Thursday, October 25, 2012

Squibbers: How a Batted Ball Becomes Fair or Foul at Home

All ground batted balls that result in an out are, by rule, fair—at least in today's game. In 1864's National Association of Base-Ball Players rules, also known as the first rules of base ball, foul balls caught on the first bound (bounce) resulted in an out (Sections 12, 14). In 1883, the National League specified that only balls caught on the fly were to be considered outs, while the American Association kept the 1865 ruling.
Fair territory includes a triangular
portion of the batter's boxes

Another product of the 1863 New York conference that became the '64 rules book was Section 9, which stated, "If the ball, from a stroke of the bat, first touches the ground ... behind the range of home and first base, or home and third base, it shall be termed foul and must be so declared by the umpire, unasked."

Still, Rule IV-27 of the 1880s American Association rules book defined a fair hit as a batted ball and as a ground ball that, among other possibilities, "(whether it first touches Foul or Fair Ground) bounds or rolls within the Foul Lines, between Home and First or Home and Third Bases, without first touching the person of a player."

In the modern, 21st century OBR book, caught one-hoppers do not result in a "hand out" while fair/foul ball status in front of first and third base is not determined until the ball settles or is touched by a player or object.
A FAIR BALL is a batted ball that settles on fair ground between home and first/third base ... or that while on or over fair territory touches the person of an umpire or player... (Rule 2.00 [FAIR BALL])
Be advised that in the event of a batted ball, the batter's box may protect a batter from being put out under the auspices of Rule 6.05 (Rule 6.03 exemption). Though a baseball field does not generally draw foul lines through the batter's box (for clarity), these lines do exist and, invisible as they may be, are used to determine fair/foul status (see 6.05 exemption). For a diagram, see Umpire Odds & Ends: Batter's Box Bafflement.

To learn more about batted balls hitting batters at home, please see Rule 6.05(g)(h): Batted Ball Interference.

Nonetheless, this seemingly simple concept of fair/foul status has resulted in conflict and even ejection. In a twist of the UEFL's standard "Test Yourself" section, see below for a list of play scenarios and apply a ruling—using 1864 rules and comparing those to the MLB rules in use today. To this end, home plate is a pentagon.

Batted Ball Striking Foul Territory Behind Home, Rolling into & Being First Touched/Settling on Fair Territory
Ejections: James Hoye (1)/Ozzie Guillen, B1 hits a slider into the dirt behind home plate. As the ball spins directly onto home plate, F2 picks it up and tags B1. Video features Guillen's kick of Soto's catchers' mask.
Ejection 006: Dale Scott (1)/Bud Black, B1 bunts a fastball into the dirt behind home plate. The ball spins into the LHH box and within the foul lines where F2 fields it. Disregard the mechanics demonstrated.
Ejection 089: Dan Bellino (4)/Miguel Cairo, B1 hits a sinker into the dirt behind home plate; the ball spins onto home plate and begins its roll back off the dish. F2 picks up the ball as it is no longer in contact with home plate, but the planar edge of the baseball is located graphically above the pentagon.
2012 World Series, Gm 1, B1 hits a ball into the dirt behind home plate; the ball spins into the right-handed batter's box where B1 is standing. F2 fields the ball in the fair territory triangle of the batter's box, tags B1 and throws to F6. The force removed, F6 must apply the tag on R1, which he does for a double play.

Correct Answer: All of these balls are fair and, with the exception of Ejection 006, all plays were officiated correctly. Ejection 006 contained an incorrect mechanic that resulted in mass confusion and a triple play.


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