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This post discussed Joe West and his reluctance to get help on a check swing. As you remember, the umpire is not compelled to check if he rules a strike. However the rules do stipulate that if the pitch is called a ball and the defensive team wants an appeal, it should be granted.

Joe was behind the plate for the Cubs game last evening. He called a ball and the Cubs wanted an appeal. He took his sweet time but he did finally appeal. Afterwards, Cub manager Joe Maddon gave him a fake bow of thank you. Pretty funny scene.

Of course after taking so long and given the body language Joe used when appealing, there is no way the first base umpire was going to overturn the original call.

The other update is around this post discussing the unusual delivery by Carter Capps. Major League Baseball has sent a memo to teams outlining what is legal.

It reads:

A pitcher is not permitted to jump or push forward off the pitcher’s plate with his pivot foot and then bring this foot to the ground and make a second push off prior to delivering the pitch. This delivery should be considered an “illegal pitch” and with runners on base shall be called a “balk”. With no runners on base it shall be called a “ball”. A pitcher should not be considered to be in violation if he pushes off the pitcher’s plate with his pivot foot and maintains consistent contact with the ground with his pivot foot without a second push off from the ground.

Softball umpires should be familiar with this as it is almost exactly the rule for an illegal pitch in that sport. Long story short – replant = bad, drag = good. In my opinion, Capps was leaving the ground on his delivery. In the future this should be deemed illegal.

At minimum, he can tell his grand kids he forced baseball to distribute a rules clarification.

Ball Magnet

Sometimes the ball just finds you. You might try to move out of the way but with the spin, curve or whatever the ball seems to have a homing beacon right for your body.

This happened to Mike Winters last night.

First of all, the announcers are pretty funny when discussing this. He calls for a “Mitch Cupcheck”. Thankfully it looks like it got the umpire in the upper thigh and not a more sensitive area.

This guy was not so lucky:

(on a side note, my YouTube recommendations might looks a bit odd between all the content my kids watch and the search string “ump hit in balls”)

So, what is the rule on this. It is 5.09 (f):

5.09 The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when—

(f) A fair ball touches a runner or an umpire on fair territory before it touches an infielder including the pitcher, or touches an umpire before it has passed an infielder other than the pitcher; runners advance, if forced.

Ruling is dead ball, batter gets first and other runners advance only if forced. The award is basically the same as a hit batter. If there were a runner on third when this happened, he would stay there since he was not forced.

That last part is the only real tricky part of the rule. Some folks think that all runners get a base but this is not so.

It is embarrassing as all get out to call this on yourself, but it happens – well it has not happened to me yet. Of course me writing this guarantees it will happen in my next field game.

Page 54 of RuleGraphics  Find out more about the book that makes learning the rules easier at our homepage.

Keep your head on a swivel

My high school baseball coach would always say the same thing to players as they were leading off third – “off in foul and back in fair”. He was the coach, so I just did it. I figured it was a safety thing. Only later did I learn this had something to do with the rules.

Let’s start with 7.08(f):

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(f) He is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance.

The only way a runner can be out if touched by a batted ball is if it is a fair ball and he is in fair territory. By having a runner lead off in foul territory, the small chance of losing a runner on third on this fluke is eliminated.

Further if the ball touches the runner immediately in foul territory, it is a foul ball – end of story.  Check out the last clause of the FOUL BALL definition

A FOUL BALL is a batted ball that settles on foul territory between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that bounds past first or third base on or over foul  territory, or that first falls on foul territory beyond first or third base, or that, while on or over foul territory, touches the person of an umpire or player, or any object foreign to the natural ground.

This leaves only one goofy thing that can happen. If a batted ball were to hit third base it is a fair ball. After the ricochet if it hits a runner in foul territory, that runner is not out unless his touching was intentional.

Now that the rule is understood, the other question is how often does this actually happen? Well it happened just this last week in Major League Baseball.

Bruce got whacked in foul ground. Ball was properly ruled foul with no out being recorded.

Foul Ball is on page 37 and runner being hit by a batted ball is on page 54 of RuleGraphics.

