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Sunday, May 26, 2024

LSU Catcher's Interference During Steal vs South Carolina

South Carolina scored its 11th run vs LSU on a 10th inning catcher's interference and balk call, umpires ruling that the catcher illegally interfered with the batter by prematurely jumping on home plate prior to a pitch arriving during which a runner attempted to steal home. 

NCAA Rule 8-3-p states, "If, on an attempted squeeze play or steal of home plate, the catcher steps on or in front of home plate without possession of the ball or touches the batter or the bat, the pitcher shall be charged with a balk and the catcher with interference." The equivalent rules throughout the levels are OBR 6.01(g) and NFHS 8-1-1e.1.

Throughout the 15-minute delay as a result of the umpire's call and subsequent LSU protest (yes, college still has protests, no protesting a judgment call still should result in denial), the broadcast focused on the catcher's positioning at home, claiming he was not "on or in front" of home plate.

Rather than engage too much with this argument, we instead turn to a different rule that brings us to the same conclusion. NCAA 8-2-e-2 discusses catcher's interference that occurs when any runner is attempting to steal a base: "[A stealing runner at any base] shall be awarded the base the runner is attempting to reach."

As for the balk component, R3 is awarded home plate either via balk or because of attempting to steal the base when catcher's interference occurs while R1 gets second base because the batter becoming a runner on the catcher's interference award forces R1 to advance.

For reference, defensive interference is defined as "an act by a fielder (usually the catcher) that hinders or prevents a batter from hitting a pitch" and replays indicate this catcher jumped in front of the batter, blocking his access to home plate (and the pitch) prior to the pitch's arrival. The batter had no free choice at this point to swing or not swing (and before arguing the batter must swing, think about it...requiring the batter swing here means catchers will get seriously injured...).

After the play as LSU set up to appeal R3's missed base touch of home plate (ruled "safe"/no miss by the umpire), R2 ran toward third base in an attempt to draw a throw, since all appeals must occur during a live ball (in OBR/NCAA) and be made before any subsequent pitch, play, attempted play.

Drawing a throw to third would thus be a play or attempted play and close the window on the appeal on old R3 at home. Nonetheless, the umpire ruled R3 safe because even though the runner didn't touch home plate during the initial play, the interference and obstruction rules allow umpires to award base touches in order to nullify the act of interference or obstruction.

Video as follows:

Saturday, May 25, 2024

MLB Ejections 058-9 - Laz Diaz & Erich Bacchus (TEX x2)

HP Umpire Laz Diaz ejected Rangers manager Bruce Bochy and 3B Umpire Erich Bacchus ejected Rangers bench player Andrew Heaney (foul ball call by Bacchus; QOCN) in the bottom of the 7th inning of the #Rangers-#Twins game. With one out and two on, Twins batter Edouard Julien attempted to check his swing on a 3-2 knuckle curve from Rangers pitcher David Robertson, ruled a foul tip by HP Umpire Diaz but called a foul ball by 3B Umpire Bacchus (any base umpire may call a foul ball unasked). Replays indicate the pitched ball made contact with the bat and went directly into the catcher's mitt thereafter; this is a foul tip, Bacchus' call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Rangers were leading, 3-1. The Twins ultimately won the contest, 5-3.

This Laz Diaz (63)'s 3rd ejection of 2024.
This is Erich Bacchus (12)'s 1st ejection of 2024.

These are the 58th and 59th ejections of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 24th player ejection of 2024. Prior to ejection, Heaney was a bench player and didn't play.
This is the 26th manager ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 26 Managers, 9 Coaches, 24 Players.
This is Texas' 2/3rd ejection of 2024, T-1st in the AL West (HOU, TEX 3; OAK, SEA 2; LAA 1).
This is Bruce Bochy's 2nd ejection of 2024, 1st since April 18 (Todd Tichenor; QOC = Y [Fair/Foul]).
This is Andrew Heaney's first career MLB ejection.
This is Laz Diaz's 3rd ejection of 2024, 1st since May 14 (Ronel Blanco; QOC = U [Illegal Substance]).
This is Erich Bacchus' 1st ejection since July 4, 2023 (David Ross; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

MLB Ejection 057 - Dan Bellino (1; Scott Servais)

HP Umpire Dan Bellino ejected Mariners manager Scott Servais (strike three call to Cal Raleigh; QOCY) in the top of the 9th inning of the #Mariners-#Nationals game. With none out and none on, Raleigh took a 3-2 fastball from Nationals pitcher Kyle Finnegan for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner edge of home plate and thigh-high (px 0.62, pz 2.21), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Nationals were leading, 3-1. The Nationals ultimately won the contest, 3-1.

