“He was over the bleeping plate!”

Jered Weaver to Tim Welke tonight after Welke awarded first base to Ramon Santiago, who had just leaned into an 89-mph cut fastball from Weaver. Did Weaver have a point?

According to the PITCHf/x system at the Big A, the pitch was five inches from the middle of the plate, so Weaver was correct that Santiago was hanging his elbow over the plate when he was hit. However, the pitch was also up, four feet three inches off the ground, and thus out of the strike zone.

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6.08 The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when—
(b) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;
If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.

Since the umpire awarded the batter first base, he must have credited Santiago’s torso turn as he was struck as an attempt to avoid being touched by the ball.

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Perhaps Rule 6.06 could come to Weaver’s aid?

6.06 A batter is out for illegal action when—
(a) He hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter’s box.

The rules state that the batter’s box starts six inches from the edge of home plate:

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Where in the world was Ramon Santiago? I made my best estimate from the video of where the edge of the batter’s box should be (indicated by the red arrow). Of course, the actual chalk line has long since been erased by the fourth inning. It looks like Santiago is hanging his toe over the line, but with his heel firmly ensconced inside the batter’s box, his stance was legal.

I’ll admit that before tonight, I didn’t know that the batter could legally lean out over the plate like that as long as he wasn’t touched by a pitch inside the strike zone. It’s a good thing Tim Welke is more educated on the rules than I was. I also can’t blame Jered Weaver for wanting to own home plate. That’s a pitcher’s territory, and he has to be able to come inside every now and then. If he’d just gotten the pitch down a little bit, he likely would have missed Santiago’s elbow and gotten a strike call.

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Comments

  1. Mike Fast said...

    Michael, what I didn’t know before is that it’s perfectly legal for a batter to stand with his toes touching the plate and his elbow hanging all the way across it.  Almost by definition, unless the batter is playing Quasimodo, his elbow’s not in the strike zone since the top of the zone is “at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants”.  So there is no penalty in the rules for the batter hanging across the plate.  The only penalty is the pain of being hit by a 90-mph baseball.  There is nothing in the MLB rules that the umpires are neglecting in this regard.

    Of course, what’s questionable, as Pat also pointed out, is how much of an “attempt” to avoid the pitch is required of the batter.  This is a judgment call by the umpires and may very well be something on which they are being too lenient.  I’m not aware of a batter ever having a pitch just called a ball and not being awarded first base for not attempting to avoid being touched.  I’m sure it’s happened at some point in major league history, or it wouldn’t be in the rule book, but I don’t recall a recent instance where it was enforced.

  2. Pat Andriola said...

    Good stuff, Mike. Here’s where I had my gripe:

    “(b) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;”

    There’s the mistake in Welke’s reasoning. Sure, a torso turn makes you believe that Santiago was attempting to get out of the way, but it probably was just an attempt for it to 1) look that way and 2) have the ball hit fleshier part of Santiago’s arm instead of his elbow or the bone.

    I think it was clear from the replay that he wasn’t attempting to get out of the way whatsoever.

  3. Michael said...

    You’ve just discovered all this??

    This whole piece combines examples of the favorable rule interpretations batters enjoy, and even EXPECT, today. (Ability to call time after the pitcher comes set – despite being expressly forbidden in MLB rules, for obvious reasons we get to see every few games – is another.)

    In fact, many batters stand practically with their foot on the plate. When Carl Everett was once called for standing too close to the plate, he reiterated that he was never called for it before and was going to continue standing in the same spot.

    In addition, players like Albert Belle and Edgar Martinez were routinely shown to have their back foot outside the rear of the batter’s box.

    And the rule requiring the batter to try and avoid being hit was tossed out by umps years ago. Fernando Vina made a career out of leaning into pitched balls, for crying out loud.

    When people blame steroids for greater hitting, they ignore the fact that in addition to far superior training regimens, batters today enjoy the ability to break some of MLB’s rules with impunity.

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