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Hey, I’m runnin’ here

Here is a fun play from Friday night:

The runner from second is dead meat. As he gets into a rundown, he remembers the Type A obstruction rule (7.06 (a))

7.06 When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”
(a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance,  without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.

He creates contact with a fielder without the ball while a play is being made on him. Best case scenario is the umpire rules obstruction and he is given third base.

The umpire did not fall for it.

The book defines obstruction like this:

OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

The fielder did not impede the progress of the runner. The runner chose to run into the fielder. Nice try by the runner, but again the umpire had none of it and properly called the runner out.

Quick note from the clip…if nothing else is learned from your time on this blog, please remember this: offensive players interfere and defensive player obstruct.  The runner was trying to draw obstruction and not interference

The announcer, a third generation one at that, got it wrong.

Type A obstruction is on page 63 of RuleGraphics. RuleGraphics is a visual way to learn the rules of baseball. Don’t be the guy that confuses obstruction and interference.

You need me on that wall

This season Wrigley Field is known for having too few bathrooms and construction equipment where bleachers should be. Most seasons Wrigley is known for its trademark ivy on the outfield wall. This ivy will at times will interject itself into the game.

Check out this play:

This was a big call. The Cubs were down one at the time. If Fowler is allowed to score, the complexion of the game changes quite a bit.

Sadly, for Cub fans, the umpires got it right and called this a ground rule double. I will go farther and even argue it is just a straight up rule book double.

Rule 7.05 (f) says:

Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—

(f) Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines;

Pay close attention to the language. It says nothing about being visible. It only says the rule applies if the ball “sticks”. I would reasonably define “stick” as a ball that is not moving up or down within the vines. This ball was clearly stuck.

The Cubs announcers nailed it…again. They are excellent with the rule book.

A lot of fans want a distinction between a visible and non-visible ball. I see the point, but in the end I disagree. It is unfair to ask a player to go digging for a ball.

Base awards are covered on pages 60 and 62 of RuleGraphics.

RuleGraphics  is a well organized, visual way to learn the rules of baseball.


Stay off my field

Umpires like to make fun of announcers. We just cannot understand how someone can be around baseball 200 days a year and not learn the rules. I am all about being fair though.

In this clip the announcer absolutely nails the ruling. Maybe the worm is turning. The play involves spectator interference.


Rule 3.16 covers this.

3.16 When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

Notice the wording of the penalty – the umpire shall impose such penalties to nullify the interference. it does not clarify outs, any certain number of bases awarded, anything. Umpires call this the “God” rule. Umpires try their best to determine what will happen and make it so. In this instance Joe West did not feel the runner would make second – so he kept him at first. Good call.

Lastly, spectator interference only occurs when the fan reaches over the stands. If a fielder goes into the stands and is interfered with – tough cookies.

Spectator interference is covered on page 65 of RuleGraphics

All you limbo boys and girls

Today is a one time holiday for Cub fans everywhere. I wish you all a Happy Kris Bryant Day. He being the goat slaying uber-prospect that will finally deliver a championship.

Again, people will wonder what does this have to do with the rules.

Well, in his last (probably ever) minor league AB, Bryant does what Bryant does – he hit a homer. It did not come without controversy.

It was a pole bender that was ruled fair. Here is the video:

It is minor league video so there is not a great view of the ball leaving the park. That is the key to the rule. The ball does not have to land fair beyond the wall. It just has to leave the park inside the foul pole.

On a bouncing ball over first or third the rule is similar. It does not matter where the ball lands it only matters that it bounded over the base.

It looks like this was a 3 man umpiring crew. With a man on first, this fair/foul ball down the line is the responsibility of the home plate umpire. Not optimal but it is what it is. The umpire does a good job of finding the line, gaining some ground towards the play, and then being set to make the call. A lot of umpires would still be moving on this call – a bad thing to do.

Fair/Foul ball is covered on page 37 of RuleGraphics.


He’s gotta stop

I recently purchased the play index feature from Baseball-Reference. Holy cow is this a lot of fun to play with.

