No hits for you

Giants pitcher Chris Heston pitched the first no hitter of 2015 last night. He struck out the last batter looking with an absolute cockshot on the outside corner (and no that word has nothing to do with what you think it might).

Whenever there is a no hitter, the performance of the umpire is examined. Thanks to tools like pitch f/x and websites like Brooks Baseball this is much easier today.

They plot the zone using a series of colored shapes. Each shape represents a team (the one who threw the pitch) and each color represents whether the umpire called a strike (red) or ball (green). The graphs are from the point of view of the umpire.

Here is the strike zone map for Heston against lefties (so the left hand side is the outside corner):

It looks like Heston got a little bit of help on three or four pitches. They are the red triangles that are outside the zone. Even though they are outside the rule book zone (the dark line), they are very close to what is generally called by umpires (the dashed line). The umpire did grab one high strike in the game.

Here is the chart for right handed hitters (outside corner on the right side):

There is one pitch that is outside the dotted line that was called a strike. Otherwise everything looks pretty good.

Bottom line, the umpire was pretty good last evening. He gave no advantage to the pitcher. In the end it was just a dominating performance. Congratulations to the pitcher (and the umpire). I have never umpired a no hitter – it would certainly be a cool thing to do.

Something new every day

Let’s be honest, the rules for detached player equipment have to be in the book. I mean I guess it could happen. But, I have never seen it at any level. If it did happen, I would probably just be in shock and not know what to call.

This might have been the case in a Braves game the other night.

Here is the play.

Rule 5.06 (4) (B) – 7.05(b) in old format

(4) Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance:

(B) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril;

The key to the rule is three fold. The fielder has to do it deliberately, the glove has to actually touch the ball, and the ball has to be fair (or have a reasonable chance to go fair).

Fielder stretches and his glove comes off and makes contact – that is fine.

Knucklehead throws his glove and misses the ball – that is fine.

Guy throws his glove at a clearly foul ball way down the line – not advisable but not illegal.

In the play above, the runner is not given third base. Why? To be honest with you I am not sure. My best guess is that it has to do with the first condition above. Simmons made such a quick turn back to the ball the umpire might have judged the act to be accidental. I am no mind reader, but this looks pretty intentional to me.

Or, they might have thought the ball did not hit the glove. While it is hard to tell replay could be used to help this out. Except the play was not reviewed. It is possible this is one of those scenarios that does not fall under the purview of replay.

Regardless this is an odd play that you would not expect to see in freshman baseball let alone at the major league level.

Detached player equipment is covered on page 33 of RuleGraphics.

A tale of 2 collisions

There were 2 plays over the weekend dealing with interference. Both were called correctly but the outcome was very different.

First, let’s look at the important part the rule. It is 6.01(a)(10) : 7.08(b) in old format.

It is interference by a batter or a runner when:

He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball.

This rule is misunderstood by a lot of people. Yes, the runner has the obligation to avoid contact. Some folks think the runner “has a right to the baseline”. Nope.

Here is a case of this from over the weekend.

Runner runs right into the fielder. Umpire quickly makes the out call. Easy.

Now, here is where things get trickier. Again to the rule book:

If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire’s judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire declares the
hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter out. With two out, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

This is Rule 6.01(a) Comment: Rule 7.08(b) Comment in old format.

In plain English, you cannot expect a runner to vacate his base. But, he cannot do anything intentional to interfere with the play. Notice the rules take this intentional interference very seriously. If a runner does interfere, the umpire will call out the runner and the batter-runner getting two outs.This actually happened this weekend as well.

It looks like the umpire was about to bang an out and then correctly remembered the rule. In my mind there is no doubt that Reyes was not trying to interfere. Looks like he was trying not to get hit with the ball.

One interesting note from this play. Yes, a runner can be safe from contacting a fielder if on the base. This protection does not extend to being hit by a batted ball. If a grounder (or fly ball) strikes a runner, he is out even if on the base or not.

Page 55 of RuleGraphics discusses interference of this type.


Arms and legs everywhere

There was a very odd play in the Cubs/Nats game yesterday.

Where do we begin. First, Kris Bryant seems to reach the area of first base before Gonzalez touches it. But, Bryant does not touch the base.

Of course he does not touch the base because Gonzalez is in his way. I suppose he could have spiked him, but this does not seem to be Bryant’s MO.

Gonzalez then rolls onto the base with his shin before Bryant completely passes the bag. The umpire calls an out.

