Saturday, October 6, 2012

STL-ATL Infield Fly (NL Wild Card): Why Call was Correct

Yes, LF Umpire Sam Holbrook's infield fly call was the correct ruling during Friday's NL Wild Card Game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. But why?

The Play: With one out, R1 David Ross and R2 Dan Uggla (runners on first and second), Braves batter Andrelton Simmons hit a 3-2 sinker from Cardinals pitcher Mitchell Boggs for a fly ball into left field, Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma tracking into the outfield as left fielder Matt Holliday moved into position for backup. As the ball fell to the ground untouched, R1 Ross and R2 Uggla both advanced safely to their next base while B1 Simmons arrived at first base.

The Ruling and Rationale: LF Umpire Holbrook ruled an infield fly, putting B1 Simmons out.

Recall Rule 2.00 Infield Fly and 6.05(e) and the three considerations for an infield fly: (1) First and second must be occupied with less than two out. Check. (2) The batter must hit a fair fly ball which is not a line drive nor bunt. Check. (3) In the umpire's judgment, the fly can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort. To the breakdown:

When Kozma settled into a position nearest to where the fly ball would eventually fall, he established, in the umpire's judgment, that he could catch the ball with ordinary effort. Ordinary effort is "the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in [MLB] should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions."

Video: Analyst Harold Reynolds breaks down the call and why it was correct, multiple replay angles (Studio)
Video: MLB Network's Harold Reynolds explains why Holbrook got infield fly call right (Diamond Demo)

Myths:
(1) The infield fly only applies to balls hit on the infield. False. The rule pertains to the fielder (infielder) rather than the location of the ball and explicitly states, "On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder—not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder."

(2) Because the ball was hit over 200 feet and the shortstop had to range significantly into the outfield, his effort was extraordinary. False. Ordinary effort pertains to the player, not the play. In other words, a shortstop tracking a fly ball into left field and preparing himself to make a play or attempt prior to the ball arriving, as in the STL-ATL play, constitutes ordinary effort. So too does a routine fly ball to the infield grass wherein an infielder may have handled the ball without ordinary effort, regardless of whether or not he actually handled the baseball. Recall the infield fly rule requires the umpire to rule on the infielder's ability to handle the ball employing ordinary effort; the rule does not concern itself with the infielder's actions once this consideration has been established (e.g., F6's movement away from the play as the ball hit the ground is irrelevant).

(3) The call was late so the infield fly rule cannot be enforced. False. Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) specifies, "When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare 'Infield Fly' for the benefit of the runners." Concisely, an umpire shall immediately declare 'Infield Fly' only when it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly. Because the umpire must judge the fielder's position throughout the play and because the ordinary effort criteria was not satisfied until after the ball was already descending rapidly, this resulted in an immediate declaration of 'Infield Fly' that appeared to have been "late." Nonetheless, because both runners R1 and R2 advanced safely, no offensive player was put at risk by the timing of the call nor does the timing of the call make the call itself any less valid. Regardless of timing, B1 was out. There is no time limit to calling an infield fly.

(4) This is not the LF Umpire's call OR the call was wrong because no one else made it. False. Though in most infield fly situations, the call is so obvious that IFF can be declared by the home plate or other infield umpire upon the ball reaching its apex, during STL-ATL, the ordinary effort consideration was not satisfied until the ball had begun its descent and had already exited the infield umpires' calling area. The left field umpire correctly made this call as the ball was in his calling area at the time when all considerations had been satisfied.

61 comments :

BAMF said...

Judgment calls connect be correct or incorrect; that is why there are questions of "judgment" and not "fact." By definition, reasonable people can disagree about the one's judgment. (This is why I hate the baseball jargon that balls-and-strikes and safe/out are "judgment calls." The aren't. They are questions of fact that can be resolved via replay, etc.)

This was certainly a judgment call, and Holbrook was within his jurisdiction to exercise it. But it cannot be called "correct." Moreover, if indeed the SS could have handled it with routine effort, he would have.

Here's a better test...when you were watching the game live did you ever think, "Ok, we have an infield fly here." I would willing to bet no one thought this. Look at the reactions of the Cardinals SS and LF....not even THEY thought it was an infield fly.

All the available evidence suggests that the only one who thought this was an infield fly was Holbrook. And he stepped in it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. As a non umpire anon, who is usually pretty tough on the umps when they screw up, your explanation makes sense to me. I don't mean to minimize the emotional pain for Brave fans, but I honestly don't understand where the claimed mistakes are.

Anonymous said...

BAMF...


Congratulations on being completely wrong.

Will said...

