In the top of the fifth against the Brewers, Reds second baseman Derek Dietrich got hit in the elbow by a 71 mph changeup from Alex Claudio. It was the sixth time that a Brewers pitcher had hit Dietrich with a pitch in three games, setting an MLB record for most times a player has been hit in a series. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, there’s still one game to be played on Sunday.
This was clearly a number that Dietrich reveled in. After removing his protective gear, the Cincinnati player began his trot to first and reminded the crowd how many times he’s been sent that direction thanks to Milwaukee pitchers.
Dietrich leads the majors in HBPs with 15 on the season, and it’s clearly a feature of his game rather than a bug. His batting stance gives the pitcher little to no space on the inside corner, and he’s certainly not one to get away from pitches that happen to fly near him. He’s also not shy about letting people know he won’t move away, per MLB.com:
“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.
These kinds of things don’t exactly endear him with opposing pitchers, and the frustration he causes occasionally boils over, as was the case on Friday.
But most of Dietrich’s HBPs usually don’t end that way since most of the pitchers he’s faced aren’t as deliberate with their lasers as Junior Guerra was. He also understands the kind of game he’s playing and knows that it’d be useless to complain or seek retribution because of it. Most of the time, these moments end like the one on Saturday, with a cheeky grin from Dietrich and a comment after the game that insults an opponent’s pitch.
“I’m not a stranger of getting hit by pitches, but the way it’s been happening this series is just a little bit out of the norm. I don’t think any of them were intentional,” Dietrich said following Cincinnati’s 6-5 loss to the Brewers. “That was a bad changeup up and in. It was kind of tough to see with the shadows there anyway.”
Dietrich’s cheekiness didn’t stop there with his postgame comments. When talking about the six times he’s been hit, he described it to reporters as just “one of those times. Just like you can hit five, six homers in a week, you can get five or six hit-by-pitches in a week.”
While that logic clearly doesn’t hold up, Dietrich doesn’t have much of a choice at this point but to lean into the trolling aspect of how his game is played. If he says the quiet any louder, umpires will soon be keeping him in the batter’s box after he gets hit, thus wrecking one of his most valuable traits for his team—he’s scored seven runs in three games despite going 2-for-6 this series—and letting the whines of opposing managers like Craig Counsell win out.
“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].”
“His whole career” is right. From 2013-18, he was hit 93 times while he was on the Marlins—a franchise record. His total was only behind the 111 times Anthony Rizzo was hit in that same span. Unfortunately for Counsell, since this is now the seventh consecutive season of Dietrich doing this shit, it’s not likely this approach is going to stop anytime soon.