That’s a fou…er fair ball

Check out this funky spin:

As long as the ball has not crossed first or third base, or if a fly ball has not landed beyond first and third base, it is neither fair or foul until the ball is touched or comes to rest. This ball starts five feet foul and then comes back fair.

It is not touched until fair so this is a fair ball. Nice job by the umpires to wait until there is a call to be made. Oftentimes, you will see umpires just stare at an obvious foul ball and not do anything until it is touched (if at all).

This is an umpire who has mistakenly called foul too early in his past. Good work by the crew on this call.

Fair/foul is covered on page 37 of RuleGraphics.

Like a punch to the gut

Here is a play that is making the rounds today.

Well, that escalated quickly. The catcher was clearly trying to get an interference call. Should the umpire have granted the interference?

Rule 6.06 (c)

6.06 A batter is out for illegal action when—

(c) He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base.

EXCEPTION: Batter is not out if any runner attempting to advance is put out, or if runner trying to score is called out for batter’s interference.

One of two things have to happen to gran interference here. Either the batter has to step out of the batter’s box (did not happen) or he has to move to hinder (did not happen…the batter did not move).

The batter did not hinder the catcher as much as the catcher hindered himself. The umpire made a good call on this one.

I should not laugh at the batter’s pain, but the look of terror and confusion after he got whacked is sort of funny. He is probably wondering how the catcher did not get thrown out of the game.

Just an odd play. Page 42 of RuleGraphics covers Batter’s Interference. Check out our website for ordering information and samples.




Start the car

Instant replay is in its second year. The process is pretty well down pat now. But, I have rarely seen it to end a ballgame.

Check out this play:

I think it is funny how the players just stick around on the field knowing the replay is coming. In the end the umpire got this one right.

Stop and think about that for a minute. The umpire got it right in real time. This was a whacker where he had to watch the first baseman’s feet, the runner’s feet, the ball bouncing and then the glove all at the same time. The ball beat him by about 1/4 step. Umpire nailed it.

The bounce makes this a bit harder. Umpires listen for the sound of the ball entering the glove and watch the base. The bounce will often make the sound less pronounced. Again the umpire had a lot of things working against him and wound up making a great call.

Pretty entertaining to see an umpire take off the headset, say out, and then just start walking to the clubhouse.

Tricky Tricky

Brandon Phillips is one tricky(and smart) player. Here is a play from yesterday’s game:

(MLB not allowing embedding on this clip yet).

Some folks would cry foul and think the runners should not be out. Let’s break this down.

First question – is this an infield fly?

Rule 2.00 has the definitions:

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.

A FLY BALL is a batted ball that goes high in the air in flight.

There were runners on first and second, but the ball was not really a fly ball. It did not go high in the air. I would call it more of a soft line drive. I think the umpires got this one right.

Now – should the batter have been out because of an intentionally dropped ball?

Rule 6.05(l) states:

A batter is out when—

An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases;
APPROVED RULING: In this situation, the batter is not out if the infielder permits the ball to drop untouched to the ground, except when the Infield Fly rule applies.

Phillips clearly let the ball ht the ground. He did not glove it and then drop it. Again, great call by the umpire. Also a super smart play by Phillips.

Compare this play to one he made 2 years ago:

In this play, the infield fly is called. The batter is out even though the ball dropped to the turf. The runner on 1st forgot about the infield fly, thought he was forced to run and got tagged out. Tagging is key. The force was removed so the shortstop smartly laid on a tag. If the runner would have stayed on 1st, the double play would not have happened.

One other quick note on this one…back to the rule book in the comment for infield fly

When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05(l). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

In the second instance, Phillips could have gloved the ball and dropped it. The ball would not have been dead. The runners are already protected due to the infield fly so no need to kill the ball. Of course, the runner on 1st might have stayed put if he did this, so it all worked out.

Confused? RuleGraphics makes this and other rules easier to understand. Pages 31 and 32 cover these rulings.

Appeal to a higher power

I love appeal plays. It rewards a heads up defensive team. They don’t happen very often. You get to see the umpire make a nice solo out performance. They are just fun all the way around.

Since I returned to umpiring 3 years ago, I have actually never called a runner out on appeal. Like I mentioned above, they don’t happen all that often in the bigs, but they do.

Case in point from the Nats/Cards game a few nights ago.

Rule 7.02

7.02 In advancing, a runner shall touch first, second, third and home base in order. If forced to return, he shall retouch all bases in reverse order, unless the ball is dead under any provision of Rule 5.09. In such cases, the runner may go directly to his original base.

Harper did not re-touch all the bases when he was running in reverse. This made him subject to being out on appeal.

Give Tim McCarver, friend of umpires everywhere, credit as he was on top of this the whole time.

Advancing and retreating around the bases is covered on page 9 of RuleGraphics.

Leapin’ Ballplayers

Check out this fun youth play:

Here is a great example of why umpires have to know their differences. When this play happens, it will have the element of surprise – a killer for umpires. The rest of the play can get jumbled in your brain.

As far as the rules go, this is legal in professional baseball. A lot of youth organizations base their rules on professional, so it is legal in many of them (I think – to be fair, I don’t umpire a lot of youth ball). If it is technically legal in youth leagues, may local leagues bar the practice citing safety issues.

You can also do this in college baseball.

You cannot do this in high school baseball.

Rule 8-4-2 (b) states:

Runners are never required to slide, but if a runner elects to slide, the slide must be legal. (2-32-1, 2) Jumping, hurdling, and leaping are all legal attempts to avoid a fielder as long as the fielder is lying on the ground. Diving over a fielder is illegal.

