Category Archives: Crazy play

World Series Obstruction?

The obstruction call was kind of a big deal last night:

The Play

(If that doesn’t work, try this one or this one.)

The Cardinals and Red Sox are tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning. There is one out and an 0-1 count on St. Louis’ batter, Jon Jay. Catcher Yadier Molina is on third base, and Alan Craig is on second.

The 0-1 pitch is hit to the right side, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia who is playing up on the grass makes a good throw home to Jared Saltalamacchia. At this point Jon Jay has reached first base safely on a fielder’s choice.

Saltalamacchia tags out Molina who was coming home from third base for the second out of the inning. And he immediately throws the ball down to third base to Will Middlebrooks. The throw was wide and Middlebrooks dove in an attempt to catch the ball, but he was unsuccessful and the ball rolls into left field. As Middlebrooks is diving, Craig is sliding into third base.

As Middlebrooks is lying on the ground, watching the ball go into left field, Alan Craig attempts to run home, but trips over Middlebrooks’s legs. Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately points at the play and calls obstruction.

As we’ll see in the rule in a second, as soon as Joyce calls obstruction the ball is dead. Obviously in the mass-confusion the play continued and Craig was thrown out at home plate, and everyone within a two block radius that had facial hair ran onto the field to argue, but that was ultimately irrelevant.

The Rule

Rule 2 defines obstruction as “the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.”

But Middlebrooks didn’t do it on purpose!

I can see some people arguing both sides: That it was incidental contact and that Middlebrooks actually raised his feet off the ground on purpose in an attempt to do just what happened—and tangle Craig’s legs up with his. Whether it was done on purpose or not is irrelevant, there is nothing of intent in the rule, all he had to do was impede the runner’s progress. And being that Craig fell on all fours, it’s safe to say his progress was clearly impeded.

Who says Middlebrooks was not “fielding the ball”?

Who is to say that Middlebrooks wasn’t trying to get up to retrieve the ball? Wouldn’t that make him “in the act of fielding the ball”? The next part of the definition tells us that he is not.

“It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the ‘act of fielding’ the ball.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, it goes even further: “For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.”

If you want to claim that Middlebrooks was fielding the ball then you could also claim that Pedroia or the right fielder was too. I mean Saltalamacchia could’ve run out to get the ball in left field, if he takes out Craig on the way so what, he was in the act of fielding! No, you have to draw the line somewhere. The rules have decreed that the line is drawn when the ball gets by you.

It’s obstruction. What’s that mean?

Well we jump to our next rule, 7.06a, which says, “When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal ‘Obstruction.’” Jim Joyce did just this when Craig fell by pointing at him.

The rule continues, “If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, which in this case it was, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction.”

And it further clarifies that, “The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction.”

How is the play scored?

Because Middlebrooks was called for obstruction he is therefore charged with an error (as per rule 10.12c) on the play and Craig’s advancement from third base to home place is on the E5.

Umpires are often criticized for blowing calls, however, as we have seen, this was not one of them. This was as big of a situation as could have existed and the umpires were not only able to get the call correct, but call it as soon as the incident happened and in perfect accordance with the rules.

I can’t read, can you do a video explaining the play?


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Filed under Baseball, Baserunners, Batters, Crazy play, Errors

Are You Out of Your Baseline!?

There was a play last night in the Cardinals-Giants game where about 8,000 things seemed to happen back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to… you get it.

One of those things is a perfect example to illustrate the oft-misunderstood “running out of the baseline” rule.

You can watch the video here.

San Fran base runner Gregor Blanco, realizing that John Jay has just made one heck of a catch turned and ran back toward first base. Jay gets up and hurls the ball toward first base where Blanco, at first glance, seems to avoid the tag attempt from first baseman Allen Craig.

Subsequent replays have shown that Craig did tag Blanco who should have been called out. But regardless of that, should Blanco have been called out anyway for being out of the baseline?

I say the rule is often misunderstood is because most people assume the “baseline” is a straight line from one base to the next and you cannot run more than three feet on either side of it. This is not the case.

Surely you have seen a batter launch a ball into the gap and take a wide turn around first base, out into the grass in foul territory. He was way beyond three feet and nobody was complaining he wasn’t in the base line.

So what’s the rule? “Any runner is out when… He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely…” (Rule 7.08a1, emphasis is mine).

To reemphasize, the line is not from base to base, but rather from runner to base. Also as it states, this rule applies only if a tag attempt is being made. Otherwise a runner is free to go anywhere on the field he wants. By the rule, a runner on first base could take his leadoff in right field.

Blanco’s baseline was established the moment Craig started moving toward him (essentially the same instant Craig caught the ball), and Blanco without question moved toward the outfield in an attempt to avoid the tag.

Blanco’s and ‘his baseline’ are established when Craig tries to tag him.

The call as to whether he went more than three feet is extremely close. Considering that Blanco is 5’11” it would be about three feet from the middle of his chest to the end of his fingers. After Blanco gets past Craig and is lying on the ground reaching for the base, he is unable to reach it. If the baseline was from base to base, he would clearly be out of the baseline and clearly should be called out. But again, it is not from base to base.

When Craig first started attempting to tag Blanco, Blanco was about a foot to the outfield side of the base-to-base line, meaning his baseline gives him about an extra foot of leeway on that side of the base. Which makes it an extremely difficult call to make when he slides past Craig and his outstretched arm is about a foot from first base.

