CheckSwing

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This blog post is cross posted on baseballthink.com.

check swing

Did he go? The answer is simple. "No he did not" OR "Yes he did." Never was there such a simple answer for such a complicated situation.

For such a difficult call, we players don't have much sympathy for the umpire in this situation. The call is usually followed by remarks like, "You've got to be kidding me" OR "That's terrible" OR (some things I choose not to mention in this blog).

Judging if a batters swings or does not swing is more of an art than a science. It is probably one of the toughest calls an umpire has to make. There are equally tough calls like determining if a lefty balks when crossing the invisible 45 degree line or determining if a ball was trapped or caught in the air. The difference is that check swings occur much more frequently. When it comes to determining if a batter offers at a pitch, all sorts of ambiguity enters the equation.

check swing argument

How does an umpire make this call? I've heard: "It is a swing if the batter's wrists break." I've heard: "It is a swing if the bat crosses an invisible plane that extends across the front of home plate." Do we really expect our umpires to see these things? There must be a better way.

I took it upon myself to settle this argument, and checked the official major league baseball rules out of my local public library. Surprisingly, there is no mention of a "check swing" anywhere in the official rules of baseball. Rule 2.0 states that "A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which is struck at by the batter and is missed." That's what our umpires are working with. Did the batter strike at the ball or did he not strike at the ball? It's a judgment call. And, it's an even tougher judgment call for umpires standing behind the mound.

So...the next time an umpire in your game remarks "No he did not" when you think he should have yelled "Yes he did," maybe you should respond with "Tough one to see" or "Your guess is as good as mine."

Author Andy Katz is the leadoff blogger at baseballthink.com.

Views: 186

Comment by Ray Kovach on August 31, 2009 at 1:07pm
Most umpires agree on this one. Checked swings are one of the toughest calls to make. In my not so humble opinion, the better a "ball and strike" umpire you are, the tougher the check swing is to see. There really can't be a "crossed the plate" measure since some players tend to drag bunt, pull the bat back clearly not offering, but the bat could cross the plate. No attempt - no swing. Generally, if I feel the batter has sufficiently "not offered" at the pitch and has not "over-committed" - no swing. Another thing that makes me laugh about players who complain about checked swing calls by umpires are the players that ask me to appeal to my base umpire - who is standing in C position ( between 2nd and 3rd base) and ask me to "get help" from him on a right handed batter's swing. Sure, no problem. LOL.
Comment by Terrance Murphy on October 8, 2009 at 6:48pm
On the note of appeals, I think it is out of control in the Majors. How about the catcher (the only one who would be allowed to appeal a check swing), gets three appeals per game.
Comment by Gary Hawkins on July 9, 2013 at 9:37am

I just joined 'Check Swing' specifically to comment on this subject after seeing so many MLB catchers appeal to either 1st or 3rd base umps for a ruling on a batter's check swing.  Regardless of the vagueness of the rulebook's description of a check swing, whether the batter 'breaks his wrist', or if the bat crosses the plate, etc., I think there is a common sense answer to this and one that seems glaringly obvious.  And that answer would be simply... if during the batter's check swing, if the end of the bat crosses the plane of the 1st or 3rd baseline as witnessed by either the 1st or 3rd base umps, then it's a strike.  Simple, right?  And to make it an even more accurate call, an additional umpire can be stationed in the announcer's booth with access to instant replays, then he could instantly communicate his decision down to the field.  I believe this would take most of the "judgement" out of this so-called judgement call.

Comment by Mike Greene on July 9, 2013 at 10:03pm

Toughest call in baseball. How does a plate umpire focus on the swing if he is supposedly watching the ball cross the plate?

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