Major League Baseball and its Players Association have reached an agreement on a protective game cap for pitchers, which is designed to provide far greater protection against line drives. Use of the new hat will be optional.
We're excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria. MLB is committed to working with manufacturers to develop products that offer maximum protection to our players, and we're not stopping at all.
Orioles Universe on Twitter captured an image of the protective caps:
Picture of protective caps. pic.twitter.com/HyfbleALhx— Orioles Universe (@OriolesUniverse) January 28, 2014
Weinbaum also reports the league researched the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the mound and determined it was around 83 mph. The new cap provides advanced protection up to 90 mph on the front and 85 mph on the side.
The report also notes five different pitchers have suffered hits to the head at the major league level since September of 2012. One of those, J.A. Happ, was concerned about how the new cap would compare to the standard-issue one:
I'd have to see what the differences in feel would be—does it feel close enough to a regular cap? You don't want to be out there thinking about it and have it take away from your focus on what you're doing.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw also gave his impression of the new caps, per MLB Network PR:
Kershaw on padded caps: “I’m definitely not opposed to it. It’d take a lot of getting used to. I think it’s a great thing.” #MLBNHotStove— MLB Network PR (@MLBNetworkPR) January 28, 2014
However, pitcher Brandon McCarthy told Jayson Stark of ESPN that he wouldn't wear the cap as it's currently designed:
During spring training, pitchers will get a chance to test the caps, which were developed by isoBlox, to determine if they cause a distraction. The creators told Outside The Lines the new style will be an inch thicker on the sides and about half that for the front.
An agreement was reached at a perfect time. As MLB pointed out on Twitter, pitchers and catchers are less than two weeks away from arriving to begin spring training:
Looking ahead, concussions and head injuries in general remain among the key issues for commissioners like Bud Selig. And pitchers are at a high risk, standing just 60 feet, six inches away from hitters who can hit some rockets when they find the sweet spot.
Should pitchers be forced to wear protective caps?
The agreement between the league and its Players Association suggests the new cap is something both sides believe can help. That said, if the added size for padding is in any way a distraction, there will be a lot of pitchers who weigh that against the injury risk.
All told, it sounds like a step in the right direction, but it's not likely to be the ultimate, long-term solution.