Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rule 7.06: Obstruction, What a Pickle!

Obstruction can be an offense's best friend and a defensive team's worst enemy. Rules 2.00 and 7.06(a) & (b) address the definition, criteria for enforcement and penalties for this illegal act.

Rule 2.00 (Obstruction)
Definition: Occurs when the fielder, who is not in possession of the ball nor in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
Exception: A fielder may occupy his position to receive a thrown ball, as in a catcher blocking home plate while fielding a throw. If, in the umpire's judgment, the fielder is "in the act of fielding a ball," contact with the offense may be legal. However, if the fielder has already missed his attempt, his "act of fielding" protection is lifted and it is obstruction if he impedes the runner.
Clearing Up the Misconception: Contact need not occur for obstruction to be called. The runner must simply be impeded.

Obstruction is additionally categorized as 7.06(a) or 7.06(b), also known as Type A or Type B. Each type applies only in certain, mutually exclusive situations and each type carries slightly different penalties.

Rule 7.06(a) [Type A Obstruction]
Criteria: Play must be attempted on obstructed runner at the moment obstruction is called.
Criteria 2: All instances of batter-runner obstruction before he reaches first base, regardless of whether or not there is a play being made on him at the instance of obstruction, granted an air out has not occurred.
Execution: Ball is immediately dead and penalties imposed.
Penalty, All Runners: Umpire's discretion, to bases "they would have reached...if there had been no obstruction." Because the ball is dead at the moment of obstruction, actions which occur in the aftermath of the obstruction (subsequent throws, or additional bases run) are not to be considered in applying the penalty. Conversely, if a wild throw is in the air at the moment obstruction type A occurs, the umpires are advised to consider whether the throw winds up going out of play (e.g., thrown into a dugout) or remains on the playing field (e.g., bounces off the dugout fence and stays on the infield/outfield). If the throw goes into dead ball territory (e.g., the dugout or stands), the penalty for a wild throw is enforced (e.g., two bases from the time of pitch [if the throw is the first action off a batted ball] or time of throw [if the throw occurs after the first action off an infield batted ball]). If the throw remains on the field of play, the judgment of the umpire shall prevail (bases the runner would have achieved had obstruction not occurred).
Penalty, Obstructed Runner: Mandatory minimum of a one-base award (awarded from last base legally touched at the time of obstruction; for a batter-runner obstructed prior to first base, this means he is awarded first base). May be awarded additional bases.

Rule 7.06(b) [Type B Obstruction]
Criteria: No play is being attempted on the obstructed runner at the moment of obstruction.
Execution: Ball is live, play proceeds until no further action is possible. Penalties imposed after play.
Penalty, All Runners: Umpire's discretion, imposition of penalties to "nullify the act of obstruction."
Risk: Because the ball is live throughout Type B Obstruction, an obstructed runner may be declared out if he runs past the base he would have been awarded under Type B's penalty.

Obstruction is a Judgment Call / Penalties and Risk may be a Rule Interpretation Issue
While obstruction itself is a judgment call, improper application of Type A or B obstruction may put a team at a disadvantage (e.g., Type A obstruction improperly ruled Type B may put the offensive team in a position of risk they otherwise wouldn't have encountered) and as such, this rules interpretation may be grounds for a protested game, under Rule 4.19.

Test Yourself and try to identify Type A vs. B Obstruction: Examples: 12, 3, 4, 5, 67, 8

Read on for the answer key.

Example 1 (Video): Type A: During the 6/9/11 Mets-Brewers game, baserunner R1 is obstructed by first baseman F3 during a rundown. Because a play was being made on R1 at the instant of obstruction, this is Type A Obstruction. 1B Umpire Rob Drake correctly declares the play dead and R1 safe. Because this obstruction is Type A, R1 is also given a mandatory one-base award.

Example 2 (Video): Type B: During the 6/13/11 Mets-Pirates game, baserunner R1 is obstructed by shortstop F6 while rounding second base (recall that contact need not occur). Because no play was being attempted on R1 at the time of the obstruction, this is Type B Obstruction. The umpires awarded R1 third base as a result of this act.

Example 3 (Video): None: During the 6/16/11 Mets-Braves game, batter-runner B1 is not obstructed by F3 enroute to first base. Though umpire Tom Hallion signals the runner safe, replays indicate he failed to touch first base, the call was incorrect. Though one UEFLer speculated Hallion may have indicated Type A obstruction (Criteria 2), F3 was in the act of fielding the thrown ball when such impedance occurred. No obstruction.

Example 4 (Video): Type B: During the 6/24/07 Cubs-White Sox game, baserunner R1 is obstructed by F6 while rounding second base. Because no play was being attempted on R1 at the time of obstruction, this is Type B Obstruction and the umpires correctly kept play alive until no further action was possible. Unfortunately, White Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson completely missed the obstruction call, calling the umpires' decision "absolute B.S." for reversing "a double play." Joe West ejected manager Ozzie Guillen for arguing the call.

