Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Odd Position - Limits of a Legal Pitching Delivery

What exactly is a legal pitching delivery and is there a limit to what a pitcher can do on the mound?

Red Sox P Raudes brings hands over his head.
Meet Boston's Roniel Raudes, whose odd pre-pitch motion breaks the standard Windup vs Set Position rules with no runners aboard, and calls into question common conventions ordinarily associated with pitching.

The Legal Pitching Delivery Rule 5.07: Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) identifies and describes only two pitching positions—Windup and Set—as legal, setting restrictions and penalties for misuse. To determine the legality of Raudes' ritual, in which he brings both arms above his head while knees buckle every which way, we need to figure out if Raudes is pitching out of Windup or Set Position.

The positions as described in 5.07(a)(1) and (2) are:

Simplified diagram of Windup vs Set Position.
5.07(a)(1), Windup Position: Occurs when a pitcher stands facing the batter, with the pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate (aka "the rubber") and the other foot free. In professional and college (NCAA) ball, the free foot can be positioned anywhere; in high school (NFHS), the free foot must be on or behind the rubber's front edge (the free foot needn't touch the rubber, but having both feet on the rubber is permissible). From here, any natural movement associated with delivery commits him to pitch to the batter without interruption or alteration. The pitcher is allowed to take one step backwards and one step forward with the free foot.

IN WINDUP POSITION, GENERALLY*: The pitcher's pivot foot is perpendicular to the rubber (⊤).

5.07(a)(2), Set Position: Occurs when a pitcher stands facing the batter with the pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate and the other foot entirely in front of the plate. In high school, the pivot food must be entirely inside the rubber's edges.

IN SET POSITION, GENERALLY*: The pitcher's pivot foot is parallel to the rubber (=).

SIDEBAR, BOTH POSITIONS: Pursuant to Rule 5.07(a) Comment, "The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch." Also known as the Carter Capps crow-hop, this is an illegal pitch with the bases empty, or balk with runners aboard.
Related PostCarter Capps Throws Illegal Pitch, Ejected After Hitting Ump (6/26/17).

Raudes pitches out of Set Position.
Analysis & Conclusion: Returning our attention to Boston pitcher Raudes, because his pivot foot (right foot) is oriented parallel to the rubber, it can be presumed he is in Set Position. As for his odd maneuver in bringing his hands and arms above his head BEFORE COMING SET, the rule makes no point of prohibiting the action; because no runners exist, he needn't stop once set. Key is the following section of 5.07(a)(2):
Before assuming Set Position, the pitcher may elect to make any natural preliminary motion such as that known as “the stretch.” But if he so elects, he shall come to Set Position before delivering the ball to the batter. After assuming Set Position, any natural motion associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without alteration or interruption.
Preparatory to coming to a set position, the pitcher shall have one hand on his side; from this position he shall go to his set position as defined in Rule 5.07(a)(2) without interruption and in one continuous motion.
Therefore, Raudes' preliminary motion—a so-called extended stretch, as it were—is legal (and, oddly, "natural"), even though he is engaged and standing on the pitcher's plate throughout the move. It may be unorthodox, but as long as this preliminary motion occurs in one continuous motion, is consistently performed before every pitch (so as to be "natural") and concludes prior to entering Set Position, it is a legal play under OBR.

Usual: Perpendicular = Windup; Parallel = Set.
*SIDEBAR, Hybrid Position: As the accompanying diagram illustrates, a pivot foot at 90-degree angle to the rubber indicates Windup Position, while a pivot foot parallel to the rubber indicates Set Position...but what of a foot at a 45-degree (or so) angle?

After Dan Iassogna ejected Padres then-Manager Pat Murphy for arguing a balk call related to a hybrid stance, baseball's Rules Committee adopted 5.07(a)(2) Comment in order to address hybrid stances, noting that with a runner on base, a pitcher will be presumed to be in Set Position if the pivot foot is in contact with and parallel to the rubber, unless the pitcher notifies the umpire that he will be pitching from Windup Position.
Related Post: MLB Ejection 163: Dan Iassogna (3; Pat Murphy) (8/16/15).

A quick glance at the free foot requirement.
Thus, if any assumption or question exists, the "default" standard with runners on is to presume the pitcher is in Set Position.

It should be noted that "hybrid" is illegal in high school baseball (or, perhaps more accurately, there is no such thing as Hybrid Stance in high school), because the position of the free foot in Windup and Set Positions under this rules code are mutually exclusive; in Windup, the free foot must be on or behind the front edge of the pitcher's plate, while in Set, the free foot must be entirely in front of the front edge (the exclusivity prohibits an ambiguous "hybrid" state). In pro/college, however, the free foot in Windup is not restricted in the same way as it is in HS, so the "NFHS 'Tell'" graphic is not applicable to higher levels of baseball (OBR's change to Windup Position occurred prior to the 2007 MLB season). Hence, OBR's 2017 adoption of Rule 5.07(a)(2) Comment.
Related PostBalk - Pitcher Blown Off Mound, OBR Adopts Hybrid Rule (5/7/17).

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Red Sox' Roniel Raudes reveals rare rhumba rendition (BOS)


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