While the main purpose of our book is to make learning the rules easier. This is done by better organization of the various rule sources. The ancillary benefit of it is mythbusting. If rules are easier to find and understand, then myths can start to die. I am probably over my skies with that dream, but I might as well aim big.

I saw this video this morning and realized it was a chance to bust two myths at once a two-fer. This play was so weird that the guys are MLB Advanced Media mislabeled it.

Here is the play:

The announcers claim it was an appealed strike three, uncaught, followed by an immediate tag by the catcher. They look at the replay and say that the Cub did not swing and the Sox got a break. Did they?

Look at the replay closely.

The ball hits the dirt and then Castro’s bat. A lot of fans think this is not legal at worst or a foul ball at best. Fact is, a player can hit a ball that strikes the ground first.

Then the ball lands on home plate. The catcher scoops it up and makes the tag. A lot of folks think that home plate is in foul territory. It is not.

Add it all up and this is a ball hit into fair territory with a tab being applied. There is no strike out as the announcers state (and how the video is labeled). How do I know the umpire did not call a strikeout?

The play by play lists this at bat a soft ground ball to the catcher.

Find out about this and other myths by visiting our website.

Father of the year

I know it is early in the 21st century, but this guy gets vote for dad of the year.

He manages to catch a foul ball while holding his infant son. He also managed not to drop the bottle during feeding time. It should be a cool thing to tell his kid about one day.

I thought the Dodgers announcers were a little harsh about him on the play.

Regardless, from a rules standpoint this one was pretty easy.

Rule 3.16 in the old format:


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 rule of thumb is if fielder comes into stands, there is no interference. If the spectator reaches across the field, he has done something illegal.

I am actually pretty surprised the umpires did not get this without replay. He clearly reached over into the field. Batter out. Good call in the end.

As a Cubs fan, I can only mumble terrible things about the Dodgers announcers for mentioning the Bartman incident.

Page 65 of RuleGraphics covers spectator interference.

Umpires and history

Fans say umpires are at their best when they are not noticed. Most umpires don’t like to inject themselves into the game. The goal is to let the players decide the outcome.

Washington fans wishes the umpire would have injected himself more into Max Scherzer’s game over the weekend. For people that missed it, Scherzer was perfect through 8 2/3rds. He was one strike away from history when this happened:

Here is the rule that covers this (old format):

6.08 The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when—

(b) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;

What happens when the umpire rules the batter made no attempt to avoid the ball. The ball is dead, the pitch is called a strike or ball depending on where it is in relation to the strike zone, and then the game is moved on to the next pitch.

Was this the right call? Well, I think it certainly was a tough call. I think this in situation I would have also given the batter first.

A couple of points to consider:

  1. The ball comes at the batter very fast. Most movement is actually just reaction and not attempts to take a pitch. Sure, some guys lean in but I think this is more rare than people think
  2. The elbow does not move laterally. A lot of batters have elbow movement up and down at the plate
  3. The pitcher goofed up. The catcher wanted it low and away. The pitch was a cement mixer that was well inside. The batter (and ball) was no where near the zone when it hit him.

My rule of thumb on this (and I remember I am no where near the quality of a MLB umpire) – unless it is blatant by the batter, he gets the benefit of the doubt and the base. To put a number on it, I would say I am giving the base 97% of the time.

The announcers were quick to ask the question “did the batter attempt to get out of the way?” followed by the statement “well, that never gets called”.

While not calling this is a way for the umpire to not needlessly inject himself into a game, there is some precedent for making this call in significant situations.

Check out this box score from May 31, 1968. In the 9th inning, the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs. The box score shows Dick Dietz flew out to left field. But, this is only part of the story.

Dietz was actually hit with a pitch earlier in the at bat. This would have scored a run, pulled the game closer, and ruined Don Drysdale chance for a 5th straight shutout. None of this happened because Harry Wendelstedt ruled Dietz did not attempt to avoid the pitch. The Giants manager was eventually tossed from the game. The Giants got no runs in the inning and Drysdale went on to set a record for consecutive scoreless innings.

