Twice in the past week the Nationals have come out on the wrong end of an opponent's checked swing. In Houston, and against the Reds this past weekend, checked swings that were ruled no swings by base umpires opened the door to eventual losses.
To his everlasting credit, closer Matt Capps took the blame for defeat in both cases. But it didn't have to be that way.
Watching the game in the 60's and 70's, it was rare to see a plate umpire ask a colleague for help on a checked swing, and I honestly don't recall seeing a catcher ask for it until the late 70's. Forty years or so ago the plate ump's judgement was all that was required.
In the aforementioned recent examples, replay - in real time, not slow motion - showed the bat crossing the plane of the plate. Not even close. Both pitches were recorded as balls instead of strike 3's.
Talking with Jim Riggleman on MASN after the Houston game, he said what a lot of managers probably feel: It's time to do something about it.
"If a batter commits that far, it's got to be a strike," he said. "There doesn't need to be a second opinion."
We're not talking about situations where a hitter takes his hands back to begin his swing and stops; that's a true "checked" swing. No, we're looking at AB's where the hitter actually brings his hands forward and the bat head becomes nearly parallel to the ground, where it's clear the pitcher has fooled the batter, whether the pitch is in the strike zone or not.
Obviously, interpreting a checked swing that way would require a degree of adjustment, but c'mon, this is the big leagues. Players have been adjusting for years to things like the shrinking strike zone and dodging flying chunks of jagged maple.
They'll figure it out.