Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/18/14

The score was still within a manageable two runs when Hunter Pence “settled” into the box with the bases loaded in the third inning of last nights’ game seven win for the Giants. Joe Kelly, just in the game for Kyle Lohse, threw him a 94.5 mph two-seamer that bored in on the bat handle — just your typical bat-breaking, weak-ground-ball inducing heat in on the hands. Of course, you might have seen the slow-motion replay of what happened: Thanks to SBNation for the GIF. Yup, that’s a baseball hit twice — or three times even. And that’s a baseball that found center field grass and plated three Giants and blew the ball game open. But should it have been a hit? And even if the rule concerning it as a hit was nigh-unenforceable in the moment, did the third hit fake out Pete Kozma at short? Did Pence, as some Cardinals are complaining, get an unfair boost from the extreme physics of the situation? One at a time. Should it have been a hit? Rule six of the official Major League Baseball rulebook has a rule that is relevant here: 6.05 A batter is out when – … (h) After hitting or bunting a fair ball, his bat hits the ball a second time in fair territory. The ball is dead and no runners may advance. If the batter-runner drops his bat and the ball rolls against the bat in fair territory and, in the umpire?s judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, the ball is alive and in play; Rule 6.05(h) Comment: If a bat breaks and part of it is in fair territory and is hit by a batted ball or part of it hits a runner or fielder, play shall continue and no interference be called. If batted ball hits part of broken bat in foul territory, it is a foul ball. Completely clear. Except of course what constitutes a broken bat. Is Pence’s bat broken the minute the handle spits out a splinter? Then yes, the hit should be legal. It was just a part of the broken bat touching the ball in fair territory (probably). But if Pence’s bat was still judged to be ‘whole,’ then it was an illegal hit and he should have been out. In this particular case, there’s no way to heap on this umpire for making a bad call. After all, you’re asking him to make a philosophical decision — when is a bat truly ‘broken’ — after a play that only became clear once the slow-mo camera was applied. But did the triple hit fake out Kozma? He can clearly be seen breaking the wrong way on the pitch before scrambling to his left after the bounding ball. But it seems impossible that Kozma was reacting to the first hit, which was milliseconds before the second and third hits. Baseball physicist Alan Nathan broke it down to me as nobody can: I have a hard time believing that Kozma could actually see the initial trajectory after the first impact. It happened too fast. However, what Kozma did see is that the ball hit off the middle of the bat, which usually leads to a ball that is pulled. Hence his initial reaction moving to his right. Notice that the ball is barely moving after the first impact. Under normal conditions, this would have been a dribbler to the infield. The actual trajectory was different, as the final impact occurred at the end of the bat. The final impact was rather solid. Not only did that change the initial velocity vector, with the ball now moving to the left of Kozma, but it had a large amount of sidespin in it, causing it to slice away from Kozma and just out of his reach. So another ‘yes and no’ answer. Yes, it’s possible that the double-hit faked Kozma out. But it wasn’t that he was reacting to the actual vector of the ball — he was just reading the fact that a righty had put barrel on a ball on the inside part of the plate. Little did he know that the righty would also put the end of the bat on the same ball. Did that constitute an unfair advantage to Pence? Hard to say what’s unfair. It seems sort of like a rarer version of the ball hitting the bag and flying over the defender — stuff happens. So really this was just your typical broken-bat hit. After all, as Nathan says, it’s “not so unusual to get a well-hit ball from a broken bat” because often the “fracture does not even occur until after the ball leaves the bat,” or the break happens “in the handle, far from the impact location, so that the barrel end of the bat is not affected by the break until after the ball has left the bat.” Since broken-bat hits happen, is there a chance this particular version of the broken-bat hit happens more than we expect? Nathan has seen it before, in a classic double-tap hit from Troy Tulowitzki, and wonders if there have been others out there — “we might never have seen this without the high-speed video, which is not often set up.” Maybe there have been other triple-hits out there then. And maybe they, too, have thrown off defenders. They probably also flew right through the middle of the gray area in that rule. But none have done so on such a great stage, pulled off by one of the most awkward players in baseball, at such a crucial time. So, Hunter Pence, we thank you for what might end up being your signature moment.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Brandon Browner fined $8K for throwing Brandon Gibson to turf

Report: Sharper, NFLers called spiked drinks 'horny juice'

Rex Ryan: My wife could coach Tom Brady

Jim Harbaugh won in laser tag by 'hunting' 10-year-old kid

Eddie Lacy is ‘very blind,’ refuses to wear goggles

Michael Phelps pleads guilty to DUI, gets probation

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

NFL scouts not in love with Amari Cooper?

Report: No teams interested in trading for Lance Stephenson

It is not Chip Kelly's fault if Eagles miss playoffs

FCC declares that 'Redskins' is not obscene

Padres reportedly acquire Justin Upton

Rajon Rondo after trade: My love for Celtics fans is 'unmatched'

Will a Chiefs WR finally catch a TD in Week 16?

Jon Lester and the Cubs

The Toronto Raptors reveal their new logo

Things Johnny Manziel, Browns can do to avoid a bad repeat

No. 9: What if the Bengals hired Bill Walsh?

Top 10 worst NBA related commercials of all-time

Predicting the winners of the four NFL divisions up for grabs

Game of the week: Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys

Chase Utley bids farewell to Jimmy Rollins

Are the 49ers going to rebuild or reload?

Ranking NFL coaches on hot seat heading into Week 16

Five draft picks why the Browns won’t make the playoffs

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Jon Lester and the Cubs

Report: NFL players used 'horny juice'

Top 10 worst NBA related commercials of all-time

Game of the week: Colts vs. Cowboys

Phelps gets probation for DUI

NFL coaches on hot seat in Week 16

The Roy Williams-Terrell Owens horse collar turns 10

Most underpaid NFL players in 2014

Gronk jokes about Brady compliment

In Matt Kemp, did the Dodgers find a pigeon in Padres?

Why the Saints are legit playoff threat

Impact of U.S.-Cuba relations on MLB

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.