Coming into the NLDS, Dusty Baker took a good number of questions about the shortstop position. Danny Espinosa finished the year in a hell of a slump, but as Baker said to the media, he didn’t really have any other options. Espinosa was and is the best shortstop on the roster, and you have to give him one thing: for all of his flaws, there might be no one better at getting hit by a pitch.
So, actually, nevermind, there is still a Brandon Guyer floating around out there. But Espinosa is a hit-by-pitch machine, and he’s already been struck three times in the series, which is incredible. Even more incredible is the most recent HBP, because, see, Espinosa was granted first base, even though he got hit by a strike.
Danny Espinosa got hit by a strike.
A strike, is what Danny Espinosa got hit by.
A borderline strike — sure, I’ll grant that. Espinosa didn’t get hit by a pitch that was literally down the middle, because that would be a physical impossibility. But what we’re dealing with here is insane. I went to Baseball Savant and pulled all the 2016 hit-by-pitches. You can basically see the bodies of righties and lefties in the plot below, and the overwhelming majority of these pitches make total sense. With a few, you see the profiles of elbows. The pitch to Espinosa is the only one that would’ve otherwise counted as a strike for the pitcher.
There’s a rule about this.
(6.08) The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when:
He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;
If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.
Usually, when people complain about HBPs, they complain that umpires don’t enforce the make-an-effort part of this rule. That whole thing about making an attempt to avoid being touched by the ball — umpires almost literally never use that. So, the precedent has essentially been established. The rule is a non-rule. But here people can complain twice over. Espinosa made no attempt to move, and the pitch was a strike. So that’s two reasons why he shouldn’t have been granted first base, two reasons right there in the rule book. Dave Roberts, though, came out to make his case, and Espinosa still remained at first. He was never called back, and he was never going to be. The rules take care to detail what ought to count as a hit-by-pitch, but it seems that that part of the book was never assigned in umpiring school.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.