May 7, 2023

2023 Home Plate Collision and Pitcher Declaration

Rules consultant and analyst Rich Marazzi breaks down controversial plays so far in 2023

2023 Home Plate Collision and Pitcher Declaration

Regarding the Collison at Home Plate rule, the catcher has no restriction when receiving a throw from the pitcher or a drawn-in infielder. The following two plays illustrate those aspects of the rule.

Catcher Receives Throw from the Pitcher

The Nationals hosted the Guardians on April 15, 2023. In the top of the eighth, the Guardians had Andrés Giménez on third and Myles Straw on first with one out when Cam Gallagher bunted the ball toward the mound. Giménez broke to the plate as the ball was fielded by pitcher Thaddeus Ward. He threw home to catcher Keibert Ruiz who tagged Giménez.  Plate umpire John Tumpane called the runner out.

The Guardians challenged the play claiming Ruiz had illegally blocked the plate.

Ruleball Comment

  1. Ruiz did nothing illegal and the call was upheld by the Replay Official.
  2. When the pitcher or drawn-in infielder makes a throw to the plate, the catcher is not expected to set in front of the plate because of the time factor. 
  3. This was a good “no call.” The rule is clearly covered in 6.01 (i) (2).

Catcher Receives Throw from a Drawn-In Infielder

As stated, the catcher has no restriction when blocking the plate while receiving a throw from a drawn-in infielder. This occurred in the May 3, 2023 game between the Phillies and Dodgers. The Dodgers had runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the eighth when Miguel Vargas hit a ground ball to Phillies’ shortstop Trea Turner who was playing in. Turner fired home to catcher Garrett Stubbs who was blocking Miguel Rojas’ path to the plate.

Plate umpire Edwin Moscoso called Rojas out. Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts challenged the call claiming that Stubbs was in violation of rule 6.01 (i) (2).  The Replay Official supported Moscoso’s “no call” because the Phillies infield was drawn-in when Turner threw to the plate.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Again, the catcher is not expected to set in front of the plate because of the time factor when receiving a throw from a drawn-in infielder.
  2. I thought the broadcaster did a good job explaining the rule.

Zunino Charged with Illegally Blocking the Plate

 The following play is a good example of a catcher illegally blocking the plate.

The Nationals hosted the Guardians on April 16, 2023. In the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals had Stone Garrett on third and CJ Abrams on second and one out trailing 6-5 when Lane Thomas, facing Nick Sandlin, hit a fly ball that was caught by Myles Straw. The Guardians center fielder fired home in an attempt to nail Garrett who had tagged-up from third.

Plate ump Ryan Blakney called Garrett out. But Nats’ manager Dave Martinez challenged the call at the plate thinking that catcher Mike Zunino had illegally blocked the dish and was in violation of the home plate collision rule. The Replay Official agreed with Martinez and the run was allowed to score. It tied the game and the Nationals plated one more run in the inning and won the game, 7-6.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Martinez made a wise decision to challenge the play. It led to a win for his team in a close game.
  2. The Replay Official determined that Zunino was in violation of the Home Plate Collision Rule. His initial setup was illegal because he straddled the third base foul line instead of setting up in front of the plate. Also, he stepped on top of the plate while not in possession of the ball. By doing so, his actions hindered and impeded the runner’s path to the plate.
  3. Catchers must be aware that stepping on the plate before gaining possession of the ball is an illegal position.

Pitchers Must DECLARE

In recent years, several pitchers have gone to a modified set/windup position by positioning their pivot foot on the rubber and their free foot in front of the rubber for all pitches. This can be especially confusing to the runner. Because of this, MLB invoked the following rule revision for the 2017 season.

SET VS. WINDUP POSITION Rule 5.07 (a) (2) Comment states in part, that, “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).” Once the pitcher notifies the home plate umpire of his intention to pitch from the Windup, the umpire should call “Time”; the ball is dead; and the umpire should indicate to the other members of the crew and each Club that the pitcher has elected to pitch from the Windup.

Stoudt Doesn’t DECLARE

Levi Stoudt was rudely introduced to the rule when he made his major league debut for the Cincinnati Reds against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 19, 2023. Unfortunately, it came during a 6-run rally in the first inning. Run No. 6 came via a balk that is not often called.

The Rays had Manuel Margot on third and one out when a balk was called on Stoudt. The right hander, who normally pitches from the hybrid position, did not DECLARE that his intention was to pitch from a full windup with just a runner on third. This meant that he would not have to make a complete stop. But because he failed to notify the umpire he was charged with a balk.

Pivetta Doesn’t DECLARE

Red Sox pitcher Nick Pivetta was victimized by the rule in the May 3, 2023  game between the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Bo Bichette was batting in the top of the fifth with Kevin Kiermaier on third and one out when plate umpire Will Little ruled that Pivetta was in violation of 5.07 (a) (2) Comment because he did not DECLARE that he would be pitching from a full windup which means he did not have to come to a complete stop before he delivered the pitch.

According to a report by writer Ian Browne, Pivetta said, “I was going to go to the stretch with runners on, bases loaded, and you’re not allowed to switch, you’re not allowed to go to the windup or the full anymore. Once you do one, you have to do it the whole time. I think I knew about it but I forgot.”

Ruleball Comments

  1. Replays indicate that prior to the Bichette at bat, Pivetta communicated with second base umpire Dan Merzel. Apparently, he told Merzel that he would be pitching from the Set Position. This would require him to make a complete stopbefore he delivered each pitch to Bichette.  If he had been pitching from the Set  there was no reason to inform Merzel that he would continue to do that. I can only assume that is why plate umpire Will Little  did not inform both dugouts of any change. 
  2. Pivetta’s comments to the writer are confusing at best.
  3. Because many pitchers are pitching today from the hybrid position, it would behoove each team to instruct their pitchers to remember to DECLARE when intending to pitch from a Full Windup which would not require a pitcher to make a complete stop. In most situations this would only happen with runners on second and third or just on third- and possibly with the bases loaded.  
  4. Perhaps the catcher, the manager, the bench coach, or the next day’s starter can all share the responsibility of alerting the pitcher that he must DECLARE when he wishes to pitch from a Full Windup. Having a balk called because of failure to follow the rule, can cost a team a victory.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

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