Baez and the Baseline

Trailing 1-0 in the top of the 8th, Cub Javier Baez pushed a bunt down the first base line. The first basemen fielded the ball and attempted to tag Baez ultimately missing him. However the umpire ruled Baez out for running out the baseline. It was a pivotal call late in the game. Did he get it right?

Let’s break it down.

First things first, what rule was used to actually call Baez out? Even though the ESPN announcers mention the running lane and you can see Baez running by the lane, the actual lane has nothing to do with this call.

5.09(a)(11) discusses the running lane:

A batter is out when:

(11) In running the last half of the distance from home base to
first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he
runs outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line, or inside
(to the left of ) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment
in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at
first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he
may run outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line or
inside (to the left of ) the foul line to avoid a fielder
attempting to field a batted ball;

The emphasis added is mine. This rule only applies when a throw is involved.

What was called was rule 5.09(b)(1).

Any runner is out when:

(1) He runs more than three feet away from his base path to
avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference
with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s base
path is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a
straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting
to reach safely; or

Again, I added the emphasis.

First thing first, at the time of the play Baez is officially considered a runner.  Rule 5.05(a)(1) says a batter becomes a runner when he hits a fair ball. Just because he started at home plate does not absolve him of any running violations on his way to first.

Next let’s dig into what “base path” he cannot be more than 3 feet outside of. The key point here is that a runner’s base path has nothing to do with the actual base line. Per the bolded part of the rule above, his base path is established from where the tag is attempted and is a straight line to the base.

When the first baseman first lunges at Baez, he is clearly in fair territory. The camera view is not perfectly down the line making it hard to determine how far in fair territory he is, but he is clearly in fair territory.

For me the trickiest part is “what” exactly needs to be 3 feet outside the base path. Is it part of the body, the entire body, something else. Guidance on this point is not in the rule book. However, I did find it in the Wendelstedt rules manual (the book used in pro umpire school). They state that the runner is out if the midpoint of their body moves more than three feet out of his base path.

So, how far does Baez move? At one point his right foot is completely on the other side of the running lane. Therefore, it makes sense that the midpoint of his body could be over the outside line of the lane.

Per the rule book, the lane is exactly 3 feet wide. If Baez ends with his body over the outside edge of the lane, the furthest over it could legally begin would be the inside line of the lane (the foul line). From the replay, it looks like he clearly started in fair territory.

Put this all together and it is likely he moved more than 3 feet to avoid the tag (disclosure, I am a Cubs fan and was yelling at the TV when the play happened).

In my mind the only rational argument against this call is to say that Baez started moving inside before the tag was attempted. It is not unreasonable to say the tag cannot be attempted until the fielder is close enough to actually reach the runner. Does Baez get back to the foul line before the fielder is close enough to tag? If this is the case, then him going to the other side of the lane is 3 feet out and no more.

Tough call in a tough spot for the umpire. Do I think he got it right? Yes, he probably did. At minimum it is not the egregious miss that fans and broadcasters believed it to be.

 

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:

4.09 HOW A TEAM SCORES.

(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.

Crash Into Me

The baseball rule book does not get additions very often. On top of that, casual fans cannot recite very many rule numbers. There is one circumstance where these two rarities become a reality: Rule 7.13 (old format).

Some folks call it the Buster Posey rule since his injury was the catalyst leading to the rule. It is the home plate collision rule.

Here it is in all of its glory:

7.13 COLLISIONS AT HOME PLATE.
(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

(2) Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.

Without reading the rule most fans believed this rule outlawed collisions – like in high school. A closer reading of the rule shows this is not the case.

What does the rule say? In a nutshell, part 1 says a runner cannot go out of his way to crash a catcher. If a catcher is set up away from the plate, a guy cannot get a cheap shot on him. The runner has to make an attempt to get to the plate.

Part 2 says the catcher cannot block the plate without possession of the ball or without fielding a throw that takes him into the baseline.

What happened in this play?

The catcher had the ball before the runner got to the plate. Once he has the ball he can block the plate. Also, the runner did not deviate from his path to the plate. He can (and actually does) touch the plate.

Since neither provision of the rule are violated this is a…wait for it…a completely legal collision. It is a baseball play. The umpires correctly ruled this is an out and the out stood after replay.

