How is this not a balk? I thought the pitcher’s foot had to be in contact with the rubber throughout the windup, and remain in contact with the rubber until he releases the ball.
This gives a pitcher a significant advantage by shortening the distance between the pitcher and batter. When you are dealing with fractions of a second, shortening the distance a foot or more is a huge deal.
Capps is a relief pitcher, and my guess is he changed his delivery this spring to have a more exaggerated hop. Last night must have been the first time he pitched this year, because iT was on both Around The Horn and PTI, and both of these shows tend to run with stories less than 24 hours old. If anyone knows of Capps or follows the Marlins and can shed some light in this, great.
Just wanted to add: I have tried to post this for a while, but for some reason, linking to mlb.com has been impossible. This is the best I could do. If anyone can link directly to the video, feel free.
What about the batter? Shouldn’t he be permitted to hop backwards 5 feet while the pitcher is in his windup?
This is just wrong. If he has a consistent, but illegal pick-off move, should an exception be made?
I will be amazed if the MLB ruling isn’t over-turned within the week. I haven’t read or heard one fan, broadcaster, or sports blowhard who is OK with this ruling.
A couple of historic notes that I think are applicable here.
during the 7th game of the 1971 World Series, Earl Weaver went out to the umpires and complained that Steve Blass was pitching illegally because he was throwing from the first base side of the rubber. He wasn’t even on the extreme side of the rubber, but on the front corner. I am sure it was Weaver’s attempt to rattle Blass, but the umpires listened and if I recall correctly, they took a look at where Blass was throwing from. He was clearly pushing off from the front of the rubber, just the extreme first base side of it.
when I was a kid, I recall reading a book about Nolan Ryan. He talked about how he sometimes put a small hole in front of the rubber (a few inches as I recall) closer toward home plate, and would occassionally throw a fastball from that spot. That got his fastball on top of a batter even faster than they were expecting, making it virtually impossible to time. He only did it once in a while, and not in every game, but he knew it was illegal and would do it when he thought he could get away with it.
I imagine with the coverage of today’s games, Ryan would have no chance to pull this off, but back in the 70’s? Unless someone was watching his right foot on every single pitch (a very tedious thing to do, even for one inning), it would be very unlikely he would get caught. Most games had only a couple of cameras, the center field shot and a shot maybe a level or two above home plate to cover the batted ball. No camera was focused on the pitcher’s foot, and you really couldn’t tell anything from the camera angles provided.
Anyway, I found some clips of Capps pitching last year on YouTube and it shows a clear hop. However, it is from the center field camera, and it is impossible to see how far he moves forward. I am not even sure I’d notice it unless I was looking for it, but I didn’t hear the announcers even mentioning it.
If this stands, I can see more pitchers working on similar deliveries, getting their arms closer to home plate.
The rules define one type of illegal pitch as “a pitch delivered to the batter when the pitcher does not have his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate.” An illegal pitch with runners on base is a balk. Rule 8.01 (d) says that an illegal pitch with no one on base is a ball unless the batter reaches base on the pitch.
The balk rules make a few references to a “motion naturally associated” with a pitch. This has to do with the question of whether a pitcher has begun his motion - once he has made a motion naturally associated with a pitch, he must throw to the plate. Also, he’s not allowed to make such a motion if he’s not touching the rubber. To enforce these rules, the umpires have to learn the delivery of each pitcher. For example, it’s not a balk if a pitcher has a hitch in his delivery, as long as he always has the same hitch. I assume that’s what wolfman means by “standard and repeated delivery.”
I don’t see how this applies to the question of a pitcher keeping his foot in contact with the rubber. It has to do with whether a pitcher has started his pitching motion, not about where he is when he delivers the pitch.
One problem is that it’s very common for a pitcher to lose contact with the rubber as he makes his delivery. First, the pivot foot tends to rotate away from the rubber, and then when the lead foot hits the ground the pivot foot usually flies up. Everyone accepts this. What’s different about Capps is that he hops forward a few feet before his arm starts to move forward.
I think MLB is going to have to do something about this. Whether this motion is an illegal pitch according to the definition is a matter of interpretation, but it seems to me to be a violation of the spirit of the game and the rules, if not necessarily the letter. It’s also something that, if allowed, could lead to other pitchers doing things even more extreme. They need to tighten up the rules about the pitcher being in contact with the rubber in such a way that normal pitching deliveries are still legal, but stuff like this is outlawed.
It’s not common for pitchers to lose contact with the rubber during delivery; it’s universal. No pitcher maintains contacts with the rubber at the conclusion of his delivery; the foot always, always comes off at some point. The question is, when is it too early to do so?
IMHO, Capps is clearly not within the spirit of the rule and I wholly agree it should be altered to prohibit what he is doing. Walden’s isn’t as bad; it’s more of a continuous part of his delivery, but if a rule were passed prohibiting his motion I’d be okay with that.