I wanted to get under the hood and think of how this tool can help me on this blog. I got to thinking about balks.

The most common balk is the “no stop” balk. Here is an example from opening day:

Here is the last part of rule 8.01(b)

The pitcher, following his stretch, must (a) hold the ball in both hands in front of his body and (b) come to a complete stop. This must be enforced. Umpires should watch this closely. Pitchers are constantly attempting to “beat the rule” in their efforts to hold runners on bases and in cases where the pitcher fails to make a complete “stop” called for in the rules, the umpire should immediately call a “Balk.”

Umpires were told to strictly enforce the no stop rule in the ’80s. I could not remember the exact year. In messing with the play index, it became clear.

I ran a report on pitchers who balked more than 10 times in a season. This has happened 13 times in history (at least the history Baseball Reference has…which is quite a lot).

11 of those 13 happened in 1988. It happened once in 1989 and has not happened since. My keen deductive skills tell me 1988 was the year of renewed focus on the rule.

This is the type of balk that most coaches understand and try to get the umpire to call. The rules only dictate the pitcher make a complete stop. It does not say for how long. The rule of thumb is to make sure the arms and legs are not moving at the same time. If this does not happen, there had to be a stop in there somewhere.

This type of balk is covered on page 23 of RuleGraphics.

Number or name

Yesterday was Jackie Robinson day across Major League Baseball. Let’s be clear on one thing – this is a yearly event that baseball just knocks out of the park (pun totally intended). There are a lot of great events, dedications, videos, etc. all commemorating the anniversary of the day Robinson broke the color barrier (well the modern color barrier, this guy or this guy were probably the first African American player depending on your definition of “major” league). At first blush it is odd to think about why a rules/umpire blog would discuss this. Well, one of the things MLB does on this day is all players wear #42. I was watching MLB Tonight and during their tweet answering segment (they had a better name for it), someone asked how umpires handled all the players having the same number. While I am not 100% sure, I think the answer is buried in the rule book. Here is the first sentence of Rule 3.06 Comment:

To avoid any confusion, the manager should give the name of the substitute, his position in the batting order and his position on the field.

Rule 3.06 deals with substituting. Notice the comment states the manager should give the name of the substitute. In other words, the number does not matter – they are just a courtesy to help umpires, PA announcers, fans, and others to keep up with things. Here is a clip of Jonathan Papelbon wearing the wrong number in a spring training game. Obviously the umpires let him in the game. On the lineup card they listed Papelbon in the game – not Ruiz, not #51 but Papelbon. Rule 1.11 (a) (1)  now lists that all players have to be on the field with numbers. This was not always the case. While not new, the practice of wearing numbers is not as old as baseball itself. It was not until the 1930s that all teams wore numbers. That means the last Cubs World Series winning team did not wear numbers. The 1929 Indians and Yankees were the first team to go beyond experimentation and wear them all the time. The Yankees assigned their numbers based on position in the batting order. This is why Ruth was #3 and Gehrig was #4. You can read more on the history of numbers via the wikis. Uniforms are on page 11 and substitutions are on page 16 of RuleGraphics

Eyes and ears

The Phillies and Mets game last night featured all sorts of fun stuff. Here is a play from that game.

The umpire calls catcher’s interference. On a ball that is not put in play the penalty is pretty easy – the batter gets first base and other runners advance only if forced.

The interesting thing about this call is usually how it is determined by the umpire. It is sound and not sight. Sure, some guys could probably see this – if they are Superman.

The ball hitting the bat makes a distinctive sound – a knock (or a ping in high school). The ball hitting the batter makes a distinctive sound – a thud. The ball hitting a glove makes a sound – a pop. Lastly, the bat hitting the glove makes a sound – sort of like a knick.

The rule of thumb is if you hear the knick or if you hear two sounds, it is likely catcher’s interference.

Give the announcers credit in this one for describing the sound element. I also give credit to the umpire for selling the call. As to the correctness of the call – that is too close to tell given the video.

Catcher’s interference is on page 43 of RuleGraphics.