Brandon McCarthy

New hats designed to protect pitchers are going to be a tough sell

MLB recently approved a new style of hat designed to protect pitchers from severe injuries resulting from line drives to the head. Brandon McCarthy is probably the most high-profile example of this ugly scenario, and the concussion he sustained caused him to miss a considerable amount of time.

However, there have been multiple cases of balls rocketing off bats and colliding with pitchers’ skulls recently, including when Doug Fister took a Gregor Blanco liner off his head during the World Series and kept pitching (really well, too).

ESPN has the details:

Halem and MLB senior counsel for labor relations Patrick Houlihan said the threshold for approval was that the cap had to provide protection, at 83 miles per hour, below the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment standard severity index of 1,200. Severity indexes higher than 1,200 are considered high-risk for skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries. An MLB-commissioned study determined that 83 mph was the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the area of the pitching mound.

The newly approved caps, manufactured by 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox, will be made available to pitchers for spring training next month. Their use is optional.

The company says the caps are a little more than a half-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker on the sides — near the temples — than standard caps, and afford protection for frontal impact locations against line drives of up to 90 mph and for side impact locations at up to 85 mph. The soft padding, isoBlox says, is made of “plastic injection molded polymers combined with a foam substrate” and is designed to diffuse energy upon impact through a combination of dispersion and absorption techniques.

Based on Jeremy Affeldt’s reaction to the photo below, he’s in no hurry to test the product after pitchers and catchers report in mid-February.

According to Alex Pavlovic, Tim Lincecum wouldn’t consider wearing the isoBlox hat because standard caps are “essential to a baseball player,” even though he’s been hit in the head by a liner before.

I asked Ryan Vogelsong whether he’d consider wearing a hat with protection, and he basically said the same thing.

“I’ve actually never seen one in person, so I can’t comment on what it’s going to feel like to have it on, whether it’s bulky. It looks kind of bulky,” Vogelsong said.

“I wouldn’t wear one unless they told me I had to wear one. I’ve been playing this game with the hat I’ve been wearing for a long time. Obviously it’s a very dangerous place to be and we’ve seen some very bad injuries happen that way. I guess I feel like if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be, but I’ll take my chances without it right now unless they tell me I have to wear it.”

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