Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Orioles Turn Triple Play on Contested Infield Fly No-Call

Baltimore turned an odd triple play in Boston thanks an infield fly rule no-call and batter's failure to run to first base and/or abandoning his effort to run the bases. It was the first triple play of the 2017 regular season.

Jim Wolf calls a double play at second base.
With none out and runners on first and second base in the bottom of the 8th inning of Tuesday's Orioles-Red Sox game, Sox batter Jackie Bradley hit a 3-2 pitch from Zach Britton high in the air to shallow left field, where Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy attempted to catch the fly ball. Instead, the ball fell untouched to the grass, whereupon Hardy retrieved it and threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who tagged Red Sox baserunner R2 Mitch Moreland off of the base, stepped onto the second base bag, and threw to first baseman Chris Davis, who tagged first base as Red Sox baserunner R1 Dustin Pedroia stood on the bag, batter Bradley having failed to touch first base. Replays indicate none of the four umpires had declared an Infield Fly during the play and that Bradley returned to the dugout, indicating by his actions that he was out (see abandonment under Rule 5.09(b)(2)).

Holbrook entertains John Farrell's argument.
Upon conference amongst the crew comprised of HP Umpire DJ Reyburn, 1B Umpire and Crew Chief Sam Holbrook, 2B Umpire Jim Wolf, and 3B Umpire Greg Gibson, the triple play stood as the umpires ruled that the play did not qualify for an Infield Fly ruling.

This may seem like deja vu for Holbrook, who was the LF Umpire in Atlanta during MLB's first year of Wild Card Games in 2012, and made a controversial Infield Fly declaration.

As we discussed back then, the Infield Fly has three basic criteria: 1) First and second must be occupied with less than two out. 2) The batter must hit a fair fly ball which is not a line drive or bunt. 3) In the umpire's judgment, the fly ball can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort.

Yes, it WAS gusty at Fenway in the 8th.
Ordinary effort is defined in the Official Baseball Rules as "the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in [MLB] should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions." (Was it windy at Fenway during this play?)

All else equal, a shortstop "of average skill" in 2017 should be comparable to the same in 2012, and as we discussed during our 2012 analysis, "Ordinary effort pertains to the player, not the play. In other words, a shortstop tracking a fly ball into left field and preparing himself to make a play or attempt prior to the ball arriving, as in the STL-ATL play, constitutes ordinary effort."

Rule 5.09(a)(5) states, "A batter is out when—an Infield Fly is declared." Runners may advance at their own risk, but because the force is removed when the batter is out for having hit an Infield Fly, the runners are not obligated to advance. This would explain why Pedroia remained on first base, if he (incorrectly) thought that an Infield Fly had been declared.

Compare and Contrast: 2012 Infield Fly Call in Atlanta vs. 2017 Infield Fly No-Call in Boston
Flashback: Holbrook calls Infield Fly in 2012.
2012: Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma settled (the term "camped" was often used) underneath the location where the fly ball would eventually fall, and in doing so, established, in Holbrook's judgment, that he could catch the ball with ordinary effort.
Time of Ball's Flight (Bat-to-Ground): 6.2 seconds.

2017: Orioles shortstop Hardy never quite settled or camped underneath the ball's final resting place: he was at least a yard too shallow, which may have tipped 3B Umpire Gibson off that the fly ball could not be caught by an infielder employing "ordinary effort."
Time of Ball's Flight (Bat-to-Ground): 5.7 seconds.

2017: Hardy is too shallow to make a catch.
Thus, the main difference between the two fly-ball-into-left-field plays was that one shortstop positioned himself under the ball while the other shortstop never quite got there until it was too late. For what it's worth, Kozma also had approximately half-a-second longer than Hardy to position himself underneath the fly ball.

With no Infield Fly declaration, batter Bradley was not out, and thus, baserunners Moreland and Pedroia were forced to advance—a predicament solidified as soon as Hardy was unable to catch the ball in flight. Still, confusion reigned supreme as Moreland was tagged attempting to run back into second base, while Pedroia never left first base, and Bradley failed to run out his fly ball: In other words, a triple play.

Non-AER Affiliated Broadcasting Non-Award: Bob Costas said, "They had called the infield fly rule," even though replays clearly indicated that none of the four umpires signaled for an infield fly.

Video via "Read More"

Alternate Link: Baltimore turns a triple play thanks to infield fly no-call, batter's failure to run (MLBN)


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