It is odd that something is allowed in youth but not in high school? Maybe. That does not stop umpires who work multiple levels from being familiar with all the differences.

Watch the bouncing ball

Here is an example of an interesting play with some bad luck mixed in for good measure.

The umpire did a fantastic job of seeing the ball hit the runner and calling him out. I could hardly see the ball hit the foot in slow motion. He got it in real time. Those guys are really, really good.

As far as the rule goes, the reason a runner is out when getting struck by the ball is technically he is interfering with a fielder. Interfere and you are out.

There are some exceptions to the rule. If a ball deflects off a fielder and then hits a runner, the runner is only out if he intentionally contacts the ball.

If the ball passes directly through or by a fielder (as in within a step), hits a runner, and no one else had a chance to field it, the runner is not out. The logic is the runner cannot interfere if the ball has already passed by or through a fielder.

The rule is a little different in high school. If the ball hits a runner behind any fielder (even it did not pass him within a step), the runner is not out unless another fielder had a chance to get an out. In other words, if the infield is playing in and a ball hits a runner, that runner would not be out.

In all instances and codes, the ball is immediately dead and the batter is given first base and awarded a single. In fact, a famous trivia question of how does a team get 6 hits in an inning and not score hinges on the last out being of this type.

It does not happen often. I cannot remember calling this in my time as an umpire. But, I will be prepared to rule when it does.

A ball hitting a runner is covered on page 54 of RuleGraphics.

Play blowing up

If I had this play, I think I would have to vomit before making the call. This is a high school play.

NFHS rule 2-22-3 states obstruction happens when

The fielder without possession of the ball denies access to the base the runner is attempting to achieve.

In this video, the catcher was clearly in the runner’s path without possession of the ball. In pro ball, the fielder can be in the path as he is fielding a throw. An argument could be made that this would not be obstruction under that definition – but this is a high school game. This is clear obstruction.

The runner slides into the catcher and then the catcher reaches out, catches the ball, and tags him.

The penalty for obstruction is the umpire placing runners where he/she feels they would obtained minus the obstruction. In high school, there is a minimum one base reward.

The penalty is pretty clear in this case – the runner gets home.

I like how the official consulted with his partner to make sure the call was right. I also like how they controlled the field as they had their conference. Also, I love how the base umpire did not throw his partner under the bus when the coach came to argue the final ruling. He clearly is telling him to go to the calling official.

One minor thing that would have saved the umpire some grief was the original call of out. He does signal out and then immediately signal the obstruction and award. If he would have just signaled the award first, there would have been less confusion.

The fans can be heard arguing “but you called him out”. Of course this does not matter in the final outcome, but it would saved some grief.

Lastly, I loved the umpire’s timing on this. He was very calm, poised and got the call right in the end.

In professional baseball, this could be Type A obstruction. This is covered on page 63 of RuleGraphics.

Stay in your lane

Runner’s lane interference is a controversial call. The problem with this call is that usually it happens as the ball is bouncing away from the fielder. One team is all excited thinking they will get more bases on an overthrow only to have a umpire killing the play.

Rule 6.05(k) covers runner’s lane interference. In a nutshell, the runner has to be on the foul side of the line when running the last half of the distance to first. That is why that “lane” is on the field.

To be considered in the lane, both feel have to be it. A foot on the line counts as being in the lane. If a runner is not in the lane and interferes with a throw, he is out and the ball is dead.

The one sticking point against this rule is that the base is in fair territory. How can a runner be expected to run in foul territory if his destination is in fair? The rule interpretations allow for the last step to be outside the lane to get to the base. This is only allowed if the runner had been in the lane up to that point.

This rule is pretty much the same in all codes. One small difference is the quality of the throw. In MLB, the throw has to have a “reasonable expectation” to get the runner. This provision is not in the high school rules.

Few other things about this play:

  • Awesome hustle and call by the home plate guy. He was right on top of it, made a strong call and sold it well.
  • The announcers were on top of this as well. They pretty much nailed the explanation. This is a rarity.
  • Notice the first basemen also was on top of it. He immediately points out the interference as it happens. Again a bit of a rarity.
  • Not sure why the manager got ejected. This was a textbook example of a pretty easy to understand rule. I think sometimes managers think they need to be tossed on something controversial to stick up for their team.

This play does not happen much, but it is something that umpires should always be looking for. I did a scrimmage game last night and actually had this play.

Runner’s lane interference is covered on page 45 of RuleGraphics

Leapin’ Lizards (or Waves)

Here is a play that is making the rounds on social media. It is another example of the importance of knowing the rules of the level you are working.

On the base hit to right field, the throw from the outfield looks to have the runner dead to rights. Out of desperation, the runner jumps over the catcher avoiding the tag. He scurries back to the plate and scores a run.

In college and the pros (and by extension of pros, most youth organizations), this play is legal. But, in high school, this runner would be out.

According to high school rule 8.4.2 (b)(2) a runner can only leap over a fielder if they are completely on the ground. The catcher was not on the ground in this play. Also of note, a runner can never dive over a fielder (even if they are on the ground). The ball stays alive in these instances unless interference is called.

One more thing from this video. Look at how cool and collected the home plate umpire is. He keeps his position at point of plate as the play is developing. He moves to third base line extended to get a great angle. He sees the missed tag and missed touch of home and makes no call. He finally calls safe when the runner gets the plate. Great job all around on a very odd play.

Slides are not formally covered in RuleGraphics since it covered Professional Baseball. One day we hope to put out versions for other rule sets.