France an HBP expert; Juneteenth honored

June 20th, 2021

Getting plunked isn’t exactly a skill; no player practices taking pitches off their body. But some players are ball magnets, and is one.

Coming into Saturday, France had been hit by a pitch 12 times, the second most in MLB. Only Mark Canha, who holds the A’s all-time record for most hit-by-pitches, has more this season (13). This isn't a new development.

In three seasons at San Diego State, France was plunked 48 times, including 20 times as a junior. In the Minors, France was hit 112 times across 2,299 plate appearances. Whenever France steps to the plate, he has better odds than most of getting a free base, the painful way.

"Kind of goes back to the college days where they praise you for not getting out of the way,” France said. “I don’t really walk too much, so I use that as my kind of walking.“

For comparison’s sake, let's take a look at the rate some notable players get hit. Craig Biggio, who has the second-most hit-by-pitches all-time (285), got hit in 2.28 percent of his plate appearances. Canha (66) has been hit in 3.04 percent of career plate appearances. Anthony Rizzo, whose 160 HBP are the most by an active player, has been hit in 2.82 percent of his plate appearances.

Then, there’s France. Across his first three seasons, France has been hit in 3.58 percent of his plate appearances. Simply put, France knows how to wear one.

So, how is this happening? How does France get hit so often? Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a hypothesis.

“I wish I had an answer for you,” France said. “It seems to be the story of my baseball career. It’s happened since college days. I really don’t have an answer for you.”

Manager Scott Servais, however, has a theory. France does his damage mainly on pitches either middle or away, making softer contact on pitches on the inside part of the zone. So, pitchers try to jam him inside. And sometimes when pitchers go inside, those pitches get away. The result? Ball meeting body.

“If you’re going to face Ty France, wouldn’t you like to throw a bunch of fastballs inside?” Servais said. “I think that contributes to a lot of getting the hit-by-pitch; they’re trying to run the ball in there. They know he keeps his bat on plane for a very long time, and he covers the breaking ball. The breaking ball in the zone, he hits. That’s why he drives in runs.”

Should France keep up this pace, he’ll make history by season’s end. Odd history, but history nonetheless.

The current holder of the single-season record for hit-by-pitches is Jose Guillen, who was plunked 19 times in 2007. France, meanwhile, is on pace to get hit 27 times, which would shatter Guillen’s record. That achievement likely won’t elicit the same headlines as other offensive categories, but as Brad Pitt so famously said in "Moneyball," the name of the game is getting on base.

Even if it hurts.


When the Mariners took the field Saturday, they weren't donning their typical combination of navy blue, northwest green and silver. They weren't even called the Mariners. Rather, for one day, they recognized baseball of the city’s past.

In celebration of Juneteenth, the Mariners honored the Seattle Steelheads, the Negro Leagues team that played in the West Coast Negro Baseball Association in 1946 for one season.

Earlier on Saturday, the Giants wore replica jerseys of the San Francisco Sea Lions, who also played in the aforementioned league in 1946 for one season, as well.

“Our players are excited about getting the opportunity to celebrate a historic day,” Servais said. “It’s turning into a national holiday going forward, which I think is awesome. It should have been done a long, long time ago, in my opinion. Our guys are very in tune to what’s going on, not just in the city of Seattle, but throughout our country. I’m proud of them. They take note of it, they pay attention to it, and they’re going to celebrate it. We all are.

“There’s certain games you get a little more juiced up for. It’s not just because we have a different uniform on. It’s Juneteenth and it means something to a lot of our players.”