The Anatomy of a One-Pitch Strikeout

Imagine for a moment that you're Vinnie Catricala. This won't be easy for a lot of reasons, not the least of them being that you are not - nor have you ever been - Vinnie Catricala.

But if you were Vinnie Catricala, you'd know what it's like to be frustrated. A 24-year-old former standout third baseman at the University of Hawaii - Manoa, toiling away in the Texas League hitting .214 and wondering if you're going to have to make good on your business degree. A tenth round pick by the Mariners in 2009, designated for assignment last month and traded to the Oakland A's for cash. Cash, for goodness' sake!

And here you are, playing for your professional life in Midland, Texas. You have to wear a really ugly orange jersey. Seriously, a really ugly orange jersey. You've taken a long bus ride to Corpus Christi, where the gametime temperature is a balmy 94 degrees, and it's a south Texas 94, at that.

In the top of the fourth inning, you hit a home run to give your team a lead, 4-3, over the host Corpus Christi Hooks. You're the hero.

For an inning and a half, at least.

But then the bottom of the fifth rolls around.

After the first two batters are retired, Max Stassi reaches on a single. Two wild pitches bring him to third base. Your base, if you're Vinnie Catricala. And then, Domingo Santana shoots a grounder your way. You have the chance to get the final out. The ball hits your glove, but you drop it. Twice. You can't make the throw to first, and the tying run scores. Then, a stolen base and a walk later, Jonathan Meyer singles to bring Santana - the guy you let on base - home.

Now your team is down 5-4, and it's your fault.

But there's hope. Heading into the top of the sixth inning, you're facing off against Nick Tropeano, the Astros' ~#20 prospect. However, Tropeano is at 94 pitches on the night, and you've already touched him for one home run. So when you step into the box and lay off of what you assume is a slider outside, you feel pretty good. You're up in the count.

Except a funny thing happens. The pitch is called a strike.


You have an issue with the call, and you may very well have a point. You're tired. You're frustrated, and maybe you argue the call a little longer than necessary. But hey, it's the wrong call, dammit. Right? Right? You must at least make yourself heard.


The umpire isn't having it, so you step out of the box, either in protest or to clear your head. You're down no balls, one strike. You remind yourself: I'm Vinnie Catricala, dammit.

Then another funny thing happens. This:


That's an umpire pointing at the batter's box. When an umpire points at the batter's box and you don't step into said batter's box, you're treading on dangerous ground.

Now, if you're Vinnie Catricala, you've probably never heard of Rule 6.02 (c), even though you're a professional baseball player. Why would you? It's never come up. Rule 6.02 (c) reads:

Rule 6.02 (c) If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter’s box during his time at bat, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. After the penalty, the batter may take his proper position and the regular ball and strike count shall continue. If the batter does not take his proper position before three strikes have been called, the batter shall be declared out

Comment: The umpire shall give the batter a reasonable opportunity to take his proper position in the batter’s box after the umpire has called a strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(c) and before the umpire calls a successive strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(c).

Nine point four seconds. That's how long it took to turn Vinnie Catricala into an historical footnote.

3.9 seconds after Catricala stepped out of the box, the umpire - Ron Teague, for those keeping score at home - invoked Rule 6.02 (c) and called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn't step back into the box, Teague rang him up. All told, he spent 9.4 seconds outside of the batter's box.

Is that a "reasonable opportunity to take his proper position in the batter’s box"? It's debatable. Ron Teague is a well-respected umpire. He teaches at The Umpire School. It seemed to be a bit of overkill to me, but he's certainly within his rights.

Vinnie Catricala disagreed. He protested his strikeout, and for all of his troubles, Vinnie Catricala was given an early exit from the game. The game in which he worked so hard to get his team ahead, and in which he'd then been responsible for giving away the lead. It had happened in an instant. Less time, even, than it took for him to argue a call, take a step out of the box, and invoke Rule 6.02 (c) not once, but twice.

Baseball's a funny game. It's made up of moments. This particular moment brought together two players going in opposite directions in their career. And in nine point four seconds, Nick Tropeano had struck Vinnie Catricala out with a single pitch.


