Saturday, July 9, 2016

Rules Review - Running into the Wrong Fielder

We discussed obstruction, now let's talk about interference on a batted ball. This weekend's play took place Saturday in Cleveland with Tom Hallion's crew presiding, but first let's put obstruction to bed.

U3 Hallion explains his call to Terry Francona.
Case Play 2016-5 concerned a potential obstruction play, correctly no-called as the runner was retired before obstruction took place, while Case Play 2014-4 concerned obstruction on the batter-runner during a batted ball situation when two defensive players converged to try and field the same batted ball; when the batter-runner ran into one of those players, HP Umpire Greg Gibson properly ruled obstruction (Type 1/A) and awarded the batter-runner first base as a penalty.

Analysis of the 2014 obstruction play in Anaheim concerned Official Baseball Rule 6.09(a)(10) [then-7.09(j)], which addresses interference, not obstruction, though its interpretation is relevant to obstruction.

OBR 6.09(a)(10) states that interference occurs when [the batter or runner] "fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball."

Only one fielder is entitled to protection.
The portion of this rule relevant to obstruction is that only one fielder is entitled to protection via 6.09(a)(10): Only one fielder may be judged, so to speak, to be "the act of fielding." For this reason, the Anaheim play was properly ruled obstruction. In Anaheim, umpire Gibson ruled the pitcher was entitled to protection, meaning that the unprotected first baseman illegally impeded the batter-runner's progress by standing directly between the runner and the base he was trying to achieve.

Earlier this week, in Chicago, for instance, 1B Umpire Vic Carapazza ruled the first baseman was entitled to protection, meaning that the unprotected pitcher illegally impeded the batter-runner's progress.

The Anaheim and Chicago plays set up a wonderful compare-and-contrast model for Saturday's interference play in Cleveland. With none out and runners at first and second base, Indians batter Carlos Santana hit a ground ball between shortstop and third base. Replays indicate that as Yankees third baseman Chase Headley and shortstop Didi Gregorius both charged in to field the slow chopper, Headley collided with baserunner R2 Francisco Lindor, who himself was trying to achieve third base. 2B Umpire Dan Bellino and 3B Umpire Tom Hallion immediately signaled the play dead and Lindor out for Rule 6.09(a)(10) interference, awarding Santana first base and forcing R1 Mike Napoli to occupy second.

Diagram: The players run along the infield.
The penalty for unintentional interference as a result of 6.09(a)(10) is: "If the batter-runner is adjudged not to have hindered a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball, and if the base runner’s interference is adjudged not to be intentional, the batter-runner shall be awarded first base."

It all comes down to umpire judgment: Both U2 Bellino and U3 Hallion believed that of 3B Headley and SS Gregorius, it was 3B Headley—not Gregorius—who was entitled to protection via 6.09(a)(10). In other words, both umpires believed that F5 Headley was best posited to make a play on the batted ball, meaning that Lindor's contact with Headley while Headley attempted to field the batted ball was in violation of Rule 6.09(a)(10) and, thus, offensive interference.

SIDEBAR: Had the umpires ruled that F6 Gregorius—not Headley—was entitled to 6.09(a)(10) protection, they may have ruled the play obstruction (TYPE 2 / TYPE B, as no play was being made on the runner), and protected R2 Lindor to third base, most likely resulting in a bases-loaded situation when Gregorius fumbled the grounder. Conversely, if Headley was protected but Gregorius was not, and Lindor had run into Gregorius, that too would be eligible for obstruction.

Video: Runner plows into third baseman attempting to field batted ball; INT ruled ("Read more")
Alternate Link: Collision between second and third results in an interference force out at third (FOX)


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