Saturday, May 18, 2024

Laz Diaz Calls Nestor Cortes' Quick Pitch...for a Needlessly Complicated Reason

When HP Umpire Laz Diaz called Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes for an illegal pitch vs Chicago, he told New York that Nestor stepped off and on the rubber, a technically correct reason to call a violation, but a lizard of a reason during a play where the primary illegal act was a quick pitch that didn't need a pivot foot vs pitcher's plate violation to be considered.

Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment states, "A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball." (there were no runners.)

OBR's definition of Quick Pitch goes one step further: "A QUICK RETURN pitch is one made with obvious intent to catch a batter off balance. It is an illegal pitch."

One pitch prior to the play in question, Cortes delayed his delivery by throwing a "slow pitch"—a tactic he has employed in the past—only to then quick pitch White Sox batter Corey Julks on the very next pitch by hurrying his delivery as Julks was just starting to come reasonably set.

But instead of calling Cortes simply for making a quick return pitch with obvious intent to catch Julks unaware or unprepared, Diaz called a minute moment of Cortes's pivot foot breaking contact with the rubber before Cortes threw home.

Diaz's call was technically correct, but from a game management standpoint, a harder call to sell than the obvious quick pitch that occurred. This is because throughout baseball, if you slow it down and zoom in enough, you'll find that many pitchers routinely break contact between pivot foot and rubber during delivery, which sets a dangerous precedent.

Why is it called here and not when, say, Justin Verlander does it routinely? The answer is the same conclusion made at the very beginning of the article—it was a quick pitch, that's what made the sequence illegal. Just because we might know a rule doesn't mean we have to apply it to a situation which can be adjudicated using a much more obvious rule.

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