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.

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.



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.

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. 


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

Willfull and Deliberate

It was a strange Cubs game yesterday. I already discussed a goofy review play.

Here was another play from the game. The umpire ruled that David Ross interfered with the pivot man. This caused the batter runner to also be called out.

Did they get it right – there are two parts to the play. Let’s cover the easier part first. Rule 7.09(f) covers this:

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

(f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

Rule 6.05(m) was added later to give clarity to this specific situation:

6.05 A batter is out when—

(m) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:

Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.

If in the umpire’s judgment there is interference, then yes, a second out can be gained. Now, for the tough part – did Ross interfere.

The guidelines for when to call interference are located not in the rule book. Rather they are in the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. Umpire Manual.

Let’s go through the guidelines one at a time – remember these are just guidelines. They are not gospel but they aid in the judgment of this call.

1)  In sliding to a base, the runner should be able to reach the base with his hand or foot.

Ross could clearly reach the base.

2) A runner who, in the judgment of the umpire, contacts or attempts to make contact with a fielder with a slide or roll block that is not a bona fide effort to reach and stay on the base may be called out for interference and, when appropriate, a double play may be called.

Ross clearly was trying to make contact with the pivot man. Of course, every runner tries to make contact with the pivot man. I do think you can say Ross made a bona fide attempt to reach the base because he was on top of the base. Ross also was on top of the base after the play – so he could stay there.

3.) Any definite change in direction by the runner to contact the fielder would be considered interference.

This is probably the one the umpire saw. Did Ross change his direction to hit the fielder. I am tempted to say “yes” but again, he could clearly reach the base. This is close.

4.) If a runner hits the dirt, slides, and rolls, it does not constitute a rolling block unless the runner leaves his feet and makes contact with the fielder before the runner slides on the ground. If the initial contact is with a fielder instead of the ground for the purpose of breaking up a double play, it is a roll block.

Ross’ initial contact was clearly with the dirt and not the fielder.

Of the 4 criteria given by interpretation, 3 are definitely not broken. One could be broken if chosen to look at it a certain way. The PBUC also lists sample plays. The sample plays consistently deal with the runner grabbing the pivot man. Ross did not do that, but his arms come in contact with the fielder. It is possible (I cannot read minds), the umpire thought there was a grab.

The play took away an AB from the Cubs in extra innings so it was a big call.

Not that anyone cares, but I guess the question is “would I have called it”. At the level I umpire which would be high school and below – yes, I would call this. Safety is a huge concern at these levels. The benefit of the doubt goes to the fielder. In the major leagues…I don’t think I would. Ross did not strongly meet any of the interference guidelines. He truly did nothing out of the ordinary for this level.

This play is covered on page 56 of RuleGraphics.




Strange Review Play

Here is a play that almost had a double review (MLB does not have it embeddable yet).

The batter bunts the ball and runs to first. He clearly beats the play, but the umpire calls him  out. It happens and this is why there is replay.

But upon further review it looked like the ball hit the batter near home plate. So, as the umpires are reviewing out/safe at first, Cubs manager Joe Maddon is wanting to get the front end of the play reviewed.

First things first, what would happen if the ball would have hit the batter. The way I read the rule, I think there is evidence to call him out.

The pertinent rules are 6.05(g) and 6.03.

6.05 A batter is out when—

(g) His fair ball touches him before touching a fielder. If the batter is in a legal position in the batter’s box, see Rule 6.03, and, in the umpire’s judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, a batted ball that strikes the batter or his bat shall be ruled a foul ball;

6.03 The batter’s legal position shall be with both feet within the batter’s box.

APPROVED RULING: The lines defining the box are within the batter’s box.

I will admit, this rule has confused me at times. I believe it is also different in both high school and college. As I read this, I see a fair ball touching a batter before touching a fielder. The first condition of 6.05(g) is met. The rule goes on to say if the batter is in a legal position in the box, the contact causes a foul ball.

6.03 defines a legal position in the box as both in the box. In this play, I think the batter has a foot in the air and out of the box. I see justification for calling an out.

The replay on the out/safe was overturned (as it should have been). Now, what about the batter’s box business. Turns out this is not reviewable. Here are the MLB replay rules.

From my reading it looks like only HRs, boundary calls, fair/foul that land past the corner umpires, force/tag, catch in outfield, certain base running plays, hit by pitch and home plate collisions are reviewable. Joe Maddon could not challenge the touch as being foul or an out (from what I read). That is a bit of a bummer because the ball certainly touched the batter. Either result would have been better for the Cubs.

I suppose the key question is why a play like this is not reviewable. The replay rules are constantly tweaked – this might be one that gets looked at in the future. But, in the end, as the rules are written, the umpires got this one right.

Page 39 of RuleGraphics covers the play where a ball strikes a batter.