Monday, October 22, 2012

Pence Play: Ball Belted By Baffling Bifurcated Broken Bat

When Hunter Pence's broken bat appeared to contact a batted baseball multiple times in front of home plate, the third inning double in a then 2-0 Game 7 of the National League Championship Series further cemented San Francisco's NL Pennant win and World Series berth, with both Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and center fielder Jon Jay appearing fooled by the knuckleball-like spin of the up-the-middle liner.

As FOX broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver—along with many others—marveled at the odd trajectory of the batted ball, physicists and umpires alike pondered the orb's unique journey. Replays indicate that after initially striking the pitch, Pence's bat splintered with the bat's partially disembodied barrel appearing to contact the baseball a second and third time before the ball finally left the confines of the dirt surrounding home plate.

Quick Quiz Question: Fair or foul, in play or dead ball? Relevant Rules: OBR 6.05(h), NCAA 7-11-m.

In Batted Ball Batter's Interference, we discussed pro Rule 6.05(h), whose comment states that a batted ball struck by a broken bat while over fair territory is exempted from 6.05(h) interference, making the ball fair and in play. Meanwhile, a batted ball struck by a whole (unbroken) bat a second time in fair territory is dead.

In 2011, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's whole bat struck a pitched ball twice at home plate during his swing. As discussed previously (Tulo's at-bat is Example 3), Rule 6.05(h) is invoked only when, "After hitting or bunting a fair ball, his bat hits the ball a second time in fair territory." As the Tulowitzki play related to 6.05(h), Tulo had not completed the "hitting" action referred to above as he was still engaged in the hitting action's commission; the multiple contact therefore did not occur "after" the hitting action, resulting in a correctly ruled ball in play.

A similar rationale applies to the Pence at-bat. Since Pence's hitting action was still in progress, the multiple contact with the bat (either broken or whole) does not satisfy 6.05(h)'s primary condition of "after."

Quick Quiz Answer: Pence's ball was correctly ruled in play, fair/foul judged pursuant to standard criteria.

*Note: Do not confuse the above Pence/Tulowitzki plays with this backswing multi-contact situation*

Video: Pence breaks his bat, which in turn contacts a pitch multiple times before bounding through the infield


Anonymous said...

Are you kidding??? No need to make a ruling on this, because HPU is not going to see the action at 3000 frames/second. As far as he's concerned, it's a simple broken-bat hit.

Anonymous said...

You'd be surprised what fans want. Some people (Cards fans for instance, or Giants fans if the shoe was on the other foot) point to 6.05 and think, "hey, that's interference, the batter should be out." Sure, the framers of the rules in the 1880s didn't even think of super-x-slowmo replay showing this type of play, but to all those fans griping at 6.05h saying that interference applies here, read the above about hitting actions. The initial swing is part of the hit, so logically, the bat couldn't hit the ball a second time AFTER hitting a fair ball, because it was still in the process of hitting a fair ball by rule (see 2.00 also).

That backswing play, of course the rules DO have a provision for unintentional and intentional backswing interference (on the swinging/missed strike) and also say that a backswing hitting the ball, because it likely will occur over foul territory, will therefore usually be a foul ball.

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