This is Dan Bellino (2)'s 1st ejection of 2024.
*This pitch was located 3.53 horizontal inches from being deemed incorrect.

This is the 57th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 25th manager ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 24 Managers, 9 Coaches, 23 Players.
This is Seattle's 2nd ejection of 2024, T-2nd in the AL West (HOU 3; OAK, SEA 2; LAA, TEX 1).
This is Scott Servais' 1st ejection since August 13, 2023 (Adam Beck; QOC = Y [Balk]).
This is Dan Bellino's 1st ejection since September 27, 2023 (Brian Snitker; QOC = N-c [Foul Ball]).

MLB Calls Chicago About Infield Fly Interference

Major League Baseball purportedly called Chicago and said umpire Junior Valentine's infield fly interference double play call to end Thursday's Orioles-White Sox game wasn't necessary and shouldn't have happened. The following is a deep dive into the history of this rule and how the league's hasty response to a 2012 play at Dodger Stadium led to a situation that enabled this game-ending call to occur.

As stated in our White Sox Lose After Infield Fly Interference Double Play (5/23/24) article, Valentine's ruling that White Sox baserunner R2 Andrew Vaughn interfered with Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson as he attempted to field a batted ball off the bat of Andrew Benintendi during an infield fly situation was proper pursuant to the Official Baseball Rules.

OBR 6.01(a)(10) ("Any runner is out when—they fail to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interfere with a thrown ball") puts Vaughn out for interference—no matter how slight the interference is—and kills play immediately upon such interference. For Valentine, there was no "wait and see if the ball is caught" moment, as the rulebook requires that play be declared dead immediately upon the interference.

The book's Infield Fly Rule definition then mandated that both the runner who interfered and the batter be declared out for interference and the infield fly rule, respectively, resulting in a double play. With one out in the 9th, this double play resulted in the third out of the inning, which also happened to be the final out of the game.

When MLB's Senior VP of On-Field Operations Michael Hill purportedly contacted Chicago to decry the way this game ended, it was an alleged expression of a widespread opinion: that this double play to end the game interference-and-infield-fly call simply "looked" off-putting and ended the game on a sour note.

Yet according to the rules, this is the correct call. In 2012, 1B Umpire Todd Tichenor called Dodgers batter Andre Ethier out for interfering with Marlins first baseman Derek Lee during Los Angeles batter Luis Cruz's infield fly (runners on first and second, less than two out). The rulebook at the time didn't provide for what to do with interference during an infield fly, and after a very lengthy conference, umpires ruled Ethier out and returned Cruz to bat.

During the subsequent offseason, MLB's Rules Committee decided this was not a fair outcome and crafted a new infield fly rule amendment, writing that interference during a fair infield fly is a dead ball double play (only the runner is out on a foul ball).

Season after season, this rule of response sat dormant at the major league level...until a similar situation occurred in Chicago, this one much higher-profile with much more devastating consequences.

So while MLB might not like the outcome, under the rule change the league itself made in 2013, this is the correct call. The only question is how to fix it for next time, if we don't want this to be the case.

Here are six rule change proposals, ranging from removing the fielder's "right of way" protection on an infield fly since the batter is out anyway, treating interference during an infield fly like obstruction type 2 (effectively, a delayed dead ball), only penalizing intentional interference with a double play, and more. What do you think should happen?

Video as follows:

Friday, May 24, 2024

MLB Ejection 056 - Brian Walsh (1; Bryce Harper)

HP Umpire Brian Walsh ejected Phillies 1B Bryce Harper (strike two call; QOCY) in the top of the 1st inning of the #Phillies-#Rockies game. With two out and none on, Harper took a 0-1 sinker from Rockies pitcher Ty Blach for a called second strike, before striking out swinging on the next pitch. Replays indicate the pitch ruled strike two was located over the inner edge of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px 0.75, pz 1.56 [sz_bot 1.68 / RAD 1.56 / MOE 1.48]), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Rockies ultimately won the contest, 3-2, in 11 innings.

This is Brian Walsh (120)'s 1st ejection of 2024.
*This pitch was located 1.00 vertical inches from being deemed incorrect.

This is the 56th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 23rd player ejection of 2024. Prior to ejection, Harper was 0-1 (SO) in the contest.
Ejection Tally: 24 Managers, 9 Coaches, 23 Players.
This is Philadelphia's 1st ejection of 2024, 4th in the NL East (MIA 3; NYM, WAS 2; PHI 1; ATL 0).
This is Bryce Harper's 1st ejection since Sept 28, 2023 (Angel Hernandez; QOC = U [Check Swing]).
This is Brian Walsh's 1st ejection since May 30, 2023 (Scott Servais; QOC = U-c [Check Swing]).

