Category Archives: Umpires

MLB’s Home Plate Collision Rule

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about creating a rule to prevent collisions at home plate between runners and catchers. That rule has been put into effect for the 2014 season.

If you don’t mind reading rules in rulebook language, you can read it here. If you want to read the Standard English version, keep reading. If you want a video of me reading the Standard English version, it’s at the end.

Let’s take a look at what it says:

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).

So what can the runner not do?

He cannot lower his shoulder or push through with his hands, elbows, or arms towards the catcher.

What happens if he does initiate contact with the catcher?

First, the umpire will call the runner out. Second, the ball is dead. Third, all other runners will have to return to the last base they touched before the collision.

Does the runner have to slide?

No. Technically, this rule does not require the runner to slide as many rules in lower level of play do. As long as you don’t touch the catcher, you can still run around him or jump over him, but if you aren’t Ichiro, the best way to avoid being called out under the rule is probably by sliding.

The rule gets technical about what a slide in this situation would require:

A slide requires that a player’s buttocks or legs (if a feet-first slide) or his body (if a head-first slide) makes contact with the ground before he makes contact with the catcher.

The final part of the rule is directed at the catchers, who unless they are in possession of the ball “cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.” If he does block the path without the ball, the runner will be safe.

Part two for the catchers:

It shall not be considered a violation… 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.

Just like when a runner is running from first to second, if the second baseman is making a play on the ball, the fielder has the right to make the play and the runner has to get out of the way. In much the same way, the catcher here fielding a throw has the right to field the throw.

Finally, yes this type of play will be reviewable under the new instant replay rules.

All-in-all, the runner cannot initiate contact with the catcher, and while he is not required to slide under this rule, it is probably the best way to make sure you aren’t called out.

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Filed under Baseball, Baserunners, Umpires

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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Batting Out of Order

Batting out of turn is one topic that confuses a lot people. If it is caught early, the next course of action is fairly easy to understand. If there are runners on base, especially if they advance during a play, it becomes a little more difficult.

Luckily, the rulebook is through in its description of what could arise, and hopefully this version in plain English will help you be able to explain it to your friends the next time it happens at the park. I will use the names the rulebook used for examples.

The first thing to know: The only way something occurs when a team bats out of order (outs are called, runners are moved back, the correct batter is brought in to bat, etc.) is if the defensive team appeals (explains the situation) to the umpire. It is not the umpire or official scorekeeper’s job to bring incorrect batting orders to the attention of anyone; this responsibility lies with the managers and players.

Second: If an incorrect batting order goes unnoticed by the defensive team and no appeal is made, the order shall continue with the batter after the player that actually batted.

Example: The order is Abel-Baker-Charles; Baker improperly bats in Abel’s place, but no appeal is made, the next batter shall be Charles (skipping Abel).

Three: If either team realizes that the current batter is hitting out of order, he can be replaced during the at bat. Whichever team realizes the mistake shall bring it to the attention of the umpire and the correct hitter will take over the at bat; if there is a count it shall remain the same.

Four: If a batter bats out of turn and an appeal is made by the defensive team before another pitch is thrown (by either team) the batter shall be called out.

Example: The order is Abel-Baker-Charles; Baker improperly bats in Abel’s place, the defensive team appeals the play, Abel is called out, Baker is the batter.

Five: If situation four occurs, any runners who advanced due to the result of the illegal at bat shall be returned to their original base (including any runners who score). If the runners advanced during the illegal at bat due to a stolen base, balk, wild pitch, or passed ball they shall not return to their original base.

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The Positions

My second topic is the positions that each team takes on the field. On defense, each team has nine players who stand on the field. These positions are grouped into three categories:

Battery: Pitcher and Catcher

Infielders: First baseman, Second baseman, Third baseman, and Shortstop

Outfielders: Left fielder, Center fielder, and Right fielder

The video contains the location that each one traditionally stands, but there are no rules that force them to remain in that area of the field.

The other team, who in this case would be on the offensive side, only has a few players on the field. The first one is the batter, who will stand in the batter’s box and try to get on base. If he is successful in getting on base he becomes a base runner. There can be zero, one, two, or three base runners on the field at a time.

Each team’s nine players are put into an order called the lineup, which determines the order that each of the players will be the batter. They must bat in that same order throughout the game, however, they can switch defensive positions at any point. Some games will have a designated hitter, who will not play defense, but will bat in the place of the pitcher.

Also on the field are umpires, who are the referees that oversee the game. In most games there will be four—one for each base and home plate—but in many leagues there will only be two.

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Look Out Runner!

Last time we talked about a batted ball hitting an umpire—an automatic base hit. I mentioned that it’s the same situation for the batter as if his batted ball were to hit a base runner. Most are aware though, that a ball striking a runner in fair territory means that he is out. That’s why when players take their leadoff of third base, the usually stand a few feet into foul territory.

But for those situations where Rule 7.08 f does apply, who gets credit for the putout?

Rule 10.09 c2 tells us that the automatic putout shall be credited to the nearest defensive player to the point of contact between the runner and the ball.

Also per Rule 7.08 f, once the ball makes contact with the runner, it is a dead ball. No runner may score. No runner may advance either, unless he is forced to do so.

To wrap this all up, check out this video of a Phillies and Yankees game last month. The Yankees’ announcer does a great job of describing the situation. The batter is awarded a single, the runner is out, and Jeter at shortstop gets credit for the putout. Had the play happened with less than two outs, the runner on third base would have been forced to stay at third.

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Watch Out Blue!

A few weeks ago in a game between the Pirates and Brewers a ball hit up the middle deflected off the foot of the umpire. The ball continued into center field and a run scored from second base. The Pirates weren’t too happy, however, when the runner was sent back to second base.

“It’s one of those things that happens in games,” manager John Russell told the Pirates’ website. “Sometimes it helps you, sometimes it hurts you. It’s not like they’re trying to be in the way. They’re out on the field. The biggest thing is you hope it doesn’t hurt them.”

Rule 6.08 d states that a batter who hits a fair ball that strikes an umpire prior to reaching a fielder—other than the pitcher—is entitled to first base. If the ball hits an umpire after passing a player then play continues.

Rule 10.05 a5 tells the official scorer that the play is the same as if a fair ball were to hit a base runner. Dead ball and an automatic single—only when the umpire is struck with the ball there is obviously no out.

Another game this season where the ump was hit—this one allowed the Red Sox to avoid grounding into a double play.

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