One of the most important positions in baseball is dedicated to the pitchers of the baseball diamond. And it is an open truth.
A pitcher’s primary goal is to deliver effective pitches to get the batters by surprise and secure outs. However, pitching is not always about throwing balls as powerful as you can. To govern the entire process of pitching and keep pitchers in order, proper implementation of rules and regulations is essential.
Thus, MLB has a whole section of rules to determine the successful outcome of pitching – Baseball Pitching Rules – 6: Section 1. In the following, we will dive deeper into the baseball pitching rules today and figure out the consequences and what might go wrong if pitchers don’t follow the rules.
Pitching is so far one of the most complex moves in baseball. It requires years of practice and hardship to get the pitching right. Additionally, pitchers have to research before getting to the diamond and learn about the opposing batter’s strengths and weaknesses.
Without pitching no baseball game starts and we are well aware of it. Pitching in baseball is the starting point of the match. It is when a pitcher throws the baseball toward the home plate to begin the game. And the one who throws the ball is known as the pitcher.
As simple as it may sound, successful pitching requires the pitchers to follow a set of rules, guidelines, and strategies. Every pitcher in the game has one single goal which is to out the batter. Plenty of pitchers have influenced the batters in the past.
For example, we can recall Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn, or Cy Young. They all played as pitchers in Major League Baseball. During this time, they mastered effective pitching tips that always dominated and intermediated their opponent hitters. Their successful career eventually led them to the Hall of Fame.
Some Key Points About Pitching in Baseball Are:
- Pitchers are the defensive field players among other baseball field positions.
- Major League Baseball is durable enough to hold 5-7 pitches.
- MLB players including the pitchers are required to wear helmets with at least one earflap.
- Each team usually has 10 pitchers on the roster. More than one pitcher can come to the mound.
- A Pitcher plays with the sole motive to get the batter out either with a struck ball or a strikeout.
- A Pitcher must stay on the mound and touch the rubber at the time of delivering a pitch.
- Pitchers are the game starters and they can pitch for several innings at a time.
- Relief pitchers come in as the starting pitcher gets tired and runs out of stamina.
- Generally, pitchers with the lowest WHIPs are considered the best pitchers in the league.
Note Down a Few Things to Get a Better Deal on Baseball Pitching Rules.
Mound: Also known as Pitchers Mound/ Hill is an elevated soil area in the center of the infield. Pitchers are advised to pitch from this circle.
Pitcher’s Rubber: Also known as Pitcher’s Plate, it is a flat rectangular slab placed on top of the pitcher’s mound. Pitcher’s rubber is usually made of whitened hard rubber or sometimes wood. A pitcher must touch this rubber inside the mound before starting to pitch.
Strike: In short, a strike in baseball is when the batter swings at a pitch and misses. Or, the ball is in the strike zone whether the batter swings or not.
Strike Out: In baseball, a strikeout happens when a batter has three strikes during an at-bat. It usually means the batter is out of the game. Think about Pedro Martinez whose strikeout-to-walk ratio – the number of recorded strikeouts per walk by a pitcher was the third-best ever. (Source: Baseball-Reference)
At-Bat or Time at Bat: Officially, an at-bat is when a batter reaches the base via the fielder’s choice or hit or because of an error. To put it simply, it refers to the batter’s turn to hit against a pitcher.
At-Bat is an important factor to determine the performance measurement of a player. When a player fails to complete his at-bat, the batter will be called out – Rule 6.06(a) Comment.
Baseball Pitching Rules Explained
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Modern baseball pitching rules have come to a steady point for improving the standards of pitching. It is defined under MLB Rule 6.0 (Section 1 & Section 2). And we will have a detailed perspective below:
Pitch from Windup Position or Set Position
Based on MLB Rule 6-1-1, pitchers can pitch in either two positions mentioned below:
1) Windup Position: When a pitcher has his pivot foot on the pitching rubber with both shoulders towards the batter following a slight angle. He will have the sign from the catcher with his pivot foot in touch with the pitcher’s plate.
2) Set Position: A pitcher is in the set position when his pivot foot remains against the pitching rubber with both shoulders facing either the first base or the third base at some angle. Left-handed pitchers will face the first base while right-handed will face toward the third base. He will hold the ball using both hands in front of his body.
Major League Baseball strictly points out some regulations to maintain the fairness of the game. The pitching regulations begin when the pitcher intentionally contacts the pitcher’s plate. The rest is as follows:
- The pitcher can turn his shoulder to check the runners while still in contact with the pitcher’s plate and the set position. MLB declared this a legal act.
- The pitcher can’t make a quick return pitch in order to catch the batter off balance.
- It is a balk when the pitcher turns his shoulders with his hands together during or after a stretch.
- The catcher must have both of his feet in the catcher’s box at the time of the pitch.