I haven’t read the rules yet, but will try to find time today. In the meantime, thank you for posting this. I wonder how detailed and specific the rules are? For example, in my Nolan Ryan story, let’s say he had a 12 inch shoe. If he put the HEEL of his pivot foot on the rubber, and dug a toe-hold where his lead spike was, he could have a normal pitching motion with his pivot foot starting on the rubber, but of course not ending up on the rubber. Supposedly, this was deemed illegal, and rightly so. Getting 12 inches closer to the batter than the 60’6" distance designed into the game is a distinct advantage.
A pitcher losing contact with the rubber is a natural product of the pitching motion. When you throw, and your lead foot hits the ground, your pivot foot naturally lifts from the rubber. However, Capps is hopping closer to the plate before this happens. In the second video clip posted in the OP, Capps hops between 18-24 inches closer to the plate. Maybe more. That’s not fair. Even if the rules are written in such a way that somehow permit it, I agree with you that it violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the rule.
The Jordan Walden clip, posted by Blank Slate, is also (IMO) illegal. I have a hard time understanding how he generates power, since a lot of a pitcher’s power comes from the push-off leg. When I watch him, my brain tells me he should lose something in that slide forward, but apparently he is still able to throw a major league fastball.
Agreed on both parts. Of course the pivot foot loses contact with the rubber during the delivery. If you have ever pitched (and I have), it is simply part of the entire throwing motion. You wind up, generating power in your push-off leg, and as you slide toward home plate, you plant your lead foot. When that lead foot touches the downward slope of the mound, your push-off (and pivot) foot naturally come off the rubber. It’s as natural as the back foot rising off the ground as the front foot touches the ground when someone is walking.
Walden’s delivery looks more normal, since there isn’t that exaggerated hop that clearly breaks up the Capps delivery. But IMO, Walden’s delivery still provides him an advantage that should not be permitted.
Completely agree. Capps’ motion is not a natural throwing motion. He’s trying to gain a competitive advantage and I can’t believe MLB said this was ok. As another poster alluded to, what’s to stop a pitcher from just shuffling ahead a few feet? Capps looks to be at least a foot or more off the rubber. Ridiculous.
I can’t believe a professional coach ever let Capps pitch like this.
I have, and yeah, you cannot avoid it. Hell, I lift my back foot just making the throw to first when I play infield. I don’t know how you could throw properly and NOT do that. It is part of the follow-through of a proper pitch or throw.
This appears to me to be either a significant hole in the rulebook, which couldn’t have been anticipated, or one that needs the interpretation updated because it’s been allowed to go too far. The Capps movement is quite clearly meant specifically to get him closer to the plate than he should be.
To go to Jeff’s question, I am not precisely sure how best to word a rule amendment, but something added to Rule 8.01 along the lines of “the pivot foot may not leave the rubber until the pitcher’s pitching arm has clearly begun its delivery towards the plate” would work. You could also simply specifically outlaw “any jumping, sliding, hopping or similar motion towards the plate taken before the pitcher’s arm is in full motion towards the plate.”
What’s amazing is that the guy got this far with this delivery. There have always been pitchers with strange motions that only work for them, and coaches have obviously encouraged them to work the pitch to its most effective use, but this indicates he’s had a string of coaches and managers who have encouraged him to use a pitch that will almost certainly be ruled illegal in the bigs.
Stupid. Like a high school linebacker who just happens to carry his lucky cricket bat with him on plays…
Agreed, I can’t believe a coach beyond little league saw this and thought it was acceptable. I’ve played a lot of baseball, pitched in college and was a high school pitching coach for 2 years. I’ve seen some weird throwing motions, but I’ve never seen anyone blatantly cheat like that. And in my opinion, that’s exactly what Capps is doing. That someone tried to pull this off isn’t nearly as dumbfounding as MLB saying it’s legal.
This would literally make virtually all pitching motions illegal. Very few pitchers in baseball maintain contact with the rubber until the ball has actually left their hand. You can’t write the rule hard and fast this way or you’ll screw up every pitcher in organized baseball.
I have before me right now a picture of Pedro Martinez mid-release; the ball is still on his hand and his pivot foot is off the rubber. Tom Henke, Curt Schilling, Bob Gibson, anyone you want; the foot leaves the rubber before the ball leaves the hand. The difference is that is clearly is a natural part of the motion; their foot is lifting off the rubber because the force of the throw, at the height of its power, is lifting it away. Capps and Walden jump BEFORE they commence the throw.
Every pitcher I can recall has his forward foot down before the rear foot comes off the rubber, that’s the difference big difference I can see here, his rear foot is off the rubber before his forward foot lands, and not only that his rear foot lands in the dirt before his forward foot lands.
I don’t really care, if it’s allowed the other pitchers can try it, but I’m surprised it’s allowed at all. Someone really trying could land much further away from the rubber with a jump like that.
I’d call travelling on the pitch. He’s clearly pushing off with the back foot twice. Front foot should land before the back foot returns to the ground. Otherwise, it’s travelling, and the batter should get the ball out of bounds going the other way.