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Why is the batter allowed to wander in and out of the box? Doesn't this amount to delay of the game?

The pitcher has 12 seconds to throw the ball after he receives it from the catcher. Apparently he has to wait until the batter feels like getting ready to hit the ball. The umpire has control of this situation. He can say "ball" if everybody takes too long.

Today I watched a batter walk 10 feet away from the box after swinging at a pitch. The catcher is supposed to throw the ball back to the pitcher as soon as possible. There is a baseball rule book. What good is that?

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2 Answers 2

A batter is not permitted to wander in and out of the box without requesting the umpire to call "Time" (rule 6.02(b)). A comment on the rule goes on to urge umpires not to grant excessive requests, since the batter is there only to bat.

If the batter leaves the box without requesting time, rule 6.02(c) allows the umpire to call a strike. Ordinarily umpires are hesitant to do so without warning the batter first. If the batter still does not enter the box, the umpire can continue the procedure until the batter has struck out.

This is not just theoretical; in 2013 the minor-league player Vinnie Catricala took the first pitch for a strike, stepped out of the box to argue the call, and wound up striking out without getting another pitch.

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Is the batter still in the box if after each pitch he turns his back on the plate and plays with his gloves and checks to see if his shirt is buttoned and adjusts his hat before he gets set to receive a pitch? –  charles cobb May 17 at 0:43
    
@charlescobb: That would fall into the umpire's discretion. I suspect most umpires don't want to warn every single batter, just like NBA referees always let a certain amount of contact go before calling a foul. –  Michael Myers May 17 at 5:09
    
@charlescobb Unwritten rule when the batter does this they a reasonable amount of time to do so. –  Nicholas V. May 22 at 21:14

6.02 b) begins by saying while the pitcher is in the set position or in the windup. If this is not the case and there is a delay in the action, ie between pitches the batter may step out (in the comments part of 6.02 b). Also the batter is allowed to take time to receive signs from the coach. If the umpire chooses to ask the player to step in the box, then 6.02 c) may be applied.

The MLB differs from most other levels of play on this rule. In the MLB there is little to no concern over pace of play. It is rare to see an umpire warn a batter for taking his time between pitches.

One thing to consider about baseball is most calls are judgement calls. The rule book is vague. Things from the strike zone to what constitutes a delay are at the umpires discretion. The MLB ran into this earlier in 2014 with the "transfer" rule (2.0).

The are no penalties or fouls in baseball so it is often understood that umpires are seen as moderators instead of officials. If teams play slow, they play slow and vice verse for fast paced teams.

The Yankees and Red Sox are notorious for playing slow, and when they meet up games may exceed 4 hours.

In lower levels there is much more emphasis on this rule. Often at the high school levels and below, hitters are asked to keep one foot in the box while receiving signs from the coach. In college (NCAA) there is a time limit or pitch clock between innings and pitches.

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