Saturday, July 9, 2016

Case Play 2016-5 - Pitcher and Catcher Collab [Solved]

A pitcher, catcher and runner all descended on a three square-foot area at home plate on Monday, leading to HP Umpire Manny Gonzalez's out call on a unique bases-loaded force play.

Is this obstruction? Why or why not?
Play: With one out and three on (R1, R2, R3) in the top of the 7th inning of the July 4 Athletics-Twins game, A's batter Jake Smolinski hit a ground ball to Twins pitcher Taylor Rogers, who charged in toward home plate while fielding the batted ball, but fumbled the ensuing transfer to his bare hand. Fortuitously for Minnesota, the ball then bounced directly to catcher Juan Centeno, who was lying with his right foot in contact with home plate ahead of A's baserunner R3 Khris Davis' arrival from third base; Replays indicate R3 Davis had to run around F1 Rogers in order to touch home plate. The force out was accordingly scored 1-2.

Case Play Question: Is this the proper result (R3 out) or should obstruction have been ruled? Why or why not? If this isn't obstruction, what circumstance(s), if different, would have satisfied the obstruction criteria?

Case Play 2014-4: Batter-Runner Obstruction, in which HP Umpire Greg Gibson ruled obstruction when two A's fielders came together on a weakly hit ball up the line as an Angels batter ran to first base, may prove relevant to your explanation.

Relevant Rules: OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. The relevant penalty is Rule 6.01(h)(1). ["If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out."]

Case Play Solution: As many have stated below, Gonzalez properly ruled R3 out on the force play; this is not obstruction. However, this would have been obstruction had the runner not been forced to home plate. The reason for this is timing, as replays indicate that the out was recorded at home plate (F2 tagged home plate while holding the ball) prior to F1's impedence of R3's progress. Since the out preceded the obstruction, the runner was out—and ineligible to benefit from an obstruction ruling—prior to the pitcher's violative act.

Had R3 not been put out before F1 impeded his progress (if F2 never touched home plate or it wasn't a force play), the proper call would have been obstruction (Type 1 [Type A]) and R3 would have been awarded home plate.

Also noteworthy: The home plate collision/blocking rule does not apply to force plays. Thank goodness.

Video: Weakly hit ground ball is half-fielded and half-deflected back home for an out ("Read more")
Alternate Link: Odd sequence at Target Field results in a bases-loaded force out at home plate (MIN)


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