Team Loses Playoff Game When Runner Misses Home

New Jersey's Northern Highlands lost its state playoff game when Mount Olive appealed to the umpire that a runner missed home plate to negate three runs...for the final out of the game. How did one runner missing home cost his team three runs, and, the game? Read on.

With two out and two runners on base in the 7th inning against Mount Olive (the NFSIAA high school baseball tournament plays seven innings), Northern Highlands appeared to hit a home run, out of the park. As preceding runner R2 rounded third base, he began jumping in celebration, ultimately jumping directly over and past home plate without touching it, while the two following runners—R1 and the batter-runner—did properly touch home plate.

Every level of baseball requires runners to touch each base in order when advancing (or retreating). The equivalent rule for professional baseball is OBR 5.06(b)(1) Advancing Bases, for college is NCAA 8-6-3, and is NFHS 8-2-1 in high school.

After the play defensive team appealed during a live ball, but before the next pitch or play (or attempted play), that the preceding/lead runner missed his base touch, the HP Umpire ruled R2 out, which by rule also negates any runs that may have been scored by trailing runners who touched home plate after R2.

So instead of a 3-3 game with two outs in the 7th, the appeal made it a 3-0 final score, the third out courtesy of an appeal for a runner who missed home plate.

One small footnote is that because this was a high school game, the defense could have elected to appeal the play verbally, without having to go through the live ball pitcher-disengages-then-throws-to-catcher procedure. NFHS is different than both OBR and NCAA in this regard by allowing dead ball appeals (prior to the next pitch or play) in NFHS rule 8-2-6: "A coach or any defensive player, with or without the ball, may make a verbal appeal on a runner missing a base or leaving a base too soon on a caught fly ball." If you're in high school and concerned about properly appealing during live ball, bear in mind that a dead ball appeal is an option at the NFHS level.

Video as follows:

Thursday, May 23, 2024

White Sox Lose After Infield Fly Interference Double Play

Chicago's comeback against Baltimore came up short when 3B Umpire Junior Valentine called White Sox baserunner Andrew Vaughn for interference during batter Andrew Benintendi's pop up for a rare INT-infield fly rule double play to end the game. Pedro Grifol argued, as did Chicago's broadcasters, but to no avail...although unpleasant to end the game, Valentine's call was correct.

With one out and runners on first and second base in the bottom of the 9th inning of an 8-6 (Orioles) ballgame, Chicago batter Benintendi hit a 0-1 fastball from Orioles pitcher Craig Kimbrel high on the infield, resulting in umpires declaring an infield fly. As Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson jogged in to make a play on the fly ball, White Sox runner R2 Vaughn casually backed toward the fielder, creating a situation in which Henderson was forced to go around Vaughn to field the batted ball.

By rule, this is interference, which is what 3B Umpire Valentine called. Recall that during a batted ball, the fielder has the right to field it (one protected fielder per play), but at any other time, the runner has the right to run unencumbered (unless the fielder possesses the baseball or must occupy the space while in the act of fielding).

The rules citation is Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) ("Any runner is out when—they fail to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interfere with a thrown ball").

Interference during an infield fly throws a peculiar wrench into the affairs, which creates a dead ball that results in a double play, as long as the infield fly is fair. OBR's definition for Infield Fly specifies that: "If interference is called during an Infield Fly, the ball remains alive until it is determined whether the ball is fair or foul. If fair, both the runner who interfered with the fielder and the batter are out. If foul, even if caught, the runner is out and the batter returns to bat."

Accordingly, umpires declared runner Vaughn out for interfering with Henderson (remember, interference's standard is hinder or impede; there is NO contact requirement) and, as the ball became dead at the moment of interference relative to everything except determining fair/foul, there is no question of "wasn't Henderson going to catch it anyway?" When a dead ball occurs, no further action—including fielders recording outs—can take place.

The penalty for interference is to declare the runner out and the batter is also declared out, due to the infield fly (fair ball).

Video as follows:

Iowa Force Play Slide Rule, Manager Ejection & Missing TV Camera

When umpires called Iowa runner Kyle Huckstorf for a force play slide rule violation in extra innings vs Illinois, a call confirmed via video review, #Hawkeyes manager Rick Heller was ejected, an automatic penalty for arguing a replay decision. Let's review NCAA/college's rulebook as we roll back the tape and find a curious decision by television broadcast led to a lot more confusion than it should have.

