Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Umpire Odds & Ends: 3 Pitch Walk

In basketball, the referee shall call a violation when a player intentionally kicks a live ball (Rule 10.V.a); in football, illegal cut/chuck restrictions shall end if the quarterback pitches the ball to a back; in hockey, the referee shall signal a minor penalty if the goalkeeper participates in play past the center red line (IV. Rule 27.7); in baseball, the umpire shall ensure the pitcher does not violate the provisions of Rule 8.02. This rule specifies "the pitcher shall not," followed by four sections (one of which contains six further subsections).
8.02 (a) (1) Bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher's plate, provided, however that the pitcher may touch his mouth or lips in that area, so long as he is not in contact with the pitcher's plate while doing so and so long as he clearly wipes the fingers of his pitching hand dry before touching the pitcher's plate. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.
For an example of 8.02(a)(1), we turn to the 5/15/11 Mets-Astros game, during which 2B Umpire Angel Hernandez had to rule on a violation of Rule 8.02(a)(1). Field umpires (1B/2B/3B) take concurrent jurisdiction with the umpire-in-chief (HP) in calling illegal pitches, under Rule 9.04(b)(2).

Fairchild ruled that while facing Mets batter Daniel Murphy, Astros pitcher Aneury Rodriguez illegally brought his pitching in contact with his mouth while in contact with the pitcher's plate under Rule 8.02(a)(1). The penalty for violation of Rule 8.02(a)(1) is also specified by rule:
PENALTY: For violation of this part of this rule the umpires shall immediately call a ball. However, if the pitch is made and a batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a hit batsman or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation. Repeat offenders shall be subject to a fine by the League President.
After the 2-0 pitch was fouled off making the count 2-1, Hernandez signaled the infraction and HP Umpire Chad Fairchild signaled the count as 3-1. The play-by-play lists this infraction as "Automatic Ball," and appropriately adds a ball to the count. The infraction occurs 33 seconds into the video.

Last season, 1B Umpire Joe West ruled on a similar violation of 8.02(a)(1) during the 6/8/10 Braves-Diamondbacks game, when West ruled that Diamondbacks pitcher Blaine Boyer brought his pitching hand in contact with his mouth while within the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher's plate and subsequently failed to wipe the fingers of his pitching hand dry before touching the pitcher's plate, much less the baseball itself. As a result, Braves batter Troy Glaus drew an automatic 3-0 walk.

Undoubtedly, Rule 8.02(a)(1) is intended to prevent the illegal pitch known as the spitball, moreover, the potential of spitball. The spitball moves differently than a 'dry' ball in flight, due to its lopsided status (with the added weight of 'spit' on one side of the ball), resulting in an unfair advantage for the pitcher and defensive team. In an effort to reduce all kinds of unfair advantages, umpires must remain vigilant and watch for all potential rules violations. As the only representative of baseball on the field, the umpire crew is responsible for the conduct of the game, maintaining discipline, and keeping order as specified by Rule 9.01(a). Keeping the game 'fair' is a very great part of maintaining conduct, discipline, and order.


Jim said...

Is it any surprise to anyone that Joe West's disciples are the ones who are most adept at calling illegal pitches?

Jon Terry said...

Excellent! thank you. I watched two different feeds on this the day after it happened, and no one had an explanation. But I knew that there was no way the entire crew had missed something, especially since no manager came out to argue it. Happy to know what happened.

Dan said...

That explains it. I was watching the Mets feed of the game, and the announcers had no idea what happened. Perhaps Chad Fairchild, as the home plate umpire, could have made a more demonstrative signal to let everyone know what was going on.

jrd said...

he did fine. he clearly signaled 31.

@jim I agree with your point about Joe West and his disciples (both MLB and otherwise) They are gutty umpires who not only know the rules but have no fear in enorcing/applying those rules.
They are not placaters or kiss asses but umpires.

Anonymous said...

Joe West isn't a popular guy PR-wise, but I think he's a hell of an umpire, and so is Hernandez, and even Bucknor has been getting better of late (either that or some other guys have been getting worse). He knows his stuff and just as jrd said, he's not afraid to apply rules. Bravo to Joe and company.

Jon Terry said...


Another one for you. While the pitch was certainly in the dirt, the Cubs announcers make a good point. Shouldn't Cairo have been determined to be out when he left the dirt circle?

Lindsay said...

Thanks, stand by for Dropped Third Strike discussion.

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