Did he get it right? I think the answer is yes.

First question – was Bryant obstructed from the base.

Here is the definition:

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.

Gonzalez clearly had the ball so this is not obstruction. Interesting side note, if it was obstruction, the umpire can take any action that nullifies the act. This includes awarding a touch of a base.

Second question – how should the umpire handle the situation where the runner acquires first base but does not touch it.

This is actually handled in the PBUC (Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation) manual. Here is there sample play:

Play 13: Batter-runner hits a ground ball and beats the play at first base but misses the bag.

Ruling 13: The proper mechanic is to call the batter-runner “Safe,” indicating he beat the play. If the defense appeals by tagging the runner (or base) and appealing that the runner missed first base before the runner returns to first base, the batter-runner would be declared out. (See Official Baseball Rule 7.08( k) Casebook Comment.)

Here is the rub though. To “beat” the play and acquire the base – you have to be completely past it. Since Bryant was equal to the base, he had not formally missed it. If he had not missed a base, he is not subject to appeal yet.

Further if he is not subject to appeal, all Gonzalez has to do is touch the base with possession for an out. This is exactly what happened.

Let’s imagine Bryant was completely past the base when Gonzalez touched it (but still did not touch it himself). The umpire would have ruled the runner safe. Then it would be up to the pitcher to formally appeal the missed base. Him rolling over the base is not sufficient to appeal.

From the book:

An appeal should be clearly intended as an appeal, either by a verbal request by the player or an act that unmistakably indicates an appeal to the umpire.

Gonzalez would have had to retouch the base telling the umpire Bryant missed it or went and tagged Bryant.

Crazy play with a lot of moving parts. Bottom line is the umpire got this all right in real time. I watched most of the game last night. The first base umpire had a lot of bangers. He did great on all of them. Those guys are good.

Appeal plays are covered on page 34 of RuleGraphics.

You don’t need me on that wall

Spectator interference is actually pretty rare. It does not mean it does not happen. Here is a play from the other night:

Rule 6.01(e) (3.16 in old format) covers this.

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.

APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching  a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

The distinction on this play is where the fielder is at. If the fielder goes into the stands, he is fair game. If the fan comes over the field, it is interference.

Although neither the outfielder nor ball was not touched, it does look like the OF was hindered so the out was called. I agree with the call. I think if it is close, the benefit of the doubt has to go to the defense. Otherwise, fans would be leaning over the field all the time.

Spectator interference is covered on page 65 of RuleGraphics

Easy outs

In terms of grabbing an easy out, they don’t come much easier than this one:

A common rule myth is that home plate is in foul territory (it is not) or a ball that strikes home plate is foul (it is not) or finally a ball that hits behind home plate is foul (it is not).

If a batter hits the ball down the line and half way between third and home it rolls fair, this is a fair ball. Hitting the ball behind the plate is no different.

If the ball has not crossed first or third, the call is made by where the ball (not fielder) is when the ball is touched or where the ball comes to rest.

Nice job by the umpire in not killing this play too soon.

Page 37 of RuleGraphics covers fair/foul balls.

Foul Tip Fun

Check out this awesome play by the Brewers catcher in yesterday’s marathon win:

The ball is hit, popped up, and caught in foul territory. The count was 2-2. The umpire signaled foul tip and called the batter out.

The big question was this actually a foul tip.

Here is the definition:

A FOUL TIP is a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to the catcher’s hands and is legally caught. It is not a foul tip unless caught and any foul tip that is caught is a strike, and the ball is in play. It is not a catch if it is a rebound, unless the ball has first touched the catcher’s glove or hand.

To be a foul tip, the ball has to go sharp and direct to the glove – this ball did this.

Once it goes sharp and direct, it just has to be caught. The catch can be on a rebound. This is one heck of a call. Full disclosure, I did not even notice hitting the glove the first time I saw this. Great job by the umpire.

What I thought happened was just some meekly hit ball that the catcher caught. What would the call be in this situation. It would be an out but for a caught ball and not a foul tip. A common rule myth is that a ball has to go some discernible height to be caught by the catcher for an out (I have heard it has to go above the catcher’s head a bunch).

This is not true. A ball is either a foul tip or a foul ball. If a foul ball is caught it is an out no matter the height. None of this applies on this play, but it is worth knowing.

Another shout out on this play – the Brewers announcers nailed it as well. They saw it, knew the rule, and explained it well. Nice job fellas.

Foul Tip is covered on page 10 of RuleGraphics.