Home Plate collisions are covered on page 59 of RuleGraphics.

Puzzled

Most of the time I am not puzzled by a call (or non call) on the field. This is not the case with this play:

I cannot for the life of me see how this is not a runner’s lane infraction. Here is the rule (6.05 (k) in old format):

6.05 A batter is out when—

(k) In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;

The guys who do MLB are 800x the umpire I am. But, I read this rule and cannot figure out why the runner is not out. Give the umpire credit for good game management though. Whatever he said to the Boston manager placated him enough to get back in the dugout.

Interpretations of this rule state that a “quality” throw has to be present to get this call. That is, there can be no interference if there was no chance at an out. Maybe from his angle, the home plate umpire did not feel this was a good throw.

I would love to hear the explanation so I could learn from it.

Runner’s Lane Interference is covered along with a multitude of other topics in RuleGraphics. Find more information at our website.

Mythbusting

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.

Gotta be interference

Check out this odd play:

If this happened on the diamonds I work, I would have a coach out asking me about interference. They figure that something this odd has to be an illegal action on the offense’s part.

So, is it illegal? Well, besides the obvious fact that the umpire did not call a second runner out, the answer is no – and it is in the book.

Rule 7.08 (old format):

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball;

Intent does not matter when a runner interferes with the fielding of the ball (either by having the ball strike him or hindering the fielder), but intent does matter when dealing with a thrown ball. It is the second word in the rule.

From my vantage point, Oritz clearly did not intentionally interfere with the throw. The no call looks to be a good one on this play.

On this famous play:

I am not so sure the interference was not intentional. But, Reggie got away with it.

 

Deflection Differences

As a runner, there are a couple of things you can do that will earn you a trip to the dugout as an out. You can be struck by a batted ball. You can interfere with a fielder making a play.

Both are odd occurrences. A lot of people (including umpires) think they are handled the same. Turns out there is one important difference in the rules – it is around deflections.

Here is the rule for a batted ball hitting a runner (old format):

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. EXCEPTION: If a runner is touching his base when touched by an Infield Fly, he is not out, although the batter is out;

Here is the rule for interfering with a fielder:

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball;

The rule for interfering with a fielder mentions nothing about a deflection. Ergo, a runner who hinders a fielder fielding a ball after it is deflected is still out. Want proof – check out this play:

If the ball would have struck this runner, he would not have been out (unless the interference was intentional – like kicking the ball) because the ball touched another fielder. A small but important difference to how these plays are called. These are the types of things that an umpire never expects to call – but they do happen.

Check out the book RuleGraphics for more examples of the rules made easier.

 

Reminder: umpires are good

There is a group of umpires who like to make up ridiculous situations to test rule knowledge. These are called 3rd world plays. There is another group of umpires who get annoyed at this practice. They figure those plays won’t happen.

Well, odd plays do happen. Check out this one from the Cubs game last night.

Let’s recap what happened. With runners on second (R2) and third (R3) the batter attempts a squeeze. He misses hanging R3 out to dry. In the rundown, R2 comes over and takes 3B. As R3 is returning to 3B, he overruns the base and goes into foul territory.

The Cubs catcher tags both guys (original guy from 2nd now on 3rd along with the guy now behind the base). Umpire signals 2 outs. Umpires then huddle and rule R3 out and lets R2 stay on 3rd. The Cubs continued arguments for two outs was denied.

The big question – did they get it right. I think they nailed it.

Lots of moving parts on this one. Let’s break them down one at a time.

Should Murphy (R2) have been out for passing Tejada (R3)?

 Rule 7.08 (h) in the old format says:

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(h) He passes a preceding runner before such runner is out;

It does not matter who does the passing (in other words the runner ahead can run behind and still cause an out). It certainly looks like Murphy got ahead of Tejada, so he should be out, right?

Turns out the answer is no.

The Rules and Interpretation Manual from the Wendelstedt school has the following illustrations:

IMG_0021

The Mets play is similar to the “not passing” image

IMG_0023

If the guy on 3rd, heads home, then you have passing

(Side note, all serious rules students should buy the Wendelstedt manual. It is not available in the online store right now, so watch for when it is being released again. It is absolutely money well spent)

Although not stated in the rules, the interpretation is that a runner is out if passing “along the baseline”. When Tejada passed 3B, he did so in foul territory (not in the baseline), so Murphy never passed him. If Tejada made a step towards second or Murphy headed home, we would have passed him and been ruled out. None of these happened.

