April 10, 2021

MLB Batter Leans into Pitch and Wins the Game

Michael Conforto Fools Umpire into Making the Wrong Call

MLB Batter Leans into Pitch and Wins the Game

A controversial ending gave the New York Mets a win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday afternoon at Citi Field.

The game was tied in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and one out. Anthony Bass appeared to strike out Michael Conforto looking but home plate umpire Ron Kulpa ruled the baseball hit him on the arm.  Kulpa rose out of his crouch to begin signaling a called third strike, Conforto turned and pointed to his elbow, indicating that the pitch had hit him. Kulpa responded by animatedly tapping his own elbow to indicate that it was indeed a hit-by-pitch.

The runner from third came home and Conforto was credited with a walk-off hit-by-pitch.

See the play here:

https://www.mlb.com/video/mets-walk-off-in-wild-fashion                                           

Ruleball Comment

  1. Rule 5.05 (b) (2) reads, The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when he is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball; (2) If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.
  2. When the batter is touched by a pitched ball which does not entitle him to first base, the ball is dead, and no runner may advance. It should be noted that a batter shall not be considered touched by a pitched ball if the ball only touches any jewelry being worn by a player (e.g., necklaces, bracelets, etc.) 
  3. It appeared that Conforto made no attempt to avoid getting hit by the pitch and most likely initiated the HBP by intentionally getting in the way of what would have been strike three. But that is umpire judgment and there is no appeal process or Replay challenge to rectify this. The Command Center can rule on the HBP but cannot judge intent.
  4. The hit by the pitch was reviewed but the Replay Official did not see enough to overturn it.
  5. The rule clearly states, “If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball.” Following the game, Kulpa told a pool reporter that the pitch was a strike and Conforto should have been called out. This was a flagrant misinterpretation of 5.05 (b) (2). But managers can no longer protest a game. The reasoning for the change enacted in 2020 was that since Replay and the RULES CHECK was accessible, there was no need to allow protests. Controversies could be handled on the spot. The minor leagues do not have the luxury of the replay, yet protests are prohibited there as well. Not fair.
  6. In my opinion, Mattingly should have asked Kulpa if the pitch was in the strike zone. If the answer was “yes,” Mattingly should have asked for a RULES CHECK at the Command Center. Managers throughout the major leagues need to be aware of the importance of utilizing the RULES CHECK. Whether a decision is reversed or not, it does not count as a video challenge. Broadcasters should be able to provide this information to their viewers.
  7. Prior to 2020, per rule 7.04, managers were able to protest a game when they alleged the umpires had misapplied the rules. The umpires had to be notified of the protest at the time the play in question occurred and before the next pitch or attempted play began. If the play in question ended the game, a protest could be filed with the league office until noon the following day. No protests were permitted on judgment calls by the umpires.
  8. For a protest to be heard, there had to be a misapplication of the rule and the violation had to adversely affect the protesting team’s chances of winning. If protests were still allowed, there is no doubt that both of those conditions were met in the Conforto HBP decision.
  9. I don’t know what the conversation on the field was among the umpires following the game. I would assume that the possibility of Conforto getting hit in the strike zone had to be broached. If so, it’s hard to believe that not one of the other umpires (Brian O’Nora, D.J. Reyburn, and Ryan Blakney) was able to correct the situation. If the question of whether or not Conforto was hit in the strike zone was not discussed, I would have to ask, why not? 
  1. One final comment. The rule state that if a pitched ball hits the batter he is awarded first base. I would assume when the rule was made many years ago, batters weren’t wearing the padding you see today. The intent of the rule is that the pitch had to make contact with the batter’s body. In the Conforto play, the pitch grazed the padding on his arm. Maybe the rule should be revised to read, “A batter shall be awarded first base when hit by a pitch excluding padding or any worn equipment with the exception of the batting helmet unless the batter makes no attempt to avoid the pitch.”

 

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant:  Cardinals, D’backs, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays,  Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports,  ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

https://www.mlb.com/video/mets-walk-off-in-wild-fashion

THE RULE:

5.05 When the Batter Becomes a Runner

(b) The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when:

(2) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;

If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.

APPROVED RULING: When the batter is touched by a pitched ball which does not entitle him to first base, the ball is dead and no runner may advance.

Rule 5.05(b)(2) Comment: A batter shall not be considered touched by a pitched ball if the ball only touches any jewelry being worn by a player (e.g., necklaces, bracelets, etc.).

Rule 5.05(b)(2) to 5.05(b)(3)

 

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