Tony Gwynn was hit by a pitch only 24 times in 20 major league seasons. Mickey Mantle was hit 13 times, meaning he had nearly as many surgeries as he had hit batsmen. Hall of Fame shortstop Luke Appling was hit 10 times in 8,857 plate appearances. John Kruk, who said he had no fear of the ball when at the plate, played in 1,200 major league games and was hit twice. Mark Lemke, formerly a Brave, didn’t have to be scared at the plate: He holds the major league record for most career plate appearances — 3,664 — without being hit by a pitch.
And then there’s Cleveland Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer. He has been hit 68 times in 1,095 plate appearances — once every 16.1 times he steps into a batter’s box, the highest rate of any player in history that has batted at least 1,000 times. With nine more hit-by-pitches, Guyer would pass the combined hit-by-pitch totals of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, and Guyer would do so in roughly 25,000 fewer plate appearances. He is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, cut like a bodybuilder, a former football player and wildly athletic. But still, he was hit by a pitch last year nearly as many times (31) as the Oakland Athletics squad (33). And he’s still alive to talk about it.
Do your teammates ask you about getting hit so often?
Guyer: They all do. Coco Crisp [a teammate last year in Cleveland] told me that he has been hit less than 10 times in his career. I told him, ‘Dude, that’s a bad month for me.’
Why do you get hit so often?
Guyer: It’s crazy. I’m not trying to get hit. I don’t want to get hit. I definitely don’t stand right on top of the plate. But when I stride — my natural stride — I kind of close myself off, my left [front] leg comes close to home plate. My left leg isn’t there when the pitcher starts his delivery, and then it is there when he finishes it. A lot of left-handers throw me inside, so I get hit a lot in the front leg. But after I stride, I don’t move my lower half. My instinct is not to move; I kind of freeze up. So I get hit a lot. I don’t like getting hit. But, I’m getting on base; the more times I’m on, the more runs I score. So, there’s a benefit to it.
Which hit batsman hurt the most?
Guyer: I’ve never missed a game after getting hit by a pitch. But Charlie Morton hit me in the right bicep with the pitch a few years ago. That killed me. That bruise stayed for two weeks; it kept working its way down my arm. But the worst was last year by [Chicago White Sox left-hander] Jose Quintana. He hit me just below my left kneecap. I usually jog to first no matter where I get hit, but that one really hurt. When I got to first base, I thought, ‘I can’t feel my lower half.’ And then [Chicago Cubs left-hander] Jon Lester hit me on the inside of my left thigh in Game 1 of the  World Series. That left a bruise about this big [almost the size of a dinner plate]. And it was bright purple. I needed some acupuncture to help that one heal.
— Lindsay Murphy Guyer (@LindsayFox5) November 9, 2016
What does your wife think about all this?
Guyer: She hates it. She’s worried that I’m going to get hurt or that I will miss some time. At the end of a season, we laugh about it. About two or three weeks after a season ends and I have time to give my body a rest, all of the bruises go away. But she’s not a big fan of it.
Do you have an especially high pain tolerance?
Guyer: I don’t know; maybe that’s part of it. I’m fortunate that I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve never been hit in a really bad spot. I’m not proud, but … I’ve never worn any protection up there — until Quintana hit me, then I wore a small knee pad on that spot because if I’d been hit there again with three weeks left in the season, that would have been bad. But I don’t like that big, protective stuff. To me, it looks weird. I am naked of protection up there.
You scored seven touchdowns as a running back in a homecoming game in high school. Does your football background have anything to do with how often you get hit by a pitch?
Guyer: I think so. Running into walls and getting hit by a pitch is the closest thing I have to football.
Are your teammates amazed by your hit-by-pitch rate?
Guyer: They have a lot of fun with it. When I played for the Rays, every time I would get hit, [Tampa Bay Rays pitcher] Chris Archer would yell, ‘That’s it! That’s your game!’ At Fanfest this year in Cleveland, I was sitting at the table and a fan said to me, ‘Oh, you’re the guy that gets hit all the time.’ That’s not what I want to be known for. I want to do damage at the plate. Even when Lester hit me with the bases loaded in a World Series game, I didn’t want to get hit; I wanted to get a hit and drive in some runs, do damage. I want to be known as someone who plays hard and is a great teammate. This is not my claim to fame.
There have been players that can’t hit, so they try to get hit by a pitch on purpose because it might be their only way to get on base. But in a way, are you the opposite of that?
Guyer: Yes. I never stand in the box thinking as the pitch is coming in, ‘If I lean a little this way, the ball will hit me in the shoulder.’ If I thought that way, I couldn’t hit a baseball. And that’s what I like to do most. I’ve never tried to get hit on purpose. I don’t walk much. I like to attack; I like to be aggressive. If the ball hits me, it hits me. But, I’d rather it not.