Example 5 (Video): None OR Type A: During the 7/17/11 Pirates-Astros game, batter-runner B1 collides with F3 prior to touching first base and simultaneous with F3 missing the thrown ball. Featured as a July 2011 Case Play, many UEFLers saw this as Obstruction while many others judged incidental contact. If illegal, this is Type A Obstruction, and B1 is awarded a minimum of first base. Other awards are left to umpire's discretion and judgment. If legal, there is no obstuction and no award.

Example 6 (Video): None OR Type B: During the 5/6/11 Blue Jays-Angels game, baserunner R1 is or is not obstructed by F6, who decoys the runner at second base. MLB/OBR Rules do not codify verbal obstruction; however, if R1 was impeded from returning to first base, this is Type B Obstruction and play continues until no further action is possible. At this point, R1 likely is returned to first base. If, however, obstruction occurred after the pop fly was caught and the defense was in the act of retiring R1 (making a play on R1), this would be Type A Obstruction and the ball would be immediately dead. R1 would be awarded second base by rule.

Example 7 (Video): Type A: During the 6/13/12 Indians-Reds game, baserunner R3 collides with catcher F2 during a rundown between third base and home plate. Though replays indicate R3 initiated contact with F2, the fielder is clearly not in possession of nor in the act of fielding the ball, which is obstruction. Third baseman F6 is actively making a play on R3, qualifying this as Type A Obstruction. Therefore, the obstructed runner R3 must be awarded home plate. Related Play: Jerry Manuel ejected by Bill Welke for arguing Jose Reyes' obstruction during Shane Victorino pickle.

Example 8 (Video): Type B: During the 10/26/13 Red Sox-Cardinals World Series Game 3, baserunner Allen Craig attempts to advance to third base on a fielder's choice out at home plate. As F2 Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw sails into left field, R2 Craig becomes entangled with F5 Will Middlebrooks, who, having failed to field F2 Saltalamacchia's errant throw, lays across the front of third base and in front of R2 Craig as he attempts to progress towards home plate. As F7's throw to F2 Saltalamacchia arrives ahead of R2 Craig, umpires call "Time" and award R2 Craig home plate, ruling he would have scored if not for the act of obstruction.

7 comments :

Anonymous said...

Jeez Loise - For a guy who touts his baseball experience, Harrelson was (and is) one ignorant blowhard

Anonymous said...

Nice guide. I'm pretty intrigued by example 5. McCutchen has the right to the baseline, no question. By time, technically the ball has passed the fielder when they collide. Is there a statute of limitations, so to speak, about completing the act of fielding. As in, is the first baseman in the act of missing the throw or do we conclude that he has already missed the throw at the point of contract? Tough call.

mark38090 said...

Example seven is what I yeach my young players when they get in a rundown. Unfortunately, most youth age umpires don't know this one.

jdbr78 said...

Wonder what the QOC would be on these plays. In #1 it looks like type A since a play was being made on the runner, but the base he would have obtained was 1st. In #2, just like the first time we reviewed this on here, I didn't have the runner breaking stride at all and I felt he got bailed out by an incorrect call. In #3 it looked like the fielder was "in the act of fielding a throw"... In #4 the replay did a poor job of showing the entire play and the final placement of runners. I had R1 obstructed type B by F6, R1 protected to 3B, so R2 scoring (probably getting bailed out a little for poor baserunning but I don't see how two runners are protected to the base...) and BR placed at 2B. It looks like that is what the crew did too.

In #5 it seemed to me that F3 was "in the act of fielding a throw" and I have nothing.

In #6, it has to be type B since the BR was not the one obstructed the way I understand it. R1 was obstructed but imo BR would be protected only back to 1B since that is likely the base he would have attained by making it back to the bag, but since the penalty for type B is Umpire's discretion, imposition of penalties to "nullify the act of obstruction." I would place the runners at 1st and 2nd. If I am wrong and this is type A since a play is being made on the BR (the catch) even though he is not obstructed, the minimum is one base so again runners at 1 & 2. I admit I am not sure on this one so great case for studying.

In 7, type A. R3 scores (minimum one base award), R1 to 2nd, BR to 1st.

I have not read anyone else's comments yet and I would love to hear more discussion on this. If I'm wrong, I hope someone with experience tells me that. I'm a big boy, I can take it. Just looking to improve.

Anonymous said...

#7: -- it looked to me like R3 intentionally ran into F6 to "cause" the obstruction. But it was a YHTBT -- you had to be there -- call, so the ump got it right.

Anonymous said...

Your definition of Type A is not entirely correct. The batter runner can be obstructed prior to reaching first and still be called out. Example. Batter hits fly ball to right field. Batter runner is tripped by catcher. Right fielder catches fly ball for out. Since the obstruction had no bering on the play, the obstruction is ignored and the out stands.

Anonymous said...

Example 3 is an appeal play per 7.10(c). The runner is ruled safe until the defense appeals that he missed 1st. If he returns to first before the appeal, he is safe. Not incorrect call.

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