- If a pitcher uses both hands, the umpire will ensure the pitcher faces the batter with either the right or left hand. But a pitcher can’t use both hands to pitch in a play.
Next on the row is how our pitcher will follow the baseball pitching rules on the field. In the section below, we will define how a pitcher is advised to grip the ball in a wind-up position and set position.
The Pitcher Is Not Restricted to Hold the Ball
For the Windup Position (Rule 6-1-2)
MLB doesn’t follow any restrictions on how the pitcher might hold the ball. But while a pitcher is in the windup position, he should ensure any of the following MLB guidelines mentioned below:
- The pitcher’s hands are together in front of the body.
- Both hands should remain at the pitcher’s side.
- Either hand is in front of the body and the other hand is at his side.
- His pivot foot can be behind a line that extends through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate.
Every pitcher must follow these gestures while he is in the windup position. In addition to that, while in the windup position, a pitcher is limited to certain actions. Keep reading to know!
Based on MLB Rule 6-1-2,
- A pitcher is limited to two pumps or rotations.
- Once he starts his movement, he must continue the motion without interruption or alteration.
- With his feet in the wind-up position, the pitcher may only deliver a pitch.
- To go backward off the pitcher’s plate, he must use his pivot foot first.
- During delivery, he may lift his non-pivot foot in a step forward/ sideways/ backward and forward. However, he can’t lift either foot together.
For the Set Position (Rule 6-1-3)
Windup and Set Position – both fit equally on the baseball field. The set position is more suitable with baserunners on the third base. It promotes faster execution; making it easy to steal bases.
The MLB rules approved to follow while a pitcher is in a set position are:
- The pitcher will hold the ball in either his gloved hand or his pitching hand.
- His pitching hand shall be down at his side or behind his back.
- The pitcher will be in the set position without interruption and in one continuous motion.
- Natural preliminary motions such as only one stretch may be made.
- From a set position to delivery, he may turn on his pivot foot or lift it in a jump turn.
Here ends our guide with Baseball Pitching Rules. However, for the rules, we described above, there remains a penalty when an illegal pitch occurs.
“The ball is dead immediately when an illegal pitch occurs. If there is no runner, a ball is awarded to the batter. If there is a runner, such an illegal act is a balk. In both situations, the umpire signals dead ball.”
Baseball Pitching Rules History
MLB Pitching Rules have been through several changes ever since their first implementation in 1892. Before 1883, pitchers were advised to deliver pitches with their hands below their hips. The rule changes subsequently due to the discomfort players had following this position.
In 1883, the rule was changed and pitchers were advised with high-shoulder deliveries. Until 1887, the batters were offered the liberty to call for a high or low pitch. And, the strike zone was limited from the shoulders to the knees.
10 years later, the pitching position again went through some major changes in 1893. The ideal pitching position then required the home plate to be 60.5 ft away from the rubber slab. Before 1893, the pitching position was behind a line 50 feet away from home plate.
Pitching Rules went through many modifications at different times. But a remarkable move was taken in 1898 when the first modern balk rule was embraced.
It is believed that the modern era of baseball started in 1901. Before this period, overall baseball rules went through radical changes in the early periods. This is also when American League was formed.
Modern Baseball Pitching Rule Changes
The first quarter of the 20th century went through a few significant changes. It was also during this time when baseball started to grow and draw more audience to the field. From 1900-1920, baseball went through a new phase of spitball and sliders.
You may feel eww with the reason behind naming these balls. Spitballs and Sliders earned their name because pitchers would precisely spit on them to get some more stickiness. And, more sticky means better command over the baseball.
They would literally use saliva, chewing gums, tobacco, or licorice to earn additional privileges besides an enhanced grip. However, during the winter of 1919-1920, spitball ultimately met its fate with a two-phase ban.
Managers partially voted to take down spitball from the field. But each team was allowed to select two designated pitchers who could use spitballs. That’s pretty partial, right?
After that baseball pitching rules remained virtually in place for years.
In 1969, pitchers’ mound was decreased by five inches and the strike zone was limited again – following the armpits to the top of the knees
In 1973, we had the most controversial rule adopted in the American League – the designated hitter rule. This rule still prevails today and is subjected to arguments by critics to this day.
Here are the changelogs of modern baseball pitching rules. The most recent pitching practice applied in the field is the splitter. Remember Masahiro Tanaka, the pitcher from New York Yankees revealed his splitter in 2014 and had a fifth of the time.
Before we draw a finish line to this article, let us ask you a question, are you new to baseball?
Because the answer lies in, it doesn’t matter which level of skill you are at with baseball or if you are only an interested spectator of the game. It is important to be aware of the baseball pitching rules and pitching history to enjoy the match fullest to your heart and as a player, to ensure fair play of the match.
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