Thank-you for making this as clear as possible to those just learning the rule. Unfortunately, there will still be people who aregue that it is a judgment call and "I disagree" with his judgment. All calls use an umpire's judgment, just like an infield fly - the problem isn't the use of judgment (BAMF @ 10:29) - it is watching the right things...
When deciding if this is an infield fly you need to look at the infielder - did he catch the ball on a full run? Was the sun in his eyes?, was the turf so wet he ended up on his *ss? The answer is right in the video - he ran full out, then he turned, waved the other fielders off and waited for the ball to drop into his glove.
That is ordinary effort by an infielder and it was called within milliseconds of him settling under the fly ball.
It isn't the umpire's fault that he then heard "footsteps" and thought the outfielder was going to run him over so he bailed - that had nothing to do with the difficulty of the hit ball or weather or field conditions.
The only one on the field who "got it wrong" was the shortstop for thinking he was about to get run over and running out of the way...
Proper use of the eyes and letting the play complete itself before making the call - he did a wonderful job!
PS - I do want to use this in my clinics next year but I'd love to have a compare contrast example of a pop-up in the infield where no infielder has a good read on the play so they did not call infield fly. Does anyone know of a clip of an "infield pop-up" that was not called an infield fly? (that was correct...)

BAMF said...

The fact that the SS "heard footsteps" and pulled off the ball is precisely what makes it *not* an infield fly. That removes the "ordinary effort" from the equation.

Go ahead and use this in your Little League clinics. If this happened in a PBUC evaluation situation, the umpire would pay a penalty on the evaluation.

Will said...

@ BAMF
honestly, could he have caught it easily? Yes - he was standing right there. That's all the rule asks - could he have, not did he. Otherwise there'd be no point in the rule.
Pro school is very good at teaching this rule, it is very clear, not a lot of room for interpretation.
Ultimately, if you would like to believe he made the wrong call - go ahead and believe that, lots of people believe things that are wrong.

DMay said...

Ordinary effort has to include an attempt to catch the ball. In Harold's video, one player reaches and catches the ball. In the Braves game, their is no effort to catch the ball. His effort was not good enough to get into a control position. I just don't see it.

Anonymous said...

BAMF

"If this happened in a PBUC evaluation situation, the umpire would pay a penalty on the evaluation."

I highly doubt that. After speaking with several unnamed friends in AA and AAA they all agreed that IFF was the CORRECT call.

You are not a PBUC supervisor and never will be. All the PBUC supervisors are former umpires themselves and know the rules.

Personally if I were a MiLB umpire and I was marked down for making this exact call I would defend it.

PBUC doesn't care as much about right/wrong judgement as they do about handling what happens after the controversial call.

And before I get hammered for not knowing anything cause I'm annon, I only post annon because I am going to school again in January for the second time to try to get into MiLB and I don't want anyonefrom the school or PBUC to know.

Been there once and have friends from school still in the game after 5 years plus instructors who are seeing MLB time. All of them are glad to tell me what PBUC and MLB expect from umpires.

You can all call me "S"

Gil Imber said...

Will, the closest I can find is Jerry Crawford's ejection of Bob Geren for arguing an infield fly no-call on a line drive vs. pop/fly ball.

Here is another example of an infield fly situation turned double play.

And the Braves not understanding the rule (from 2010).

Anonymous said...

"Ordinary effort has to include an attempt to catch the ball" By that logic, an infield pop fly would be safe from the infield fly rule if there's no attempt to catch the fly? As in, fielders let the ball drop to get an easy double play? That goes in direct contrast with the rule itself!

Anonymous said...

BAMF..you're a clownshow. Chest to the infield, calling for the ball....ordinary effort...easy call....go back to tuning your piano. It's clowns like you that give d bags like Hawk Harrelson an audience. Clueless!!!!

Anonymous said...

You're wrong....attempting to catch the ball is in your fantasy rulebook...not the rulebook.

Bruce Froemming said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Harold Reynolds put together an excellent explanation. The terms he used weren't ump-official, of course, but it's a great visual representation of what was mentioned in this post about why the call was right. Thank you for sharing those MLB Network vids.

Anonymous said...

I hope BAMF and a few others on here are not umpires. If so, it scares me.

-Zac

BAMF said...

Not only should you be scared, Zac. You should be frightened. I call a lot of games (at high levels). And each year, I keep getting promoted...so must be doing something right.

FanBoy2012 said...