Comments

My First Thought When I Saw the Headline

I thought this was an analysis of the infamous Bugs Bunny v. Gas House Gorillas when Bugs struck out the side with one pitch. The greatest pitch ever thrown.

There aren't enough Rec's for that comment!

Well done sir.

I love baseball. :)

So

When was the last time this rule was applied in the major leagues, I wonder?

In 2008 or 9, I remember there was a to-do about enforcing the rule more strictly, but I don’t remember ever hearing about it actually being enforced before now. I’m sure it has, but I sure don’t remember it.

Was the to-do in regards to speeding up the game?

That sounds like about the time frame that MLB was putting major emphasis on blue moving things along more quickly.

Yes, exactly.

It was anti-Nomar time around baseball.

Anthony, just visiting.

But I want to say, what a well written article! Great use of details, you are just really using a lot of journalistic techniques in a great manner here! (If journalistic is a word…)

Anyway, I enjoyed!

He really has been a bright spot around here. We have several.

I should say

TCB has several, I’m not a writer for the site.

Longer than 9.4 seconds

I have to disagree on 9.4 seconds. You’re missing the excessive time he complained in the batters box after the first strike was called and you’re looking at closer to 21 seconds. He gave a strike three argument on a strike one call. Needless to say, I’ve never seen this applied in the majors in this fashion – I believe I witnessed a time where the umpire called for the pitcher to continue pitching with the batter outside of the batters box, and called him out accordingly, but I can’t remember exactly when – it had to have been the 80’s when that happened. I’m a Ranger fan, and despite what Josh Hamilton says, I’m a baseball fan through and through and appreciate a good article. Keep it up! :)

x

No, you can’t count the time while he’s in the box. While he’s in the box, the umpire is free to allow the pitcher to pitch and that’s the ump’s choice. There’s no need for any automatic strike rule if the player is in the box, because the pitcher can pitch.

That’s why the rule is very explicit about this being a situation when the player is out of the box. To that end, the timing given in the article is correct.

I think the umpire’s call in the instance is a terrible abuse and just underscores the problems with baseball umps. It seems like he’s just mad that the hitter argued with him and he’s going to show the hitter who the real boss is.

Abuse?

The ump was enforcing the rules as written on someone who was clearly out of line. Looked like simple justice to me.

Absolutely Abuse

Consistency is required and everyone that takes longer than 3 seconds to reach the batters box should have a strike called. I think you’ll find that happens on almost every pitch. You can’t argue balls and strikes, but the umpire didn’t throw him out for arguing, and taking a step out of the box in this instance isn’t anywhere close to being out of line, or even at all uncommon.

When rules are open and subjective as this one is, the umpire has an obligation to enforce it within the spirit of the game. You don’t get to use the letter of the rule, to violate the spirit of the rule. The umpire was pissed after missing a call, and having the player briefly argue with him about it. The ump then abused his power and inflamed the situation, pretty much the last thing you want umpires to do an every regard.

Not Abuse

I’m a little late to this thread, but tossing in my $02 anyway.

Consistency is required and everyone that takes longer than 3 seconds to reach the batters box should have a strike called.

This has nothing to do with the length of time it takes to get into the box.

" If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter’s box during his time at bat, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter."

You can see the umpire point and tell him to get in the box THREE TIMES before he calls strike two. This is a textbook application of the rule because the batter was REFUSING to step into the box.

It’s hard for me to complain about the umpire’s actions without knowing exactly what the batter said throughout the confrontation. If the umpire was telling him to quit arguing and get in there and bat, and the batter’s response was to make it clear that he didn’t intend on complying, the umpire’s timing seems fair to me. It also appears that the batter’s complaint after he is called out continues to be about the strike 1 call rather than getting 3 strikes. And my opinion also depends on whether the ump gave him a warning of what he would do.

#umpshow

However much in cash they paid for this guy

They overpaid.

6.02 (d)

There’s been no mention yet that MiLB (National Association Leagues) also utilize rule 6.02 (d) – and batters can’t leave the batter’s box with both feet after a called strike.

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