A catch for the ages

Anyone who watches SportsCenter or surfs the web for anything sports related has certainly seen this play.

Cub Anthony Rizzo goes up the tarp, on the lip and eventually into the stands to make a catch. The umpire originally ruled this play a no catch. After conferring as a crew, the play was changed to a catch and then a one base penalty.

Did they ultimately get it right? Yup – and here is the basis.

First – was it a catch?

The Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation Manual has this to say:

In order to make a legal catch, the fielder must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface (including the lip of the dugout) and neither foot on the ground inside the dugout or other out-of-play surface.

(2014-08-11). PBUC Umpire Manual (Kindle Locations 1880-1882). . Kindle Edition.

It is clear that Rizzo did not have a foot on the ground outside the field of play before catching the ball. He also had one foot in play and one foot over ground in the field of play.

PBUC further states:

A fielder may not jump over any fence, railing or rope marking the limits of the playing field in order to catch the ball. A fielder may (1) reach over such fence, railing or rope to make a catch; (2) fall over the same after completing the catch; (3) jump on top of a railing or fence marking the boundary of the field to make a catch; or (4) climb onto a fence or on a field canvas and catch the ball. In all four cases the catch would be legal, as dictated by the best judgment of the umpire. The same restrictions apply to a foul ball descending into a stand. A catcher or fielder may not jump into a stand to catch

(2014-08-11). PBUC Umpire Manual (Kindle Locations 3207-3212). . Kindle Edition.

On top of fence is fine. Established out of play is not fine. This was clearly a catch.

So what about giving the Brewers runner an extra base? This is correct as well.

Rule 5.06 (b) (3) (C):

(3) (7.04) Each runner, other than the batter, may without liability to be put out, advance one base when:

(C) A fielder, after catching a fly ball, falls into a bench or stand, or falls across ropes into a crowd when spectators are on the field;

In the end it was a great call on an even greater play.

Walkoffs, appeals, and abandonment, oh my!

To say the end of the Reds/D’backs game was interesting last night is an understatement.

Here is the play:

To recap, the bases were loaded with one out when the batter hits a ball to the OF wall. The batter touches first. The runner from third touches home. The runners from first and second don’t touch their next base.

And to add to the fun, a security guard touches the ball on the field.

A few members of the Reds stayed on the field hoping to be able to appeal but ultimately the umpires said the game was over.

I have been digging around my rule and interpretation manuals this morning. I cannot see why the Reds were not allowed to appeal.

First, here is the explanation from the umpires after the game. Larry Vanover, who is 1000 times the umpire I am, is the crew chief and had this to say.

“There are two or three different rules that come into play in game-ending type situations. Now you’re talking about appealing bases. (Rule) 4.09(b) talks about how a run scores and it also gets tied into game-ending situations.

“Let’s say the bases are loaded, and you get ball four. The guy on third has to come and score and the batter has to go and touch first. If they don’t fulfill those two obligations, someone can be called out for that, and the game continues with two outs. We didn’t have that situation, but that’s what they were asking. Then they were asking, ‘Can we throw it around and tag all the bases and get force outs?’ In that situation you can’t.

“First of all, they didn’t play the ball. The infielders were leaving the infield. The runner from third touched the plate, and the runner from the plate touched first. Those two things right there met the obligation of the rule. When that run scores and the batter has touched first, the game’s over.”

With respect to Mr. Vanover, I have some problems with this statement. In the second paragraph he states when the bases are loaded and ball four happens, the runner from third and batter have to touch-up in order for the game to be over.

I am on board with this. In fact he quotes 4.09(b) (old format) which is printed here:


(b) When the winning run is scored in the last half-inning of a regulation game, or in the last half of an extra inning, as the result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases full which forces the runner on third to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game ended until the runner forced to advance from third has touched home base and the batter-runner has touched first base.

He then ends his statement in the second paragraph by saying We didn’t have that situation.”

Again, I agree. 4.09(b) applies in instances when a batter is awarded a base via walk, hit batter, or something else.

The Wendelstedt Umpire School Manual is very clear that being awarded a base in a game ending situation is different from hitting the ball. When hitting the ball all runners must advance or are liable to being forced out or called out for abandonment.

Back to Vanover’s statement. In the last paragraph he says when the runners touch home and first, the obligation of the rule is met and the game is over.

