for their game Thursday. Cabrera, 24, has a 3.57 career ERA in 43 appearances across three seasons.

“You’re in the big leagues,” Zimmerman said. “There’s kind of a thought that if you’re at this level, you should be able to control — especially if you’re throwing 97 mph.”

For more interviews, tune into the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington, weekdays from 6-10 a.m.