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.

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.

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.

That is why you wear a mask

Here is a pretty interesting foul ball.

The more interesting question is what would happen if this was just a pitch that got lodged in the mask.

Rule 5.09(g):

5.09 The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when—

(g) A pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base;

Again this is a foul ball so the rule does not apply. But, can you imagine a catcher whiffing on a pitch and the runners all getting an extra base. That would be a heck of a way to lose a game.

Balls lodged in player/umpire equipment is covered on page 61 of Rulegraphics.

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.


The Yips

I mentioned yesterday that I was a Cubs fan. While extremely happy to see their 3rd win in a row last evening, I am not terribly excited that their $150 MM off season investment has the yips when attempting pick offs to first base.

Here is a play from last night’s game:

First thing what is with the Bronx cheer from the fans? We want this guy to be successful.

Now, let’s talk about some rule implications on this play.

First question – was this a balk?

Rule 8.05(b) says the following:

8.05 If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when—

(b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first or third base and fails to complete the throw;

There are two ways to feint a throw: not throw the ball or throw it somewhere other than first or third base. The practical interpretation of this rule is that the pitcher must throw it to a fielder near a base who has a reasonable chance of making a play.

Lester’s throw is no where near the base. Of course, he did not do this to deceive. He did this because it was a crappy throw. I would not balk this and the umpires on the field did not either.

For fun, let’s assume they did call a balk. What would happen? Interestingly, the outcome would not have changed at all.

To the book for the PENALTY to rule 8.05.

PENALTY: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
APPROVED RULING: In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or to home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled at his own risk.

The second statement is the key. A runner is given an award of one base, but the ball is not automatically dead. The runner can choose to go for more bases at his own risk. In this case, Cozart tried for third and was nailed.

But, he reached one base so the penalty was satisfied. Even if there was a balk, the play would end with no mention of it since the runner got at least one base.

This is different in high school. A balk is an automatic dead ball even on wild throws. If the umpire rules balk (which again I would not on this play), the runner gets second base and the play is over.

Balks are covered on pages 21-23 of RuleGraphics.

It’s bad, but I’ve seen worse

For better or worse (most of the time worse) I root for the Cubs. The designer of the book  is a Reds fan while the illustrator likes the Braves. Yesterday the Cubs won a game in miraculous fashion. They got a 2 out, 2 strike, 2 run homer in the 9th for a 6-5 win. The losing pitcher was former Cub LaTroy Hawkins.

Hawkins was a Cub for a few years in the ’00s. He had the most painful blown save I have ever seen in my life. Even though it happened 10 years ago I still vividly remember it.

It even involves an often misunderstood rule making it something worth talking about on this blog.

Before getting into the situation, let’s get the rule out of the way. Rule 7.05(g) states:

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—

(g) Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made

Lots of coaches out there use the phrase “one plus one” to describe awards on overthrows. They think the runner gets the base they are going to plus one more. While these folks get the ultimate outcome right a lot of the time, they get there in the wrong fashion.

The rule clearly states that a runner gets two bases from where they were at the time the ball was pitched. This is why the batter gets second base on a ball thrown out of play – two bases from home (where they started).

Now, for the Hawkins play. Here is the box score from Baseball Reference. In the top of the ninth, you will see a play coded like this:

Lineout: P; Michaels Scores/No RBI/unER/Adv on E1 (throw); Bell Scores/No RBI/unER; Offerman to 3B

In English this is what happened. Down by 1 run, the Phillies had the bases loaded with 1 out. The batter lined out to Hawkins. At this point, all he has to do is throw to a base to nab one of the runners that had not tagged up yet.

What did Hawkins do? In throwing to first, the ball hit the runner’s helmet and flew into the stands. This is where the rule comes in – each runner gets 2 bases from where they were at the start of the pitch. This means the runner from 3rd AND the runner from 2nd were allowed to score. Now the Cubs were losing.

I have umpired numerous games where a coach comes out in this situation and pleads the runner on 2nd should only get 3rd. See he gets “the base he is going to and one more”. Since they were returning to 2nd, they should only get 3rd.

This is not the way the rule was written. The umps got it right (of course they did since this is pretty easy). The Cubs were retired 1-2-3 in the ninth and lost. I have not seen anything like it since.

Awards on balls thrown out of play is covered on page 60 of RuleGraphics.

When two bases is not two bases

On overthrows that go out of play, the maxim “two bases from the field, and one from the mound” is used to describes how many bases the runners receive as an award. Usually the trickiest part is whether you give the runner their bases from where they were at the time of pitch or at the time the throw was released.

There is one more tricky thing that can happen. It is possible that a runner will not get the full two bases he deserves.

The situation is even hard coded right into the rule book.

Rule 7.05(g) Comment: In certain circumstances it is impossible to award a runner two bases. Example: Runner on first. Batter hits fly to short right. Runner holds up between first and second and batter comes around first and pulls up behind him. Ball falls safely. Outfielder, in throwing to first, throws ball into stand.

APPROVED RULING: Since no runner, when the ball is dead, may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled, the runner originally on first base goes to third base and the batter is held at second base.

In this play the options are give one runner 3 bases or give one runner 1 base. The rules say to give the trail runner only one base. What is not said in the ruling but is somewhat obvious – one base and two runners is a no-no and this would happen if both were awarded 2 bases and 3rd base.

When placing runners the umpire will always start with the lead runner and work backwards.

Some people read this situation and mistakenly try to apply it when there are two runners between 2nd and 3rd with a ball thrown out of play. In this situation both runners are allowed to score. Why? Because this is not a situation where two runners would wind up on the same base. They would both be on no base, in the dugout drinking water and slapping fives.

Awards on balls thrown out of play is on page 60 of RuleGraphics.