Thursday, August 22, 2019

Case Play 2019-7 - Chicken Little Strike Zone [Solved]

You can't get much more Little League than this. Team Venezuela batter Deivis OrdoƱez, nickname Chicken Little, deployed a unique batting stance, crouching down so low that his knee-hollow and upper midpoint are just inches apart vertically.

So what is an umpire to do when such tomfoolery takes place at home plate?

Question: This Case Play has two parts. The first posits that the batter stands this way only for the first pitch of his at-bat and then reverts to a more traditional batting stance for the remainder of the game. How should an umpire officiate the first pitch of the plate appearance?

The second scenario is a bit more tricky. If the batter assumes this batting stance throughout the game, consistently entering a crouch this low for every pitch and remaining in this stance through swings and takes alike, how should an umpire call this batsman's strike zone? What would a computer K-Zone even look like here?

Answer: For part one, this is not the batter's usual stance for the batter is not prepared to swing at a pitched ball. As a result, the plate umpire shall best estimate where the batter's vertical strike zone would be if the batter were standing in a more natural manner. A more liberal interpretation of the zone may be appropriate.

For the second case, if the batter truly swings and hits from this severe crouching position, then this is indeed the batter's strike zone; perhaps a rules loophole, a batter may legally assume such a severe stance and have a strike zone adjudged based on this stance as long as it is in consistent use for every pitch and the batter legitimately swings and hits from this position. Don't punish an individual batter because that one person doesn't conform to the league average stance, but by the same token, that hitting stance best be consistent.

Gil's Call: I've never seen a batter successfully hit from this position (much less use that stance), but if someone comes along who can do it on a consistent basis, more power to that player. That said, if a plate umpire has ever seen this hypothetical batter swing or hit before, that'll make it quite simple to know whether the batter is attempting to manipulate the strike zone. Other opportunities to observe the batter's "true" strike zone include: batting practice, the on-deck circle, practice swings as the batter prepares to enter the box.

In Little League, if an umpire says in jest to a batter during a dead ball, "show me your home run swing," more than likely, the batter will revert to their "actual" hitting stance, at which point it will be evident whether the severe crouch is legitimate or not.

Official Baseball Rules Library
Definition of Terms: "The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Team Venezuela batter Chicken Little's stance is...unique? (CCS)


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