As fate would have it when Orel Hershiser was attempting to break Drysdale’s record, he would benefit from an unique call. On September 23, 1988 the Giants had runners on 1st and 3rd and only 1 out. The next ball was an attempted double play that the Dodgers could not turn. Hershiser’s streak appeared to be over.

But, umpires (and I say umpires because some sources say 2B umpire Bob Engel while others say 3B Paul Runge) called interference. This changed the outcome to a double play with no run scoring. Hershiser would go on to break the record.

What does this all mean? Well, I think it means that umpires while trying to be anonymous on the field realize they have a job to do. If the play warrants a call, they will make the call regardless of the historical implications.

Scherzer (for his part knew he messed up and did not argue the call) still gets his name in the record books with a dazzling no hitter.

Hit by pitch is covered on page 41 of RuleGraphics. 


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.

Strange Review Play

Here is a play that almost had a double review (MLB does not have it embeddable yet).

The batter bunts the ball and runs to first. He clearly beats the play, but the umpire calls him  out. It happens and this is why there is replay.

But upon further review it looked like the ball hit the batter near home plate. So, as the umpires are reviewing out/safe at first, Cubs manager Joe Maddon is wanting to get the front end of the play reviewed.

First things first, what would happen if the ball would have hit the batter. The way I read the rule, I think there is evidence to call him out.

The pertinent rules are 6.05(g) and 6.03.

6.05 A batter is out when—

(g) His fair ball touches him before touching a fielder. If the batter is in a legal position in the batter’s box, see Rule 6.03, and, in the umpire’s judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, a batted ball that strikes the batter or his bat shall be ruled a foul ball;

6.03 The batter’s legal position shall be with both feet within the batter’s box.

APPROVED RULING: The lines defining the box are within the batter’s box.

I will admit, this rule has confused me at times. I believe it is also different in both high school and college. As I read this, I see a fair ball touching a batter before touching a fielder. The first condition of 6.05(g) is met. The rule goes on to say if the batter is in a legal position in the box, the contact causes a foul ball.

6.03 defines a legal position in the box as both in the box. In this play, I think the batter has a foot in the air and out of the box. I see justification for calling an out.

The replay on the out/safe was overturned (as it should have been). Now, what about the batter’s box business. Turns out this is not reviewable. Here are the MLB replay rules.

From my reading it looks like only HRs, boundary calls, fair/foul that land past the corner umpires, force/tag, catch in outfield, certain base running plays, hit by pitch and home plate collisions are reviewable. Joe Maddon could not challenge the touch as being foul or an out (from what I read). That is a bit of a bummer because the ball certainly touched the batter. Either result would have been better for the Cubs.

I suppose the key question is why a play like this is not reviewable. The replay rules are constantly tweaked – this might be one that gets looked at in the future. But, in the end, as the rules are written, the umpires got this one right.

Page 39 of RuleGraphics covers the play where a ball strikes a batter.

Occam’s razor and balks

Occam’s razor is a problem solving principle that basically boils down to “the simplest explanation is almost always the right one”. As I have discussed before balks are very complex. A flinch here, a crooked step here, or an uncompleted throw can all be a balk.

The old time original definition of balk is ” to stop short and refuse to proceed”. Basically you are starting something and not finishing (or doing something else). This is the simplest way to think of a balk. Did the pitcher start to do one thing and do another.

Here is a Clayton Kershaw balk:

The announcers are having a fit with why this call called.

Did he break the plane? No

Did he fail to step to first base? No

Well, then how can this be a balk. Maybe it is because his entire body moves towards home plate and then he throws to first. Once you move towards the plate you gotta go there.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the right one.

Balks and numerous other rules are covered in RuleGraphics. We are the first thing you see when searching for “baseball rules” on Amazon. Get more information about our book at our website.

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.

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