What it boils down to is that it was a judgement call...if you look at the polls, the majority of the people judged that it was not an IFF...but...this was not any of our calls, it was Sam Holbrook's and he judged it the way he saw it. Because it's a judgment call and based on the opinion of the umpire whose job it is to make the call, it cannot be disputed...we can agree or disagree with the call all day long, but that is irrelevant. I personally don't feel that just because a fielder is able to get under a ball means that it had to be ordinary effort, but I wasn't the umpire on the field.

Mundane said...

As the NYTimes put it http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/06/sports/baseball/with-umpires-in-outfield-come-postseason-errors-in-judgment.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y

why was the OF umpire making that call. In his 15 year ML career, Holbrook has been a LF umpire 5 times compared to 350 games at the normal positions.

Anonymous said...

LMAO

Anonymous said...

Probably sniffing some jocks...i hope I never get stuck with ya

Anonymous said...

And if it was so obvious as all you UA's say, why was he the ONLY one calling it?

Anonymous said...

Now that we have replay for home run and trapped ball calls, there is an argument for changing the playoffs to 4-man crews since these are the calls that are their primary responsibility.

Robert Loblaw, Esq. said...

@ BAMF
What's a high level for you? What is it 14U ball now?

Anonymous said...

@Anon 3:47: I wasn't aware multiple umpires had to make a call for it to be correct.

Anonymous said...

Anon 347: Didnt you read the post? That's myth 4.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what AA or AAA guys you supposedly talk to, but let them make them make that call in in their leagues and them dumb assess will be bagging groceries after the end of the season. That call was terrible, only defended by you dumbassses that only stand to admit that and therefore because an umpire actually screwed something up in a big league time game.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:33 PM.... Miss South Carolina, is that you? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww

BAPACop said...

@Anon 9:33: The post puts forth a detailed argument towards the call being correct. Instead of insulting people, why don't you start by pointing out what you find incorrect about the arguments brought up by the post?

Anonymous said...

BAMF, speaking as one of those umpires, PBUC would be praising the call the same as Sam's evaluators praised him for making the call when they were back in the locker room. Don't speak for people that you don't know anything about. Your posts on this subject are a joke and truly show your ignorance regarding this rule.

Anonymous said...

Please....enlighten us or go back to tuning your piano.

DMay said...

Your post is irrelevant. Ordinary effort for a SS in left field is different. But has to be used in your judgement. The IFF does not apply to this call. I stand by the argument, if Ump does not make the call, no one is asking why he didn't.

Anonymous said...

DMay: "No one asking why he didn't" make a call is no reason to not call it an IFF. I guess that's why Sam is in the big leagues and you and BAMF aren't, he has the balls to make a call he knows is right even though the easiest route would have been to do nothing. It's called integrity... oh... and rules knowledge.

DMay said...

So going forward, all I have to do is run within five feet of a batted ball and the IFF is in effect. Effort means effort. Attempt means get close. Dictionary + Rulebook = Educated.

Anonymous said...

@DMay
Attempt
(verb)
1. To make an effort at; try; undertake; seek.
2. (archaic) To attack; move in a hostile manner.
3. (archaic) To tempt.
(noun)
4. An effort made to accomplish something.
5. An attack or assault.

Anonymous said...

Apparently DMay not so good at math either. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

How often do you hear umpires say "Absolutely" when referring to whether a disputed call was correct? The fact that MLB circled the wagons so quickly is just evidence of the fact that they do not want to impugn the "judgment call" by Holbrook. Look, it was the wrong call, plain and simple. If Torre or Holbrook had admitted as much, but said it cannot be overturned because it is a judgment call, then this whole discussion would be over.

JimmyT said...

Okay, the ump was correct within the letter of the law, but I agree with the commenter who said that "no one" thought it was an infield fly.

To me, it’s just wrong to call it if the umpire has to wait that long to see if the infielder is in position to “easily” catch a ball. The whole idea of the rule is to let the runners know immediately that the batter is out so, as the announcers use to quickly say, they can then “proceed at their own risk.” By calling it that late you confuse the runners and you take away the PRIMARY reason that the rule is in place.

Anonymous said...

@ JimmyT... the runners SAFELY advanced during this play, making timing absolutely irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

It was a quirky play, but the umpire got it right.

The rule says ". . .if a ball 'could have' been fielded by an infielder with ordinary effort. . ." not "was fielded..." or "an attempt was made to field".

Holbrook nailed the call, and every umpire worth his salt stained hat knows it....

Anonymous said...

No it wasn't the wrong call...you're another plumber who doesn't know the rules

Anonymous said...

Ummm....because he had the best look at it

Anonymous said...

You like many others don't understand the rule. The purpose of the IFR is to protect the runners by removing the force so your argument that the runners are put at risk is ludicrous.

Lidstrom said...

