When is a ball a strike

I have discussed on this blog the differences between high school and professional rules. Most of the time they really don’t amount to much and other times it causes some potentially goofy rulings.

Here is a play that happened recently in the majors:

The batter requests time (and note, the batter can only request time, he is not calling time, that is the umpire’s job). The umpire does not grant it because the pitcher had started his delivery. The ball comes right down the middle and a strike is called.

They key to this call is that the pitch was actually a strike. Here is rule 6.02(b):

The batter shall not leave his position in the batter’s box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup.

PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call “Ball” or “Strike,” as the case may be.

The rule is specific in that the ball is to be called “as the case may be”.

The rule is quite different in high school (rule 6-2-4 (d)(1).

1. If the pitcher, with a runner on base, stops or hesitates in his delivery because the batter steps out of the box (a) with one foot or (b) with both feet or (c) holds up his hand to request “Time,” it shall not be a balk. In (a) and (c), there is no penalty on either the batter or the pitcher. The umpire shall call “Time” and begin play anew. In (b), a strike shall be called on the batter for violation of 7-3-1. In (a), (b) and (c), if the pitcher ­legally delivers the ball, it shall be called a strike and the ball remains live. Thus, two strikes are called on the batter in (b).

I added the emphasis. Notice there is no qualifying statement about calling the pitch as it may be. The rule is if it is delivered it is a strike. So, how can a ball be called a strike – if the batter had stepped out of the box prior to the pitch.

I have never called this. I hope I never have to because that would not be a fun conversation with the offensive coach.

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