Shouldn’t Murphy have been out since he was tagged and 3B did not belong to him at the time?

Rule 7.03 covers this situation:

7.03
(a) Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base, unless Rule 7.03(b) applies.

(b) If a runner is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner and two runners are touching a base to which the following runner is forced, the following runner is entitled to the base and the preceding runner shall be out when tagged or when a fielder possesses the ball and touches the base to which such preceding runner is forced.

The people who want an out for this are missing the key point. Look at the phrase I bolded in the rule. There was never a point where Murphy was tagged when both men were touching the base. As long as both were not touching a base at the same time, it does not matter who technically has right to that base.

OK, I buy that Murphy is not out for these two reasons, then why was Tejada called out?

I can answer this question 2 ways – a very simple way and a very technical way.

The simple was is rule 7.08(c)

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(c) He is tagged, when the ball is alive, while off his base. EXCEPTION: A batter- runner cannot be tagged out after overrunning or oversliding first base if he returns immediately to the base;

In the most basic way to think about this, Tejada was tagged with the ball while not on a base. He is out.

The more complex way to get an out is through abandonment and Rule 7.08(a)(2):

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(2) after touching first base, he leaves the base path, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base;

Tejada thought he was out and took steps away from the base path abandoning his efforts to run. He is out.

From Twitter, this is what the umpires ultimately ruled.

I think the explanation is fine although the umpire mentions a couple of times that it was Murphy’s bag once Tejada was out. While correct, this point does not matter since they were never tagged while both being on the base.

I seriously think they could have ruled Tejada out for simply being tagged while off the base. This makes things pretty cut and dried as well. Nothing else on the play puts Murphy out so the result is the same.

In the end, the only thing the umpire could have done better was not signal two outs when the play happened in real time. Give the umpire credit though, he immediately calls time and kept Murphy on the base. He knew the play had to be hashed out and did not want the extra complication of a guy mistakenly coming off the base due to an umpire call. Overall a great interpretation of the rules and call.

The rules get tricky at times. This is why we wrote RuleGraphics. It is a new way to visualize and learn rules. All the key points of a rule are covered on one page. The pages are laid out in a simple fashion making finding things a breeze. Find out more at our website. 

Abandoning base paths is on page 53. Passing a runner is on page 50. Finally, two players occupying one base is on page 49.

The great thing about baseball is that there is something new to see every night.

 

 

 

Tangle/Untangle

There was a pretty interesting play in the Mariners/Angles game the other night. Before showing the play, here is the rule (old numbering system):

7.09 It is interference by a batter or a runner when—

(j) 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 is boiler plate, baseball rules 101. The runner has to yield to a fielder making an attempt to field the ball.

The batter delays for a second to watch the ball. This delay causes contact and the umpire kills the ball and bangs him out.

But, wait there is more. Like the English language itself, the baseball rules have some exceptions.

Here is the comment right underneath 7.09.

Rule 7.09(j) Comment: When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called.
“Obstruction” by a fielder attempting to field a ball should be called only in very flagrant and violent cases because the rules give him the right of way, but of course such “right of way” is not a license to, for example, intentionally trip a runner even though fielding the ball. If the catcher is fielding the ball and the first baseman or pitcher obstructs a runner going to first base “obstruction” shall be called and the base runner awarded first base.

Why the exception? When the ball is right in front of home plate, there is not time for a batter to react and avoid. Basically, both players, if they are doing their job, are forced to be in the same place at the same time.

Umpires call this a train wreck or tangle/untangle. Interference or obstruction should not be called unless one of the players does something outside the norm. In this situation, the batter-runner just stopped. This caused the call.

Let’s go back to the 1975 World Series for a similar play with a different outcome.

In this instance both the catcher and runner were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Contact could not be avoided. The umpires ruled to play on. Tough call for the Red Sox – of course if Fisk would have made a better throw the arguments would not have happened.

The difference in these plays is subtle, but they are there. That is why those umpires make it to the top levels of the game because they know the difference.