We can debate whether or not it should have been an infield fly call, but the reasoning provided by Holbrook is questionable.

If you read the infield fly rule, and the definition of ordinary effort in the rules, you will understand why all this attention on Kozma by Holbrook and mostly everyone else is invalid.

By the rules, Holbrook should have made the decision based on the ability of an average skilled infielder to make the play with ordinary effort. His statements referring to his observations of Kozma, as justification for his call, reveal an improper application of the rules.

Anonymous said...

I seriously hope people understand that umpires, when making this particular call on the field, CANNOT consider whether a double play is possible because the infield fly rule says absolutely NOTHING about double plays, lead runner force outs, etc. All the umpire can do is call it by the book, which is exactly what Holbrook did. All this prognostication about the purpose or spirit of the rule and thinking Holbrook should have weighed that in his decision is wrong.

Just like the original post says, you have several criteria for determining whether you have an infield fly - R1, R2 or R1, R2, R3 with <2 out, fair fly ball, infielder ordinary effort. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Lidstrom said...

If you read the written rule, understanding that "ordinary effort" is also a term defined within the rules (not something we get to make up to suit our particular needs/desires), it is hard to find that Holbrook followed the written rules to the letter. If he had been following them to the letter, he would've known that whether or not Kozma gets "underneath the ball" or "establishes himself" have nothing to do with the call and won't be found anywhere in the rule.

Because he was applying a criteria not found within the rule, he waited painfully late into the play to make his call. Applying the rule, as written, doesn't leave him waiting for Kozma to accomplish those things. Maybe it was an infield fly, maybe not, but the reasoning behind his call is flawed.

Interesting to note that, given the way the infield fly rule is written, he would've had to call this an infield fly even if Holliday caught it.

"The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder."

If he doesn't agree with that, then it wasn't an infield fly, because a critical component of the rule is the determination that an average skilled fielder, exerting ordinary effort, would make the catch. Holbrook's claims that the rule is enforced based on a particular fielder's actions are not supported by the rules. The rules are written such that the determination is to be made based on the ordinary effort definition, not what he observes particular fielders doing.

Anonymous said...

@Lidstrom, read the 5th paragraph of the original post and you'll see there is indeed discussion of the definition of "ordinary effort." Kozma's actions on the play bear mentioning because they themselves are a component that helps in determining ordinary effort -- his actions in getting to the outfield CONFIRM Holbrook's judgment was correct in that an infielder, exhibiting ordinary effort, could make the play.

Kozma's actions certainly don't deny it and they are relevant.

You must not have been following this thread much and by the content of your comment, you haven't fully read the original post and the part where "ordinary effort" is defined nor the part where all those myths are debunked, including the myth of location where, yes, Holliday could have caught it and it would still be an infield fly.

Notice again that Holbrook calls infield fly before the ball gets down to the ground - he doesn't know who's going to catch it nor should he take that into account. It's not the umpire's job to wait for the ball to actually be caught or an attempt actually to be made.

It is his job to wait until "it is apparent that a batted ball will be an infield fly" and ONLY then is he supposed to immediately call IFF. If you read the rules, criteria and expert analysis, you'll see that Holbrook indeed got the call right. In the umpiring community, there is absolutely no doubt it was the correct call.

Lidstrom said...

Ordinary effort is defined in the rules. There's no need to read it anywhere, and the quote in this article was incomplete.

Given Holbrook's comments about Kozma needing to be "underneath the ball and "establish himself", I don't think he would've called it if Holliday makes the play. Holbrook sounds like he cared a lot about what that particular fielder did, which is not what the rule calls for.

Lidstrom said...

Also, Holbrook's statements don't support your claims.

"I saw the shortstop go back and get underneath the ball where he would have had ordinary effort and would have caught the baseball, and that's why I called the infield fly."

But, he would've had to call this an infield fly even if he didn't watch Kozma get underneath the ball (by the rules), so why does he make a statement implying that Kozma getting underneath the ball was important for making the call? Why did he wait for Kozma to do this if the rules don't mention this as criteria for the call? He could've made the call much sooner if he weren't hung up on watching the player.

This other statement also implies a standard that is not in the rules:

"It's all judged on what the fielder does. Once that fielder establishes himself and he has ordinary effort on the ball, that's when the call is made. So it wouldn't matter whether it was from third base or on the line out there. But, again, it's all based on what the fielder does, that's what I went on, and that's what I read."

The rules don't say it is about observing what "the fielder" or "that fielder" does. The standard is whether or not, in the umpires judgment, an average skilled fielder, starting on the infield, could've made the play. Observation of 1 or more players doing it isn't required by the rule and by applying a standard not found in the rules he made the call far later than he should have.

