Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ortiz Obstruction - Houston Misplay Gives Arizona a Run

Arizona's AJ Pollock scored a Little League home run (triple + error) Sunday when HP Umpire Roberto Ortiz called Houston 3B Alex Bregman for obstruction when he and Pollock became entangled after an overthrow in the 6th inning of the Astros-Diamondbacks game.

Ortiz motions for obstruction at third base.
The Play: With one out and one on (R1), Pollock hit a line drive to center fielder George Springer, who threw to cutoff man Carlos Correa as baserunner Daniel Descalso scored Arizona's first run. As Pollock ran toward third base, Correa's throw to Bregman hit the sliding Pollock and caromed wide of the base and off of the third-base dugout. Bregman took off after the ball as Pollock took off toward home plate, the two becoming entangled, causing both players to stumble as Astros pitcher Justin Verlander threw to catcher James McCann, who applied the tag on Pollock prior to the batter-runner's touch of home plate.

Umpire Coverage & Call: With the ball hit to center fielder Springer's right, 3B Umpire Mike DiMuro went out into left field to rule on the potential trouble in the outfield. This initiated a rotation play in which HP Umpire Ortiz ran to cover third base and 1B Umpire Brian Gorman moved to cover home plate. HP Umpire Ortiz ruled that Bregman obstructed Pollock at third, such that when 1B Umpire Gorman called Pollock out at home plate, the umpires imposed the obstruction rule's penalty and awarded Pollock safe passage to home, thus scoring Arizona's second run. The Diamondbacks ultimately won the contest, 3-1.

Quick QOC: Ortiz's call was correct. 3B Bregman obstructed batter-runner Pollock at third base.

BR Pollock and F5 Bregman are entangled.
Analysis: This is an example of Type 2/B obstruction, which occurs when no play is being made on the obstructed runner. By rule, as soon as Correa's throw sailed wide of Bregman—regardless of the fact that it hit Pollock (since Pollock did not intentionally interfere with the play, there is no obligation on the runner to avoid a thrown ball in that situation)—the fielder is said to have "made an attempt to field a ball and missed, [meaning] he can no longer be in the 'act of fielding' the ball."

Pursuant to Rule 6.01(h)(2), after the play is over, "The umpire shall then call 'Time' and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction."

This is not to be confused with automatically awarding the obstructed runner a free base. Though Obstruction Type 1/A does prescribe an automatic one base award (at minimum), Type 2/B does not: its standard is to keep play alive until no further action is possible, and then "nullify the act."
Related PostObstruction Type 2 Does Not Guarantee Free Base (4/29/17).

Had Bregman obstructed Pollock after Pollock touched third base and while a play was being made on Pollock (such as during a rundown), the ball would be declared dead immediately and Pollock awarded home plate on this Type 1 obstruction. If this brand of obstruction occurred before Pollock arrived at third base, the ball would be dead and Pollock awarded third. If the umpires judged that he would have achieved home plate had there been no obstruction, Pollock would be awarded home plate.
Related PostMLB Ejection 027 - Vic Carapazza (1; John Gibbons) (5/8/17).

Type 1's reliance on umpire judgment might sound like Type 2's "nullify the act" procedure, but it is not. "Nullify the act" occurs when play is allowed to continue even after something illegal occurs. Type 1 obstruction results in an immediate dead ball, so there is nothing to "nullify" as there is in Type 2.

Conclusion: Because Pollock raced home and was thrown out by a mere fraction of a second, it can be said that had Bregman's obstruction not occurred, Pollock would have scored safely; thus, the proper penalty for Bregman's obstruction is to score Pollock's run.

Both 1/A and 2/B are defined as, "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."

Reminder: For this call to be made, the runner must be impeded: simply becoming entangled with a fielder isn't enough: the runner's attempt to advance (or retreat) must be hindered in some way.

The Joyce-DeMuth WS call is textbook OBS.
The gold standard of this particular brand of obstruction (illegal contact between fielder and baserunner at third base that occurs after an overthrow/misplayed ball as the runner attempts to advance to home plate) is 3B Umpire Jim Joyce's game-ending obstruction call in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series.

Joyce correctly ruled that Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks obstructed Cardinals baserunner Allen Craig, such that when Craig was thrown out at home plate moments later, HP Umpire Dana DeMuth fulfilled Joyce's ruling by imposing the penalty for Type 2/B obstruction and declared Craig safe for the game-winning run.
Related PostReviewing Jim Joyce's Game-Ending Obstruction Call (10/26/13).

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Ortiz calls obstruction on Astros 3B Bregman as Pollock tries scoring a run (ARI)


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