Monday, August 15, 2022

Ask UEFL - Yankees' Rizzo Denied HBP by Umpire Reyburn

Yankees manager Aaron Boone fruitlessly argued and Anthony Rizzo bemoaned umpires' lack of accountability after HP Umpire DJ Reyburn denied a hit-by-pitch in New York, despite the pitched ball contacting the batter's leg. But was this the correct call all along?

Official Baseball Rule 5.05(b)(2) governs the case of a pitched ball touching a batter: "The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided they advance to and touch first base) when: They are touched by a pitched ball which they are not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter [in which event the pitch is deemed a dead ball strike], or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball [in which event the pitch is adjudged as a dead ball {called ball} or strike depending on its location as it struck the batter]."

Replays suggest that New York batter Rizzo, during Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough's 3rd inning, 1-2 curveball, not only made no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball, but that Rizzo may have furthermore leaned his leg in toward home plate, in a potential attempt to increase the likelihood that he would be struck by the ball.

After the ball touched Rizzo, Umpire Reyburn immediately enforced OBR 5.05(b)(2) by calling "Time" to acknowledge the dead ball that occurs when any pitched ball touches a batter before declaring a dead ball [called ball] and ordering Rizzo to remain at-bat, ruling that Rizzo failed to satisfy the terms of the rule that would have afforded him free passage to first base.

By the by, in 2019, Reds batter Derek Dietrich was hit by a pitch located within the strike zone, but was improperly awarded first base. Most times, batters touched by the ball are awarded first base out of habit, but as OBR 5.05(b)(2) indicates, there are two definitive cases in which a batter should not be given a free base when a pitched ball contacts them.

Sidebar: It is legal for a batter to "crowd the plate," provided that the batter is legally positioned with both feet within the batter's box [including touching the box's lines], and a base awarded should be granted pursuant to OBR 5.05(b)(2) unless either exception A [ball in strike zone] or B [makes no attempt to avoid] applies.

On Monday night in New York, Reyburn ensured the rule's attempt-to-avoid provision was applied.


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