Blanco is clearly outside the base-to-base line, but that is not the rule.

Like last week’s “outfield fly rule” call, this play is close enough that I can see how an argument could be made for either side. If I had to pick one or the other, though, I would say he was out of the baseline (his baseline, that is).

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Filed under Baserunners, Crazy play, Umpires, Video

Passing Runners and Sharing a Base

Two base running topics that pop up every once in a while, but seem to confuse everyone anyway are when two runners end up on the same base and when one runner passes another.

When two runners end up on the same base it is the lead runner that is entitled to the base; therefore the trailing runner upon being tagged shall be called out. The exception to this rule comes in the event of a runner being forced by the batter. If a player starts out on first base and remains there for whatever reason while the ball is put into play, the defense has the option to touch second base with the ball (getting the common putout) or tagging the runner.

One aspect of this rule makes it one of the oddest to think about—the out is not automatic. In the hypothetical event that two runners end up on the same base and the defense tags neither of them, then neither one is out. Pushing this situation to its extreme would allow for the bases to be filled with every runner in the lineup and allow a batter to hit a 9-run home run (Double Grand Slam? Ultra Slam?). Any defensive team that wants to win would never allow this to happen—two runners ending up on one base is essentially a free out for the defense so they would never turn it down. Also the umpire would have the option at any time to make some type of judgment to return the game to normality.

Passing Another Runner

If one runner passes another on the base path, the runner who did the passing (generally the faster runner) is the one that gets called out. It’s to his advantage to try to run back to the previous base, because as we see above if he ends up on the same base as the runner in front of him he will be out anyway.

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Filed under Baserunners, Crazy play, Example, Video, What?

Crazy Play Two: Little League Home Run

Runners on first and second base.

Ground ball to the third baseman. The third baseman fields the ball and steps on third base for the force out. He then attempts to throw the batter out at first base. The throw bounces before reaching the first baseman and rolls a long way into foul territory. The runner originally on first advances to second on the touch of the base and the throw, he goes to third base and scores on the E5 throw.

Batter advances to first base on the fielder’s choice (can’t assume the double play); he goes to second and third base on the E5 throw.

The ball is retrieved by the first baseman and thrown towards home plate. It comes in about 15 feet up the third base line, the catcher attempts to catch the throw, but it gets passed him and hits the dugout railing. The batter runs for home. The catcher picks up the ball and throws it to the pitcher who is covering home, the throw is over the pitcher’s head and the run scores.

The runner would have been safe even if the throw from the catcher to the pitcher been accurate, so that detail can be ignored. The errant throw by the first baseman cannot however, it is on the E3 throw that the batter advances home for the “little league home run.”

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Filed under Baserunners, Batters, Crazy play, Errors, Example

Always Anticipate

Once you get some experience at keeping score you can start to anticipate what will happen next.

You might be wondering what kind of experience there is to gain, isn’t keeping score just writing down what happens? In a way, that’s exactly what it is. But like anything else in life, you can get better at it by practicing.

If you are keeping track of balls and strikes, to pay attention to every pitch over the course of a two or three hour game isn’t the easiest thing to do. You might be able to ask the person next to you if you miss something, but remember that you probably won’t have the benefit of replay either. If it’s a judgment call, you want it to be your judgment, right?

Instead of simply reacting to what happens, you should be able to anticipate what may happen next. When a runner reaches first base, for example, it’s important to keep an eye on him. Remember Rule 10.07a, which tells us that a runner that takes off for the next base gets credit for a stolen base, even if the pitch results in a wild pitch or a passed ball.

The more runners that are on base, the more complicated it can get. Each base that a runner advances to must be accounted for—if the bases are loaded there are ten different bases that could potentially be reached. That’s a lot to remember when the play could last around ten seconds.

Come up with little tricks, if somebody gets caught in a rundown I like to say the position numbers out loud to myself as the ball goes back-and-forth. It’ll make it easier to remember them to write down.

Remember the possible outcomes of every play are virtually infinite, but if you’re already thinking ahead things won’t seem so complicated when things get a little crazy.

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Filed under Baserunners, Crazy play, Example, General, Passed Balls, Stolen Bases, Wild Pitches

Crazy Play One

Every once in a while a crazy play happens in which multiple rulings need to be made. I’ll explain these plays from time to time, without going over specific rules (if you ever want further explanation, let me know at

Remember that a good way to gain experience is playing with hypotheticals. What would the call be if this happened rather than that? The more variations you can know the call for before it happens the better. It’s like gaining experience without actually having the play occur.

Runners on first and third base with one out.

A wild pitch gets past the catcher and both runners take off. The catcher gets the ball on the rebound and dives back to tag out the runner coming from third base. The putout is Unassisted-2.

The runner from first base, who advanced to second base on the wild pitch, sees the play at home plate and doesn’t hesitate to go to third base. The catcher stands up and throws the ball—poorly—into left field. The runner breaks for home and beats the throw of the left fielder home.

The runner on first base advanced to second base on the wild pitch, third base on the play at home (you could call it a fielder’s choice), and home plate on a throwing error by the catcher.

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Filed under Baserunners, Crazy play, Errors, Example, Stolen Bases, Wild Pitches