Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Keep Running - Ball Remains Alive During Swing Appeal

An important lesson for umpires and teams alike concerns appeals on the half swing, especially with a 3-2 count. HP Umpire Dan Bellino's ejection of Toronto Manager John Gibbons in Minnesota provides a prime example of what can happen when a runner stops running during a check swing appeal.

The Play: With one out and one on (R1), Blue Jays baserunner Aledmys Diaz attempted to steal second base as batter Teoscar Hernandez attempts to check his swing on a 3-2 pitch, initially ruled a ball and no swing by Bellino, who immediately appealed to 1B Umpire Phil Cuzzi as Twins catcher Jason Castro threw to second baseman Brian Dozier.

Assuming the pitch was ball four, Diaz stopped running between first and second, was tagged by Dozier, and declared out by 2B Umpire Adam Hamari as a result of 1B Umpire Cuzzi's decision that Hernandez had swung and, thus, struck out.
Related PostMLB Ejection 029 - Dan Bellino (1; John Gibbons) (5/2/18).

The Rule: The half swing appeal is derived from OBR 8.02(c), whose comment warns:
Baserunners must be alert to the possibility that the base umpire on appeal from the plate umpire may reverse the call of a ball to the call of a strike, in which event the runner is in jeopardy of being out by the catcher’s throw. Also, a catcher must be alert in a base stealing situation if a ball call is reversed to a strike by the base umpire upon appeal from the plate umpire...The ball is in play on appeal on a half swing.
Catcher Castro adhered to the cautionary comment, whereas Diaz failed to remain vigilant.

Analysis: Plate umpire Bellino's mechanics are a perfect exercise in timing for this type of play. In contrast to Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez's complaint ("Hey, make a call man!"), Bellino immediately makes his determination that the pitch is a ball and not swung at, and gestures to 1B Umpire Cuzzi to signal his appeal on the half swing. Bellino signals with his right arm, which some associations may take umbrage with—this is a variance in umpiring related to the hand used for a called strike mechanic, so check with your local leadership for guidance on which arm to use for swing appeals—but his call is clear and apparent to all who see it.

Off-camera, Cuzzi rules on the appeal, and more importantly, holds his clenched fist for a beat longer. The is important because 2B Umpire Hamari's primary responsibility on this play is to observe the tag on the baserunner attempting to steal. Once the runner stops short on the base path and the tag is completed, Hamari looks over at Cuzzi to see the "swing" call, and then returns his attention to the runner to declare the third out of the inning.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Ejection in Minnesota reminds us that play remains live during half swing appeals (UEFL)


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