got this from my certified pitching coach colleagues at the National Pitching Association. I think this is what happened, although I’ll never know for sure…
Originally posted by palmbeachtim
what we were told today was that the umpire said that the pitcher was not in contact with the pitchers plate as required by the rules…
what i think he is saying is that part of clay’s foot extended past the 3rd base side edge of the rubber. the set position rule says that the entire pivot foot must be directly in front of the pitcher’s plate.
Here’s the NFHS rule (6-1-3… I’m only including the relevant part):
For the set position, the pitcher shall have the ball in either his gloved hand or his pitching hand. His pitching hand shall be down at his side or behind his back. Before starting his delivery, he shall stand with his entire non-pivot foot in front of a line extending through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate and with his entire pivot foot in contact with or directly in front of the pitcher’s plate.
Babe Ruth rules say essentially the same thing in 8.01(b):
Set Position shall be indicated by the pitcher when he stands facing the batter with his entire pivot foot in contact with, and his other foot in front of, the pitcher’s plate, holding the ball in both hands in front of his body and coming to a complete stop.
However, note that MLB rules were changed to omit the word “entire” (I forget which year this happened):
Set Position shall be indicated by the pitcher when he stands facing the batter with his pivot foot in contact with, and his other foot in front of, the pitcher’s plate, holding the ball in both hands in front of his body and coming to a complete stop.
The NFHS Case Book gives an example of this and the enforcement in 6.1.1, Situation A:
F1 pitches with the toe of his pivot foot (right foot for right- handed pitcher) in contact with the pitcher’s plate but his heel is outside a line through the end edge of the plate. He pitches from (a) windup position, or (b) set position. RULING: Legal in (a). Illegal pitch or balk in (b).
So, yes, technically if Clay’s pivot foot was extending off one end of the rubber, it was an illegal pitch and, hence, a balk since there was a runner on base.
That being said, those who enforce this rule on their own are what’s known as OOO’s – Overly Officious Officials. In other words, extreme and unnecessary nit-pickers. Usually, it’s only enforced if the umpire is backed into a corner in that the opposing coach brings it up. An umpire can choose to ignore little pedantic details that don’t affect the spirit of the rules when left to his own devices, but he can’t once they’re brought to his attention or he risks the whole game being protested.
That also being said, it doesn’t look like Clay’s foot was off the end of the rubber to me. The video doesn’t provide a 100 percent conclusive angle, but from what I can see, if it was off the end at all it was by a very small amount, like an inch or less. If I were umpiring that game, I would never have called that a balk even if pressed by the opposing coach. The few times I’ve ever seen this called, it’s when the pitcher stands with more than a third of his foot past the end of the rubber, and usually only when it’s the majority of the foot.
So, that’s a long way of saying, if that was the rationale, Clay and his team got hosed!