Do MLB players really need an elbow pad and shin guard when hitting?
Some Major League Baseball hitters would rather be safe than sorry in the batter’s box. Some take it a little too far with the amount of protection they step in with, though.
It’s easy to throw on an elbow pad or a shin guard in order to prevent an injury. A pitcher could lose control of a pitch and have it hit a batter right in the elbow. A batter could also foul a pitch off his leg. Either way, he could end up on the disabled list if the damage is serious enough.
But I think that these kinds of pads and guards are becoming overused. I mean, are both really necessary each time a batter gets an at-bat? Babe Ruth never had any sort of protection, and he turned out just fine.
Here are a couple of players that really don’t need to take all of the protective measures that they do. Feel free to throw in your two cents about the players on the list, players off the list and using elbow pads and shin guards in general.
*All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts.
Jacoby Ellsbury has gotten hit by a pitch 25 times in his career, which spans over 625 games. While I don’t have the exact breakdown, I can assume that not all of them hit him in the elbow.
Ellsbury isn’t the type of hitter to crowd the plate and make the pitcher move him off of it. He stands in a normal spot in the left-handed batter’s box. There’s no record of him ever having any injury issues with his right elbow, either. Still, he wears an elbow pad.
But that’s not all. Ellsbury is also one of many players to use a shin guard. Part of Ellsbury’s game is his speed and, without his legs, he’s worth much less to the Boston Red Sox. Trying to protect his legs does make sense, but I think he’s being a little overprotective.
Being that Ellsbury is in a contract year, though, I’m sure he doesn’t want to take any chances.
I watched a large chunk of Cody Ross’ 528 plate appearances for the Boston Red Sox last season. He nearly always wore a shin guard—although I believe he’s worn it less often this season—and a fair-sized elbow pad.
In nearly 1,000 games, Ross has only been hit by a pitch 37 times. In my opinion, that’s not very many at all. It actually turns out to be once every 25 games or so where Ross gets drilled by a pitch. That doesn’t sound so horrible, right? Let’s let that elbow breathe, Cody.
One thing I will say is that although there isn’t an official count anywhere, I’ve never seen anyone foul more pitches off his leg than Ross did last season. I believe it’s the way his batting stance is, where if he’s a little bit off, the ball just gets attracted right to his shin. It’s probably better if he leaves that on, if you ask me.
Carlos Gonzalez has played in more than 600 games over the course of his six-year career. In those games, he’s only gotten hit by a pitch on 14 occasions. Last season, he was only hit twice. Through 45 games this season, he’s yet to be drilled.
So why the elbow pad? My thought process is that Gonzalez felt that he was putting himself out there too often, especially after he got hit seven times in 2011. He must have thought that he was going to get hit more often going forward and decided that wearing it constantly would provide some sort of benefit.
Why Gonzalez needs to wear a shin guard too, I’m still not sure—as I’m not with nearly every player on this list. In my opinion, Gonzalez’s swing shouldn’t have him fouling many balls off into his body. He’s somewhat of a pull hitter, but I doubt that many balls that he pulls end up hitting his leg.
It would be unfair to tell Jason Giambi to take his elbow pad off. Of any other player on this list or in Major League Baseball, he arguably needs it the most. The left-handed slugger gets drilled nearly as much as anyone in the game.
Over the course of Giambi’s 19-year career, he’s finished in the top 10 in hit by pitch totals seven times. He’s led the league on three occasions. If that’s not enough evidence, he leads all active players as well as he’s ben hit 175 times in his career. That’s a ton even though he’s been around for quite some time.
Giambi has had several injuries throughout the years, but never anything having to do with his shins. He’s had some sort of ailment nearly everywhere else, though. He wears a shin guard, which I think is somewhat useless at this point. Even if he hits himself, I don’t think he can get much slower.
Being a switch hitter, Carlos Beltran feels the need to protect himself on both sides of the plate. He’s another player that steps into the batter’s box with an elbow pad and a shin guard each and every time.
Why Beltran thinks he needs an elbow pad is beyond me. He’s a player that doesn’t really crowd the plate, no matter which way he’s hitting, and he’s never really been hit much in the past. The most he’s ever gotten drilled was back in 2004, when he was drilled seven times.
Beltran has been hit seven times in total over the last four seasons. I think it’s safe to say that he doesn’t really need to wear the elbow pad. He’s a veteran, but I doubt his bones are that brittle that if he were to get hit in the elbow, it’d do much damage.
I’ve watched Adrian Gonzalez about as close as any other player over the last couple of seasons, and I’m not sure how he manages to foul pitches off himself as often as he does. Last season, it seemed like at least two or three times a series he’d foul a handful of pitches off his shin.
Over the years, Gonzalez has been smart enough to wear a shin guard. If he didn’t, I can guarantee that he’d be injured a lot more often than he usually is. But I still have yet to figure out why he thinks he needs an elbow pad, too.
Sure, Gonzalez stands somewhat close to the plate, and maybe pitchers like to throw him inside, but he doesn’t get hit very often. He’s been hit 32 times in more than 1,200 career games. He roughly gets hits around three or four times per season, which isn’t often at all. He could probably make it by without it on.