Check, check, 1, 2

Check swings have been getting more heat this year than I remember in years past. This is one that happened recently leading to an ejection.

Not sure why folks cannot remember the rule on this one. If it is called a strike by the home plate guy, it is a strike. If it is called a ball, then he can grant an appeal. That is not the umpire’s choice – it is the rules.

In this video at about the 1:07 mark, you can see the umpire mouth something to the effect “I don’t make the rules”.

I wonder if this issue is getting enough heat to bring about a rule change.

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. 


Don’t let the door hit ya

Yesterday’s Indians/Cubs game was an absolute smashing by the baby bears. The final score was 17-0. You can see the box score in all of its glory here.

Although the score was lopsided that was not the most interesting thing about the game. The Indians used not one but two position players on the mound in the game. This is usually done in these blowouts to save some arms in the pen. They usually make SportsCenter and a laugh is had by all.

It does have some interesting rule implications in games played in American League parks. AL parks use the designated hitter. In professional baseball, the DH can only bat for a pitcher. In 99.5% of games, the DH stays in the game for the entire game, but under odd circumstances, a team can lose the role of DH for the remainder of the game.

Rule 6.10 (b) – in the old format – discusses the DH.

Here are some of the instances that causes a team to lose the DH:

(8) Once the game pitcher is switched from the mound to a position on defense, such move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for that club for the remainder of the game.

(9) Once a pinch-hitter bats for any player in the batting order and then enters the game to pitch, such move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for that club for the remainder of the game.

10) Once the game pitcher bats or runs for the Designated Hitter, such move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for that club for the remainder of the game. The game pitcher may pinch-hit or pinch-run only for the Designated Hitter.

(12) Once a Designated Hitter assumes a position on defense, such move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for that club for the remainder of the game.

(14) If a player on defense goes to the mound (i.e., replaces the pitcher), this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter’s role for that club for the remainder of the game.

In simple language, if the pitcher assumes any role on offense or if the DH assumes any role on defense, the DH is lost.

This actually happened last night. Next to the name Raburn in the lineup you see positions DH-P. He started as DH, but then he took a role on defense. Even if the Indians would have put in a “normal” pitcher afterwards, he would have had to bat.

Then things got really weird. The Indians brought in another position player to pitch for Raburn. It was David Murphy who was playing left field at the time. So in the official lineup, a player replaced Raburn (the pitcher), took the field in left, and the left fielder took the mound.

Then Kris Bryant hit one about 500 feet to get the Cubs to 17 runs.

The DH is covered on page 47 of RuleGraphics. 

100th post

I was just looking at some of my stats and saw this will be my 100th post. That is pretty cool. For those unaware, this blog is in support of my book RuleGraphics: Professional Baseball.

It is a book that takes the difficulty and confusion out of baseball rules by putting all the information on one page. From definitions, key points, sample plays, and illustrations, everything that is needed to understand a rule is in one place. In addition, the book is organized in a simple, straight forward way.

We are trying to kill rule myths one at a time.

I found this interesting play from the big leagues:

This is actually something that most fans understand but it is funny to see anyway.

A ball that touches first, second or third base is a fair ball. It is fair no matter what happens after it touches the base. Most of the time when a ball touches a base it takes a funny hop and the batter makes it to first.

It does not happen often but it is not terribly unique either. Just something that adds a bit of color to the game. Fair/foul ball is covered on page 37 of RuleGraphics.

Back up, back up

Most of the time when I talk about rule differences it is between varying levels of baseball. Turns out some baseball umpires also work softball. There are some rule differences there as well. Some of them are pretty goofy.

Take this play for example:

In baseball, this is a nothing play. The runner backs up the first base line and is eventually tagged. He would be out once he went beyond the plate.

In high school softball it is illegal to back up towards home plate. The ball is dead, the runner is out, and all runners return to their time of base pitch. That is a pretty harsh penalty.

The question of whether a runner can do this in baseball comes up every couple of months on umpire message boards. As this play shows, the answer is clearly yes.


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.


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.