MLB Experimental Rule 7.13 Regarding Home Plate Collisions

Major League Baseball has finally published the language for the new rule regarding plays at the plate and home plate collisions. Like the Designated Pinch-hitter rule, this is “experimental.”

Personally, I don’t understand why this language was necessary — the rules are/were already pretty clear in terms of what fielders at any base can do and not do depending on whether or not they have possession of the ball. Further, this new rule is written in a much different style from the rest of the rule book; it’s inconsist in style — though, that’s just me being nit-picky as an editor.

Here is the rule: [Read more...]

Stealing Signs is NOT Cheating

If you use a telescope, binoculars, or video camera to steal another team’s signs — THAT is cheating. But if all you use is your eyes, it’s completely within the rules — and it could mean the difference between winning and losing.

Watch an example of Joe Mauer stealing the opposing catcher’s signs and relaying them to his teammate:

I do not advocate stealing signs below the high school level. In lower leagues, it is more important for players to be focusing on executing the fundamentals. Stealing signs — from the catcher or a coach — is an advanced technique that requires concentration and thinking. In addition, players and coaches should always be aware that someone may be watching, and therefore develop means to prevent their signs from being stolen.

We’ll get into the techniques on both sides in the future, but in the meantime if you have any suggestions for stealing signs or preventing the theft of signs, please post your comments.

Balk? Or Base Hit?

Usually, when a balk is called, the pitcher stops his motion, and the umpire proceeds to call time and directs the baserunners to advance to the next base(s). However, what happens when an umpire calls a balk and the pitcher continues with the pitch?

99% of the time, everyone freezes once the balk is called, including the batter, who will let the ball fly by. According to the rulebook, it is a “no pitch”; meaning, it’s neither a strike nor a ball.

However, what if the batter doesn’t let the ball go by? What if he decides to take a hack at it?

According to the rules, if the batter hits the ball after a balk is called, and gets a base hit, the play stands as if the balk was never called at all. Unfortunately, very few umpires know this, and tend to call it a “no play” or “do over”.

I’ve seen this happen twice in my 25 years and 1000+ games played/coached, and in both cases the umpires made the wrong call.

Per the Major League Rulebook, section 8.05, referring to the balk:

“PENALTY: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.”

How does this affect you? As an umpire, take note in case you’re ever in the situation. As a coach, remember this rule if your batter gets an extra-base hit and/or drives in a run on a balk call. As a fielder, be aware and play the ball as you normally would, in case the ump makes the correct call. As a hitter, take full advantage of everyone else freezing on the play and take a hack at the pitch. If you swing and miss, or hit into an out, it’s called a “no pitch” and you get to hit again. If you hit safely, you stay on your base (and there’s a good chance of that happening, as the fielders will likely assume the play is dead and not make an effort to go after a batted ball). In essence, it is your one rare chance for a free, no risk swing.