Saturday, April 11, 2015

Anatomy of a Rule 7.13 HP Collision Review, SEA-OAK

HP Collision Rule 7.13 visited Oakland during Saturday's game against the Mariners when A's baserunner Josh Phegley attempted to score on a Tyler Ladendorf squeeze bunt to Mariners pitcher Danny Farquhar, who threw to catcher Jesus Sucre as Phegley slid towards home plate. Initially ruled an out on the tag by plate umpire Mark Carlson, the call was upheld following a replay review requested by A's Manager Bob Melvin.

At issue on this play are two separate elements: First, did catcher Sucre legally tag Phegley prior to Phegley touching home plate (The Safe/Out issue), and, second, did Sucre violate Rule 7.13 by illegally blocking access to home plate while not in possession of the baseball? Note that, while a manager may challenge the element of Rule 7.13 on a play at the plate, replay officials are enjoined to consider all relevant aspects of the play in question. Thus, we shall do the same.

Rule 7.13 Issue: A fraction of home plate is exposed to R1.
As such, this is a legal play as R1 has a path to score.
The Safe/Out Issue
One reason Saturday's Mariners-A's play at the plate is a good representation of the replay-at-home issue is that both elements of the collision and safe/out come into play. In regards to the safe/out issue, replays are inconclusive as to whether Sucre tagged Phegley prior to Phegley's foot touching the third-base corner of home plate. The high home camera angle that may have helped determine whether the runner attempting to score was obstructed at the critical point of contact. To this end, HP Umpire Mark Carlson's call of "out" must stand.

The Rule 7.13 (Home Plate Collision Rule) Issue
Rule 7.13 (specifically Rule 7.13[2]), introduced in 2014, states:
Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 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
The rule obliges us to consider F2's position prior to gaining possession of the ball: if, during this time, F2 blocks the pathway of the runner (interpreted as affording the runner an opportunity to score via a lane/access to home plate), he may well have violated Rule 7.13, unless the throw took him into the course of the runner's path. Replays indicate that the quality of F1's throw did not require F2 to encroach upon R1's path in order to receive it. Replays also indicate that prior to fielding F1's throw, F2 did not appear to entirely block access to home plate; in other words, F2 was given a lane to home plate, albeit a narrow window that included the front point of the plate closest to third base (the right base of the parallel pentagon) and the corresponding left-side foul-territory facing portion of the plate, as demonstrated by the accompanying screenshot, captured at the time Sucre received the ball. Replays indicate that, after receiving the throw, Sucre shifted the position of his left foot, such that its attitude perpendicular to the third base line effectively blocked R3 Phegley's access to home plate. Because he only shifted his position after gaining possession of the ball, his shifted foot blocking access to home plate is not subject to the restrictions imposed by Rule 7.13. Thus, this is a legal play and a violation of Rule 7.13 did not occur (as such, the no-call of this element of the play may be confirmed as correct).

As such, the call stands due to inconclusive evidence as to whether the runner was tagged prior to his touch of home plate.

Video: Chopped bunt back to the pitcher turns into out on replayed-and-affirmed play at home plate (OAK)

This play was reviewed as part of the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's Ask the UEFL series, in which any UEFL member or guest may request review of a close or controversial play in baseball. Requests may be made via Twitter (@UmpireEjections or @CloseCallSports), Facebook (/UmpireEjections), e-mail or via reply to any post on the CCS/UEFL website.


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