If imitation is the highest form of flattery, that makes Yasiel Puig among the biggest Little League World Series fans.
One day after Venezuelan Little Leaguer Deivis “Chicken Little” Ordoñez went viral for his exaggerated crouch, Puig copied the youngster’s batting stance to a T in the first inning of Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees.
Puig’s commitment to the bit was admirable. The Cleveland Indians right fielder went down into the crouch three separate times — including crucially as starter CC Sabathia delivered the pitch.
And just like in Ordoñez’s case, the pitch was called for a strike. That’s the good news. The bad news is that unlike Ordoñez, who dropped down a bunt single, Puig struck out on five pitches.
For what it’s worth, a batter crouching does not generally affect the strike zone. Here is how Major League Baseball defines the strike zone:
The official strike zone is the area over home plate from the midpoint between a batter's shoulders and the top of the uniform pants — when the batter is in his stance and prepared to swing at a pitched ball — and a point just below the kneecap.
The top of the zone is determined from the position the batter is in when they swing, and they’d have no power trying to swing from that crouch. So given that Puig likely would have stood up to swing, he didn’t actually change the strike zone.
Furthermore, umpires have free rein to call whatever pitches they want strikes and balls, and if a player is clearly trying to cheat the zone, they may be more willing to call pitches strikes. The corollary there is that umpires often call clear strikes as balls if the catcher drops the pitch.
That hasn’t stopped some players from taking aggressively weird stances, including Colorado Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia, who has liked to take an exaggerated crouch when he reaches two strikes. Sure enough, his batting average with two strikes is .201 — 21 points above league average since his debut.
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