Monday, August 1, 2016

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Pitched Ball Hits Bat or Wrist

A pitched ball hitting the bat vs. the batter's wrist is today's Tmac Teachable Moment.

Lately, I've discussed plays that benefit umpires working three-man, so today to kick off August, let's take a look at a play that can benefit any home plate umpire.  The play you are about to view has several layers to it, but can be umpired well, or lead to problems.
Joyce lets the play finish, then calls "Time."

It's the ninth inning and Jim Joyce has the dreaded ball hitting wrist, which believe it or not sounds a little like ball hitting bat.  Notice that our plate umpire delays his call—and attempts to get a read on the batter. In this case the batter is lying face-down and writhing in pain, so Joyce takes the educated guess that Ryan Zimmerman has been hit.  The call will later be confirmed by replay.  Zimmerman is hit at the :03 second mark of the video (see below).  Notice JJ's call doesn't come until the :06 second mark in which he puts his hands in the air and then awards first base.

Ball hitting bone can sound like it hit the bat.
There are some schools of though that you put your hands up and don't verbalize foul or HBP and then make your determination.  That may be a little more seamless but the important factor for us to realize is, "it's NOTHING until you call it."  You can really get into the soup if you quick call this in an attempt to sell it.  What makes this play especially more difficult is the sound on ball on wrist.  Once all is deciphered, Zimmerman is correctly awarded first base.  Let's change the play for a second.  One of the things I like to do on this play is look into the eyes of out batter when we are trying to decipher foul vs HBP.
"Ooh, my arm. It's broken."

It is nearly impossible to be fooled when reading a person's eyes—few players are quick enough to deceive in real time. The deception is more like Rodney Dangerfield's in Caddyshack. You can get a feel for whether the player is hit or he fakes it a few seconds later. In most cases the player will show you with disappointment as he knows it has hit the bat.  This needs to be instinctual as if you delay reading the batter you may be susceptible to get fooled by a clever hitter.

Here's what happens if you get the play wrong.....

Molina's reaction says he was not hit.
We have a ball that clearly hits the bat and a batter that stays at the plate.  Don't we feel silly giving him 1st!!  We've all done it and that's how we get better!!  Here the award is too quick, but the luxury of replay allows the play to be corrected.

[Sometimes, it is very difficult to tell whether the ball has hit the bat or the player, as evidenced by this Derek Jeter act in Tampa Bay from 2010, that resulted in Joe Maddon's ejection for arguing the HBP call.]

So what can we take away from this play... Always have good timing.  Slow down and read the batter, as he's going to tell you what's happened.
Alternate Link: Zimmerman is hit by the pitch as Bochy challenges Joyce's HBP call (WAS)


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