How (Not) To Get Hit by a Pitch:
In the 3rd inning of last nights game, Anthony Rizzo got hit by a pitch but didn't get awarded first base. Let's talk about it.
The Background and Pitch:
It is important that we do a little bit of a set-up before we watch get hit by a pitch but not get a hit-by-pitch call to award him first base.
Anthony Rizzo is the modern-day king of getting the hit-by-pitch. If you ever notice where he stands in the batters box during a normal at-bat, his feet (especially his back foot) is/are almost always touching the white line close to the plate. He's long been a "plate crowder", which has helped him accumulate 195 hit-by-pitches in his 12-year-career.
That 195 is the current highest in the league and is 53 higher than the next highest player (Starling Marte). It's also high enough to rank 11th all-time, and is just 2 before tying Minnie Minoso for 10th all-time. It's unlikely he'll ever top the list- Hughie Jennings had 287 by the end of his career- but it wouldn't be completely unheard of if he manages to hang around into his late-30's.
Game-wise, the Yankees had been getting to the Rays opener, Jalen Beeks in the first two innings (though unable to plate a run), and had just gotten a hit (via Aaron Judge) against Ryan Yarbrough. The Yankees offense- believe it or not- was actually doing well early in the game, and Rizzo was up to do more damage after a 1st inning double. So, here is the pitch:
Ultimately, Rizzo would have to continue with the at-bat and strike out on the following pitch.
But, let's talk more about what Rizzo did wrong and how to successfully get hit by a pitch.
How (Not) To Get Hit By A Pitch:
Ultimately, it would seem that using the current active-leader in hit-by-pitches to use as a prime example for doing the wrong thing to get hit by a pitch would be wrong. However, Anthony Rizzo did a lot of wrong things in a process of trying to "steal" a base last night.
The first problem comes as Rizzo recognizes that the pitch is a breaking ball. This pitch recognition comes when Rizzo plants his front foot. (If you are using the video above as reference, this comes at 0:46 during the slow-mo replay.) This sets Rizzo up in a very particular batting stance. At this moment Rizzo has engaged with the pitch, has solidified his stance, and is in the motion of preparing his swing pattern/is preparing to take the pitch. This happens tens of thousands of times across a major league players career. However, based on where his bat is in that moment (on his shoulder), we know that he is prepared to take the pitch.
The second problem (at 0:47 in the replay) is how Rizzo drops his hips as the pitch gets closer to him and the plate. As the home plate umpire, D.J. Reyburn- who has been in the league since 2008- would've seen at least 4 times prior in that game alone (and likely hundreds of other times in other games), this is not something that Rizzo does during his normal motion to swing OR take a pitch. This is where the biggest problem for Rizzo lies. The league knows what his swing looks like, and it does not involve moving the front hip down and the right thigh out. Especially not when this is into the projected motion of the breaking ball.
The third problem (also at 0:47) is the lifting of his right heel during the above hip motion. There is not a single player in the league who, during the process of a swing, or while taking a pitch, will securely plant their foot and then move up to the balls of their forward foot. This is again another pure piece of evidence that Rizzo was not attempting to play, but get played by, the ball.
Ultimately, (at 0:48), Rizzo gets hit by the pitch across the front of his right thigh. However, everything he did in this quick 1 second snapshot was wrong. He made it clear he was not going to swing, made a clear and obvious movement that was not traditional to his swing (or any good mechanics), and made it clear he was not hit in the process of trying to get out of the way of the pitch.
As much of a Yankee homer as I am, it was clear that Rizzo tried (and did) to get hit by the pitch.
However, no matter how obvious it was that Rizzo did this, it does not come close- nor will anything seemingly ever- to the infamous lean-in by Jose Tabata to ruin Max Scherzer's attempt at a perfect game. (This moment easily ranks up their as the worst no-call in MLB history along with the Armando Galarraga near-perfect game):
Check back tomorrow, when I give a detailed explanation on how to properly get hit by a pitch and the oddities of knowing which pitches to get hit by.