In baseball, being hit by a pitch refers to the batter being hit in some part of the body by a pitch from the pitcher. In baseball statistics, hit by pitch (HBP) records the number of times a batter is awarded first base by virtue of being hit by a pitched ball. In pitching statistics, HB records the number of times that a pitcher has had opposing batters be awarded first base due to being hit by a pitch. For this latter usage, the terms hit batsman or hit batter are used (one of a very few places in baseball where the term "batsman" is used in place of "batter"). A batter is not charged with a time at bat if he is hit by a pitch, but he is credited with an RBI if he is hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, thus forcing in a run.
Conditions for 'HBP'
A batter becomes a baserunner and is awarded first base when he or his equipment (except for his bat) is touched by a pitched ball outside of the strike zone, and he attempts to avoid it (or had no opportunity to avoid it), and he did not swing at the pitch. In the case where a batter swings and the pitch hits him anyway, the ball is dead and a strike is called.
Some umpires (especially the father-and-son Wendelstedt umpires) are known to refuse awarding bases to batters who do not attempt to avoid the pitch. In this instance, only a ball is added to the count.
It is often incorrectly thought that a hit by pitch is not awarded on a pitch that has touched the ground. Such a bouncing pitch is like any other, and if a batter is hit by such a pitch, he will be awarded first unless he made no attempt to avoid it.
Inside pitching is a common and legal tactic in baseball, and many players make use of brushback pitches, or pitches aimed underneath the chin, to keep players away from the plate. However, throwing at a batter intentionally is illegal, and can be very dangerous. When an umpire believes a pitcher has thrown at a batter intentionally, a warning is issued to the pitcher and the managers of both teams. From that point on, any pitch thrown at a batter can cause the pitcher and the manager of the offending team to be ejected immediately from the game. Serious offenses such as a ball thrown at the head (called a beanball) can result in the immediate ejection of the pitcher, and in some cases the manager as well, even without a warning.
Oftentimes, if a player is acting rude or unsportsmanlike, or having an extraordinarily good day, the pitcher may intentionally hit the batter, disguising it as a pitch that accidentally slipped his control. Managers may also order a pitcher to throw such a pitch (sometimes called a "plunking"). These pitches are often aimed at the lower back and slower than normal, designed to send a message more than anything else. The opposing team usually hits a batter in retaliation for this act. The plunkings generally end there because of umpire warnings, but in some cases things can get out of hand, and sometimes they lead to the batter charging the mound, bench-clearing brawls, and several ejections. Such plunking duels are more common in the National League than in the American League, because in the NL the pitchers must bat for themselves and open themselves up to direct retaliation (although hitting a fellow pitcher is a serious breach of baseball etiquette).
The all-time record for career HBP is held by Hughie Jennings, a 19th century player who totalled 287 in a 17-year career. For the modern era, the career HBP leader is Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, who set his record in 2005, and totals 280 HBPs as of July 30, 2006. Before that time, the record had been held by Don Baylor with 267. Ron Hunt, who held the career record immediately before Baylor (243) and still holds the modern single-season record with 50, sometimes wore a wetsuit underneath his uniform to deaden the pain from being hit by pitches. The record for HBP in one game is 3, shared by several players. Frank Chance of the Chicago Cubs, on May 30, 1904 was hit by the pitch 4 times in one doubleheader. Often, some of greatest pitchers have the most hit batsmen because they pitch "close" to the batters. Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, rated baseball's greatest pitcher by SABR and most baseball historian, holds the record with 203 hit batsmen. Don Drysdale, another Hall of Fame pitcher who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers/L.A. Dodgers holds the Nl-only record with 154, although several pitchers who pitched in both leagues are between 154 and 203.
A quotation regarding HBP by former baseball coach Alvin Dark reads: "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."