So in one instance he quotes the rule about only two runners (batter and guy on 3rd) touching up, says this play was not that situation, and then states he applied that rule to end the game. I find this very confusing.

I just don’t think this is the right rule reference that was applied.

Other media outlets are reporting that the number of outs in the situation mattered. The play happened with 1 out. They are stating with 2 outs, the Reds could have gotten a force and continued the game.

In preliminary research, I don’t see how this claim is supported either.

Rule 4.09(a) states:

A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.

If the third out is a force out, no runs can score. There is no mention to how many outs there are (also no mention of outs in the other rule cited above).

In fact the force out (or out at first) can happen out of order and still cancel the run. Here is a play that is in the rule book:

Example: One out, Jones on second, Smith on first. The batter, Brown, hits safely. Jones scores. Smith is out on the throw to the plate. Two outs. But Brown missed first base. The ball is thrown to first, an appeal is made, and Brown is out. Three outs. Since Jones crossed the plate during a play in which the third out was made by the batter- runner before he touched first base, Jones’ run does not count.

This sample play starts with 1 out. In it a second out is gained during the play, THEN the defense appeals the batter-runner missing first. This becomes the third out. It is a third out before the batter-runner touching first. The run is wiped off the board.

Even though per their explanation the umpires ruled the game over when the runner hit home and batter hit first, there are a few other rule theories out there to explain this. Let’s go through them one at a time.

  1. When Phillips threw the ball into the infield, the Reds touched second base first. This eliminated the force at third.

I can buy this one. With the force at third base eliminated, the runner not making it to third can be ruled out for abandonment. This however is not a force out. As long as the runner hit home before the runner abandoned, the run would count.

2. The security guy touching the ball killed the play

I only buy this one about 20%. Yes, the interference was intentional. Yes, the ball would be dead and yes, the umpires can impose such penalties (including awarding of bases) to nullify the interference per rule 3.15.

But, even if the umpires awarded touches of bases, a runner is still legally required to touch them. If a batter hits a ground rule double, he cannot skip first base!

With the play dead, the ball would have to be made live for the appeal. But, the umpires never gave the Reds a chance to do this. The Reds even stayed on the field hoping to get an appeal.

Putting all this together, I personally think the umpires misapplied a rule. As such, the Reds would be able to protest. Protests have to be made before the next pitch, play or on a game ending play, before noon the next day. The clock is ticking.

This is a strange one. If I had something similar in a game at my level, I bet with enough confidence I could talk my way out of an issue. It looks like the MLB guys did this last night as well.

But, those guys are held to higher standards because they are better umpires. I hope the league comes out with a statement on this. On its merits as of now, I am not sure they got it right.

Our book Rulegraphics attempts to take the complexity of the rule book and boil it down to the essentials. Find out more at our website.

It happens

I work a lot of summer ball. A lot of times in summer ball there is not a scoreboard. Coaches come up to me all the time and ask the score. I honestly don’t know. I have enough to keep track of.

I usually make a quick joke about umpires being taught only to count to 4.

The larger point to this is that there is a lot to keep track of – sometimes a guy can lose the count. This happened in a recent game.

The batter thinks he is getting  a free one and takes off to first. He has a sheepish smile coming back to the box. He almost got away with it.

This is why I usually don’t say “ball 4” after a walk. I just call the ball and let people figure it out. Sometimes less is more.

From out of…right field

Umpires expect to get hit with the ball from time to time when working the plate. It is just part of the job. Of course, it does make it hurt any less. We also know on occasion a ball might get is in the field from the batter. Again, part of the job.

What is not expected is to take one in the back from the bullpen.

If I am lip reading correctly he says, that ball “flipping smoked me” – except pretty sure he did not say flipping.

That is bad news for the first base umpire. He was not even looking when the ball hit him.

Not a good night at all.

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.

How to make a manager mad

Baseball at its heart is a simple game. On offense you hit the ball, touch the bases and score runs. On defense you try to prevent the running of bases. Key in all of this is actually touching the bases. It is a necessary condition of the game – even on base awards.

Rule 5.06 (b)(4)(I) Comment (Rule 7.05(i) Comment in old format)

The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases. For example: batter hits a ground ball which an infielder throws into the stands but the batter-runner missed first base. He may be called out on appeal or missing first base after the ball is put in play even though he was “awarded” second base.

