Special to Baseball Rules Academy
Several MLB rule changes over the last few years were implemented because of serious injuries to players. Those rules, such as the home plate collision rule and the slide rule are commonly referred to by the famous players involved, “Buster Posey Rule” and the “Chase Utley Rule.” Now we have another rule with naming rights leaning towards Carter Capps. Capps, a tall, right-handed pitcher from Kinston, NC, is recovering from Tommy John surgery with plans to join the Padres bullpen, perhaps as closer, sometime in 2017.
Capps’ pitching delivery has always been unorthodox and repeatedly scrutinized because of a hop-step that lands him closer to the plate at time of release. Many baseball experts argue that Capps delivery is illegal because he double plants his pivot foot well in front of the pitching rubber, before release. However, Major League Baseball instructed umpires, in 2015 when Capps last pitched in the big leagues, to judge his hop-step delivery as legal. The key for Capps or any other pitcher (Jordan Walden) who appears to move away from the pitching rubber with his pivot foot is to keep his foot in contact with the dirt. Capps in 2015, talked about the clarification from MLB, “They just said they wanted me to make sure I dragged my foot and not get too elevated in the air, and make sure it’s more on a lateral plane,” Capps said. “As long as I do that, they have no problem with it.”
Here’s a breakdown courtesy of Marlins TV.
For Capps and Major League Baseball, nothing has changed except that he is now pitching in San Diego. With the recent rules related press release, MLB simply put in writing the interpretation directive that umpires had previously received.
Capps and the Padres know that umpires will watch him closely, to be certain he drags his foot and not jumps up. MLB wants to see a drag line to prove his foot never comes up in the air. One Major League umpire told me that they will be looking for a “secondary push” to determine the legality of the pitch. The problem for umpires, however, is that the hop-step, jump-step, and drag-push, happens very quickly in real time. There is no way for the home plate umpire to make this call. With Capps firing his fastball in the upper 90’s, the home plate umpire is focusing on the baseball and the strike zone. If Capps or any other hop-step pitcher is called for an illegal pitch (penalty: a ball with no runners on base and a balk with runners on) the call will likely come from a base umpire.
Meanwhile, for Carter Capps, a few words of advice. Stay grounded, young man.