Hit-by-Pitch Detection

Taken from Referee Magazine, March 2019

Determining whether a batter was hit by a pitch can sometimes be a challenge for the plate umpire. Sometimes an umpire will have to rely solely on circumstantial evidence. Here are some of the criteria and types of circumstantial evidence an umpire can use to handle those situations.

The batter’s reaction

If the batter grimaces in pain immediately after the ball passes her, there is a good chance she was hit. Most first reactions are honest, and you can safely send the batter to first base. Sure, once in a while a batter will try to fool you, but umpiring involves compromise.


Sometimes you hear a sound as the ball passes the batter. If you hear a sound other than the ball hitting or nicking the catcher’s glove or the bat, the batter was probably hit.

Location of the ball

If you have a fastball down the middle of the batter’s box and you are in doubt as to whether or not the pitch got a piece of the batter, give the benefit of the doubt to the batter. Why? A pitched ball belongs around the plate, not over the middle of the batter’s box.

A ball in the dirt

A ball in the dirt can be a tough call because the plate umpire will be straight-lined more on that play than any other. Adding to the difficulty of the call will be the sound of the ball hitting the ground directly before it may or may not have hit the batter. If it looked like the batter was hit and she tried to move, she was probably hit.