Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Tricky Boundary Coverage

From the better late than never department, today's Teachable Moment concerning Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts' sliding attempt to save a live ball from entering the dugout involves many umpire considerations for this complex boundary call.

Fumbled ball leads to a tricky coverage play.
The first thing I notice is that it must be cold because all the field umpires are in heavy coats. 2B Umpire Todd Tichenor has his ears covered, yet our home plate guy, Bill Miller, is in short sleeves.

The play begins in a 4-man system with a runner on first and less than two outs, which means if our 3rd base umpire goes out, we have a rotation. With a lefty at-bat and the defense shifting him to pull, that probably won't happen...

...Sure enough, we have a rocket to the left center gap and out goes U3 Alan Porter. Plate Umpire Miller properly rotates to 3rd and as the ball is thrown back into the infield, it nearly hits Miller as it is deflected toward the 3rd base dugout: Now we have a potential boundary play (Rule 5.06(b)(4), two bases if this ball goes out of play)—a free for all!

U3 Porter and UIC Miller head toward the play.
Umpire Locations & Responsibilities:
U3 - Left field, having gone out on the batted ball.
UIC - Third base, having rotated to take the play at third.
U1 - Home plate, having rotated to take the play at home.
U2 - Infield, prepared to take plays at first or second.

In this edition of when players make the umpire's life miserable, we see...who's that—is it bird, a plane...?—no, it's 3B Umpire Al Porter coming back in to try to provide help on a ball potentially going out of play. You may not notice him the first time you watch, but he's there hustling into a position where he can SAVE the crew. Miller, who most assuredly can't see Porter along the foul-territory wall in shallow left field, also is keeping an eye on the ball, but he can't vacate 3rd (or can he?) as he may have a potential play with the batter-runner coming to 3rd base or R1 going back into third.

U1 Angel Hernandez, who is now at the plate, can't leave his area as he too may have a potential play on the baserunner that may try and score. Meanwhile, UIC Miller, not seeing U3 Porter, does decide to vacate and and U2 Tichenor fills in the space and splits the difference in what is now a 2-man infield between himself and U1 Hernandez.

Angel Hernandez's positioning is strategic.
This is great umpiring all-around, but it doesn't stop there.

When the trainer and Red Sox Manager Alex Cora come onto the field to attend to Bogaerts at about 1:30, we see U1 Hernandez keeping his distance, but standing between the huddle and the pitcher's mound, while at the 2:05-mark in the video, after Hernandez has joined Miller on the headsets to Replay HQ, we see U2 Tichnor walking off with the injured Red Sox player skipper. Is TT a certified athletic trainer?  Does he just really care about the injured player?  Maybe, but it's more likely he's just making sure Cora doesn't give any advice to his pitcher who is wandering around behind the mound—we've got mound visit limitations to worry about now, after all.

It started with U1 Hernandez at 1:30 and ended with U2 Tichenor at 2:05—a perfect handoff!

Todd Tichenor picks up the Sox as they leave.
Later we see Cora talking to TT probably asking him if he can make a pitching change now (he has to wait for the replay to be over)...and remember, all of this coordination and coverage is happening while the ball is dead.

Picking up your crewmates is something that can save a crew from a firestorm and the field umpires do an excellent job here, but what if this is was a crew of two to begin with?

In that case, splitting differences is very important; you don't want to overcommit. If the plate umpire realizes there will be no play at third, it opens the door to slink back towards home while trying to keep ball and runner in the line-of-sight.

In a lower level game, it's much more likely that the ball either goes out of play or that R1 attempts to score on an overthrow so you always have to be thinking about your next possible play while also being aware of your next possible call. The other question is if this ball goes out of play, where would you have placed the runners? It this an uncontrolled fumble or failed—but controlled—flip to no one (we had a case play about this not too long ago...)?
Related PostUEFL Case Play 2018-6 - Kicked Out of Play [Solved] (7/23/18).

This is a fun play to watch and admire the work of the umpires, but also a lesson that we need to be prepared for anything at any time.  As always have fun and Happy Umpiring!

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Bogaerts saves ball from entering the dugout on confirmed call (BOS)


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