SITUATION - While umpiring for a recent Rocky Mountain School of Baseball (RMSB) tournament, the batter started his swing when he realized the ball was coming straight at him chest high. He was trying to stop his powerful swing in a way that he now had his hands directly in front of his chest with his twisting torso squared up and facing the pitcher. The pitch drilled him straight on in the hands and wrist and the ball came out onto the field like a perfect bunt.
ISSUE - Is a ball that hits the hands and wrist live and playable? Or should the ball be dead? Should the batter get a “Hit By Pitch” free trip to first base? Or should he get a called strike and continue his time at the plate?
RULES - The Official Rules of Major League Baseball has several references to being hit by a pitch. Let’s put them all together and see what the the correct ruling should be...
(a) A pitched ball touches a batter, or his clothing, while in his legal batting position; runners, if forced to advance, advance.
The batter was in his legal position. With this rule alone the batter would be granted first base. But there is more...
6.05 A batter is out when--
(f) He attempts to hit a third strike, and the ball touches him;
The batter only had one strike on him. But if he already had two strikes, then he would have been called out because he definitely was in the act of swinging. This also let’s us know that he should not be awarded a free base if he is hit while swinging.
6.08 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--
(b) he is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) 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.
The batter was definitely attempting to hit the pitched ball. It was clearly nowhere near the strike zone. The “Approved Ruling” deals only with the clarifications in 6.08 1&2 above.
A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which--
(a) Is struck at by the batter and missed;
(b) Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone;
(c) Is fouled by the batter when he has less than two strikes;
(d) Is bunted foul;
(e) Touches the batter as he strikes at it;
(f) Touches the batter in flight in the strike zone;
(g) becomes a foul tip.
This was definitely (e) above as the pitch touched the batter as he struck at the ball. But this leads to the question as to whether the ball went forward out onto the playing field because it touched the bat, the hands, the wrist, or the body. If it was from the bat contact, then this is just a very odd bunt. But from my perspective behind the plate the pitch drilled the batter in the hands and wrist areas, as evidenced by the excruciating pain the batter manifested afterwards as both he and his coach were trying to rub his hands and wrists.
So when is the ball live and when is it dead?
Are the hands part of the bat?
If a ball is hit with the hands while holding the bat, is the ball live and playable?
BASEBALL MYTH - The hands are considered part of the bat.
TRUTH - The hands are part of a person's body. If a pitch hits the batter's hands the ball is dead; if he swung at the pitch, a strike is called and NOT a foul. If the batter was not swinging and just avoiding the pitch, he is awarded first base.
Official Rules of Major League Baseball - Rules: 2.00 PERSON, TOUCH, STRIKE (e) and 6.05(f)
The PERSON of a player or an umpire is any part of his body, his clothing, or his equipment. (MLB DEFINITIONS “PERSON”)
TOUCH To touch a player or umpire is to touch any part of his body, his clothing, or his equipment. (MLB DEFINITIONS “TOUCH”)
STRIKE - See above
6.05(f) - See above
OFFICIAL RULING - The batter was in the act of swinging at a pitch outside the strike zone when he was hit by the pitch. The ball should be called both dead and the pitch called a strike. Once the batter regains their composure, then he should return to the batter’s box to complete their time at bat.