Sunday, May 7, 2017

Balk - Pitcher Blown Off Mound, OBR Adopts Hybrid Rule

A gust of wind blew a pitcher off the mound for a balk, and hybrid stances are losing their luster thanks to a rules change enacted for the 2017 season.

Scribner literally falls off the mound.
With one out and a runner on second base during Saturday's Triple-A game between the Omaha Storm Chasers and Salt Lake Bees, Bees pitcher Troy Scribner prepared to deliver a 3-2 pitch to Storm Chasers batter Raul Mondesi. After assuming Set Position, Scribner noticed that winds in the ballpark had begun to pick off and attempted to step off the pitcher's plate.

Instead, with gusts at one point Saturday night topping 30 miles-per-hour, one such gale interrupted Scribner's step-off and caused him to stumble from the mound, off balance, resulting in a balk and baserunner R2 Dean Anna's advancement to third base as HP Umpire Nate White, joined by 1B Umpire Mike Cascioppo and 3B Umpire Paul Clemons, signaled the odd-looking infraction.

Unfortunately for Scribner, Balk Rule 6.02(a) makes no exception for extreme weather, and neither does Set Position Rule 5.07(a)(2).

Circa-2015 chart of Windup Position legality.
OBR: New Rule Resolves Windup vs Set Confusion.
Speaking of Rule 5.07(a)(2), baseball added a provision to the rule's comment regarding so-called hybrid stances, which in the past allowed the pitcher to skirt the Windup vs Set restrictions by assuming such a stance that allowed him to essentially choose either Windup or Set (without having to tell anyone of this choice). Visually and ordinarily, feet pointed towards home plate usually signify Windup Position whereas feet angled parallel to the pitcher's plate indicate Set Position; a hybrid stance may also be deemed a "diagonal" or scatterbrain stance (see attached diagram) because a pitcher positions his feet ambiguously, thus creating the perception that he could be in either Windup or Set. If anything goes wrong, the pitcher retains plausible deniability. For example...

In August 2015, Dan Iassogna ejected Padres Interim Manager Pat Murphy for arguing a balk non-call in a situation complicated by Rockies pitcher Chris Rusin's use of such a hybrid stance.

During the Iassogna-Murphy ejection play, with the bases loaded, 2B Umpire John Tumpane called Ruslin for a balk for failing to stop after bringing his hands together before delivering a pitch to the batter (Rule 6.02(a)(13): "It is a balk when—The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop"). Upon conference amongst the umpires, Tumpane's call was reversed based on the rationale that Ruslin was not in Set Position, but in the Windup. There is no "stop" requirement for Windup Position, as there is for Set; thus, the balk was rescinded.

The newly added Comment to 5.07(a)(2) resets the Windup vs Set binary by taking away ambiguity:
With a runner or runners on base, a pitcher will be presumed to be pitching from the Set Position if he stands with his pivot foot in contact with and parallel to the pitcher’s plate, and his other foot in front of the pitcher’s plate, unless he notifies the umpire that he will be pitching from the Windup Position under such circumstances prior to the beginning of an at-bat. A pitcher will be permitted to notify the umpire that he is pitching from the Windup Position within an at-bat only in the event of (i) a substitution by the offensive team; or (ii) immediately upon the advancement of one or more runners (i.e., after one or more base runners advance but before the delivery of the next pitch).
Thus, under the new rule, Ruslin would have been presumed to be in Set Position (as Tumpane had initially ruled), and, absent Ruslin notifying the umpires of his intention to utilize Windup Position, the balk call would have been correct (under the new 2017 rule).

Video via "Read More"


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