CASE PLAY: With two out and one on, B1 attempted to check his swing on a 0-2 changeup as R1 attempted to steal second base. F2's throw to F4 retired R1, although B1's bat over home plate made contact with F2 as he threw. Q: (a) Assume that there was just one out in the inning and the same sequence occurred. Contact was made between F2 Molina and B1 Jones' bat. (b) Assume the same scenario as in part [a], but in [b], R1 slides into second base ahead of the throw/tag. What's the call?Relevant Video: Rays get out of the first inning on caught stealing after half swing at the plate (TB)
Answer (a): OBR Rule 2.00 (Interference) states, "Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." Because R1 was nonetheless retired on F4's tag, "it is to be assumed there was no actual interference and that runner [R1] is out," as in Rule 6.06(c) Comment (and 6.06 EXCEPTION). In other words, we defer the question of whether interference actually occurred here solely because R1 was put out nonetheless. PU completes the check swing appeal and U1 may rule a strike if the batter struck at the pitch. Either two out and none on (tag play) or three out (tag play + the batter swung).
Answer (b): Because R1 was not retired on F4's tag, we must consider whether B1 is out for illegal action and/or if the runner runner should be returned to first base, as in Rule 6.06(c) ("[The batter] interferes with the catcher's fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter's box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher's play at home base"..."no player may advance on such interference and all runners shall return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of interference"). Rule 7.09(e) states that if interference occurred and the batter is ruled to have swung at the pitch, the "runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate." Under no circumstance, however, if the batter is ruled not to have struck at the pitch, can this specific play be ruled backswing ("follow-through") interference, as in Rule 6.06(c) Comment, because B1 in checking his swing clearly did not meet the criteria, "swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire's judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing." Half swing appeal made. If he did offer at the pitch, follow-through interference may apply, but only if the umpire deems B1's actions as part of his natural follow-through.
Now, as to the question of "out" interference, OBR states that the batter is out for illegal action if:
(1) He interfered with the catcher's fielding or throwing by;
(2) Stepping out of the batter's box or making any other movement hindering a play at home base.
The Major League Baseball Umpire Manual states that "if the batter interferes with the catcher's throw to retire a runner by stepping out of the batter's box, interference shall be called on the batter under Official Baseball Rule 6.06(c)."
The MLBUM goes on: "However, if the batter is standing in the batter's box and he or his bat is struck by the catcher's throw back to the pitcher (or throw in attempting to retire a runner) and, in the umpire's judgment, there is no intent on the part of the batter to interfere with the throw, the ball is alive and in play."
B1 clearly does not step out of the batter's box. According to the interpretation, B1 is not out for interference if he remains a batter ("no swing"/ball). If he is ruled to have swung at the pitch, Rule 7.09(e) may apply ("Any batter or runner who has just been put out...hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner"). If so, three out.
Either one [or two (if batter swung)] out and R2 [or R1] or three out (if swing + 6.06(c)|7.09(e) INT).
Two Points Awarded: Arik G, Bob Abouy, Bortz43, cyclone14, gkiewitt, Joe Gravina, josh7377, Kyle Douglas, Kyle Goluba, toss 'em, TXWrangler, umpire87