Anonymous said...

Because, in advanced mechanics on an unusual IFF situation, one of the criteria you look for in establishing ordinary effort is whether the infielder is in a position where ordinary effort could yield a catch. It is verification of OR and of the IFF and is only used in unique IFF situations. It IS based on the fielder and NOT the location. You're being way too narrow.

Lidstrom said...

That is an interpretation, as I don't believe that is found in the rules (although I would love to read it if you can find it there - I haven't).

That's fine. If the case is that umpires are trained to use different criteria than is in the written rules, it answers my questions and confirms that they are not applying the rule exactly as written.

Anonymous said...

See, your position that a player's actions are always irrelevant is one interpretation just as is the one that they may be relevant in some infield fly situations. For better or for worse, MLB has always agreed with the latter, especially given the line in the rule book that immediately follows ordinary effort on IFR: that location is arbitrary and does not matter.

Lidstrom said...

"ORDINARY EFFORT is the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in that league or classification of leagues should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions."

"This standard...is an objective standard in regard to any particular fielder. In other words, even if a fielder makes his best effort, if that effort falls short of what an average fielder at that position in that league would have made in a situation, the official scorer should charge that fielder with an error."

"An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort...On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder—...The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder."

If the idea is that the call can only be made based on the actions of the fielders, as Holbrook claims, then how would he call an infield fly caught by an outfielder when an infielder doesn't "get underneath the ball" or "establish himself" at all? By written rule, an infielder need only to have been capable of doing it. They don't have to even try to do it.

Anonymous said...

See, I don't know why this is such an issue. Kozma being in the area confirmed to U5 that the criteria of ordinary effort and thus IFF had been established. In a sense, it's being extra certain that you have the criteria and then saying that the criteria was indeed satisfied, as evidenced by the fact that the fielder was there. It's confirming the call as correct. Why is that such an issue? If it walks and talks like a duck....

Lidstrom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lidstrom said...

The statements from Holbrook indicate he doesn't consider "ordinary effort" until the end of the play (the player is now in position to, with ordinary effort, catch the ball). When I read the rule, it reads like "ordinary effort" needs to be considered over the entire play (not just the end of it).

"I saw the shortstop go back and get underneath the ball where he would have had ordinary effort and would have caught the baseball..."

"Once that fielder establishes himself and he has ordinary effort on the ball..."

See, he specifically mentions that the player establishes himself and then considers whether the player has ordinary effort on the ball. Not that the player has exhibited ordinary effort on the entire play.

Anonymous said...

See, that's where you're inferring the rule. It says exhibit on a play - not the beginning of it, not the end of it, not the whole thing. Just "a play." That means the judgment can use any part of the play to rule ordinary effort and yes, this includes the latter half of the play ONLY just as it could include the beginning only or the entire play. Giants just had an infield fly in Cincy in the outfield-makes absolutely no difference. Where the rules do not specifically state something, umpires refer to rule 9, where umpires may rule on any point not specifically covered in the rules. Believe it or not, that rule 9 elastic clause makes an appearance in nearly every play, including this one.

Lidstrom said...

So the idea is that "play" within "ordinary effort" could mean anything an umpire wants it to on any given play? I can't see why they bother having any rules.

Lidstrom said...

While reviewing Rule 9, I found something I find funny (given Holbrook's comments about watching the player, rather than the ball):

"Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play."

Anonymous said...

Then again, the book says nary a few lines later: "Wait until the play is completed before making any arm motion." the MLB rule book is full of conflicting information and mistakes. That's why MLBU have the MLB umpires manual. Though again, MLBUM is like zone eval - secret, behind the scenes, not generally circulated.

Secretive.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the play again I noticed something strange, moving it forward about a second at a time. Holbrook didn't raise his finger to call the Infield Fly Rule until Kozma started to move out of the way. Makes me wonder if it wasn't on purpose. . .guess we'll never know for sure.

Just gonna throw my two cents in, bad judgement call, Holbrook should've admitted it and reversed it himself (if he could). I would have.

-BULKARD

Anonymous said...

Stay classy, Atlanta! Seriously next time Braves fans talk crap about how Yankee fans are rude new yorkers and classless, I'm pointing straight to this. It was the right call, Georgians are apparently too stupid to know the rule and compound the problem by throwing garbage on the field during Chipper Jones' last game. What's worse, you drunks in the upper deck thought you could get your booze bottles on the field and ended up so short, you hit fans sitting on lower levels. They should have forfeited this game because of the fans inability to behave like civilized human beings. What a disgrace.

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