Yes, this applies even to home runs. Here was an interesting play over the weekend:

Batter hits a homer and then is ruled to have missed home plate on appeal. The Brewers had the play reviewed where it was ultimately decided home plate was touched.

Of interest to me was how the original appeal had to take place. The Giants manager came out and (I am guessing) asked to have the touch of home plate reviewed. It looks like the umpires told him he had to formally appeal first.

This makes sense. A call cannot be reviewed if a call had not been made. The Giants appeal was granted. That meant the Brewers had to challenge whether the base was touched.

Can you imagine how bad the batter would have felt if he lost a homer on a stupid mistake?

According to this awesome page at Retrosheet, this would have been the first lost HR due to a missed base since 1983!

Page 9 of RuleGraphics covers advancing and touching bases.

I’ve made a huge mistake

One of the running gags on Arrested Development was the line “I’ve made a huge mistake”.

You can almost see the thought bubble over this baserunner’s head saying the same thing on this play:

The ball gets by the first baseman. The runner’s instincts are to try and get another base. But, the catcher is in the right place at the right time. He throws the ball back to first to nail the runner.

Rule 7.08(j)

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(j) He fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base. If he attempts to run to second he is out when tagged. If, after overrunning or oversliding first base he starts toward the dugout, or toward his position, and fails to return to first base at once, he is out, on appeal, when he or the base is tagged;

Notice the rule specifically states he has to attempt to run to second. A turn towards second is not an attempt. A player can turn left and still be safe when tagged.

In this instance the attempt is pretty clear cut. Heads up play by the defense.

Page 44 of RuleGraphics covers this play.

The Golden Sombrero

A Golden Sombrero is a term given to a batter that strikes out four times in a game. Not a good thing to have happen. But, if you are a pitcher and you strike out 4 batters in an innings, this is a good (and rare) thing.

The latest to do it was Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers.

How does one accomplish this? The trick is to have one of the victims reach base.

Rule 6.05(b)(c)

6.05 A batter is out when—

b) A third strike is legally caught by the catcher;

(c) A third strike is not caught by the catcher when first base is occupied before two are out;

Unless first base is occupied with less than 2 outs, the catcher has to cleanly catch a pitch for the batter to be out. If he does not, then the batter becomes a runner and can attempt to reach first base.

This rule is a holdover from the days when the catcher would play deep behind the plate. Any out on a batter had to end with “ball in hand”. With the catcher back so far, this came into play. It is a rarity in modern baseball.

Why add the provision where the batter is automatically out with first base occupied and less than 2 outs? If this was not the case, the catcher would intentionally drop the ball and start a double play.

In this inning, the first batter strikes out and reaches base. The pitcher then strikes out three more.

How rare is it to pitch only one inning yet get 4 Ks? Using Baseball Reference’s play index, I see this has only happened 18 times since 1914. Of course there are more instances of 4 Ks in an inning but those pitchers pitched more innings.

Page 46 of RuleGraphics covers uncaught third strikes.

Walk off infield fly

Here is a play that is making its way around the internet – a walk off infield fly.

Here is the key part of the definition  – from 2.00 INFIELD FLY.

The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.

The runner on third can try to run if he likes. Now, most of the time he should not try to advance. In this one, the runner probably thought he was forced to advance.

But he was not. Here is 2.00 FORCE PLAY:

A FORCE PLAY is a play in which a runner legally loses his right to occupy a base
by reason of the batter becoming a runner.

When the batter becomes a runner, all runners on first (or second when first is also occupied, etc) are forced to run. The opposite of this is also true – when the batter runner gets put out, the runners are not forced to go anywhere.

On an infield fly, the batter runner is out so all forces are removed. When the fielder picks up the ball and steps on home plate – this does nothing. That runner has to be tagged to be put out.

To me, the most interesting thing on this play is the umpire. He is holding his fist in the air for an out. It is not clear if he means the batter or the runner from 3rd. After the coaches explain the situation to him (with help from another umpire) he signals safe. I would have thought he would have be clearer. Of course, this play is all sorts of goofy so I will give him a pass.

What a strange way to end a ballgame.

RuleGraphics is our book that breaks down the rules in simple easy to understand language using pictures where needed. Infield fly is covered on page 31 and force outs are covered on page 30. Find out more at our website.

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.