NCAA Rule 8-4, the Force Play Slide Rule (FPSR), states among other things, "On any force play, the runner, in the vicinity of the base, must slide on the ground before the base and in a direct line between the two bases. It is permissible for the slider’s momentum to carry them through the base in the baseline extended." A diagram accompanies this provision, indicating prohibit area in grey shading that a runner may not slide into—namely to the left or right of the base at its leading edge or further back.

Whereas Official Baseball Rule 6.01(j) (Sliding into Bases on Double Play Attempts) lists four criteria, the third of which requires a runner to remain on the base after completion of the slide, NCAA's rule allows runners to overslide. This is just one key distinction.

Another is that while OBR requires the violative non-bona fide slide to impede the defensive team for interference to be called (e.g., if a double play is unrealistic anyway, there is no interference call to make), NCAA's FPSR applies a much stricter standard: "Whether the defense could have completed the double play has no bearing on the applicability of this rule." This is also a key difference.

All in all, for OBR/professional/MLB/MiLB games, the camera position known as high third provides a very useful angle for determining whether criterion three of OBR 6.01(j) (able and attempts to remain on base) is satisfied, since high third allows a view of whether or not the runner has slid off the back edge of second base.

But in NCAA/college, high first is much more useful because it shows a clear look of the baseline between first and second base, which is vital for determining whether or not the baserunner violated FPSR.

The television broadcast, for whatever reason, showed only the high third angle but not high first, leading the public and the teams—including Iowa—in the dark about the call which replay was able to not only uphold, but confirm, perhaps because the umpires had access to high first...unless the network for whatever reason decided not to staff that vital camera position.

Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 055 - Alex Tosi (3; Joey Bart)

1B Umpire Alex Tosi ejected Pirates catcher Joey Bart (check swing strike one call) in the bottom of the 8th inning of the #Giants-#Pirates game. With two out and none on, Bart attempted to check his swing on a 2-0 slider from Giants pitcher Randy Rodríguez, ruled a ball by HP Umpire Tom Hanahan and called a swinging strike on appeal by 1B Umpire Tosi. After subsequently grounding out on the next pitch, Bart complained to Tosi about the check swing strike call while running past him near first base. At the time of the ejection, the Giants were leading, 7-6. The Giants ultimately won the contest, 7-6.

This is Alex Tosi (66)'s 3rd ejection of 2024.

This is the 55th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 22nd player ejection of 2024. Prior to ejection, Bart was 2-4 (HR, 4 RBI) in the contest.
Ejection Tally: 24 Managers, 9 Coaches, 22 Players.
This is Pittsburgh's 4th ejection of 2024, T-1st in the NL Central (MIL, PIT, STL 4; CHC, CIN 1).
This is Alex Tosi's 3rd ejection of 2024, 1st since May 7 (Brandon Hyde; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

MLB Ejection 054 - Charlie Ramos (1; Oliver Marmol)

HP Umpire Charlie Ramos ejected Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol (strike three call to Lars Nootbaar; QOCN) in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the #Orioles-#Cardinals game. With one out and one on, Nootbaar took a 3-2 slurve from Orioles pitcher John Means for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located off the outer edge of home plate and thigh high (px -1.05, pz 2.36), the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Orioles were leading, 3-0. The Cardinals ultimately won the contest, 5-4.

Also discussed is a 1st inning line drive single by Orioles batter Adley Rutschman to Cardinals left fielder Dylan Carlson. Initially ruled an out by 3B Umpire Mike Estabrook, the crew conferred pursuant to Official Baseball Rules 8.02(c) and 8.03(c), with Crew Chief and 2B Umpire Laz Diaz signaling the outcome of the catch vs trap situation shall be that the batter-runner is safe at first base on the uncaught fly ball. St Louis was unable to challenge the call, as Marmol consumed the 15-second Decision Timer by arguing the play instead.

This is Charlie Ramos (111)'s 1st ejection of 2024.
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
This pitch was located 1.63 horizontal inches from being deemed correct.

This is the 54th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 24th manager ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 24 Managers, 9 Coaches, 21 Players.
This is St Louis' 4th ejection of 2024, T-2nd in the NL Central (MIL, STL 4; PIT 3; CHC, CIN 1).
This is Oliver Marmol's 2nd ejection of 2024, 1st since May 12 (Alan Porter; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).
This is Charlie Ramos' 1st ejection since June 3, 2023 (John Schneider; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).