Saturday, July 27, 2019

Fair Deflection Out of Play - 2 Bases from TOP

History repeated itself in Toronto Friday, when Rays left fielder Tommy Pham deflected Blue Jays batter Freddy Galvis' fair ball into the stands, resulting in a two-base award from time-of-pitch (thus preventing runner R1 Randal Grichuk from scoring from first), as enforced by Chief Jerry Meals' umpire crew.

This isn't even the first time Official Baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4) has come into play on a bouncing batted ball deflected into the stands at Rogers Centre, though last time around, the umpires called the play differently. This time, however, Meals and 3B Umpire Gabe Morales officiated the sequence as prescribed by the book.

Umpires discuss the call.
First let's revisit OBR 5.06(b)(4) ("Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines") and the relevant MLB Umpire Manual Interpretation, which holds that, "If a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and then goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch" and "If, in the judgment of the umpires, a fielder intentionally kicks or deflects a batted or thrown ball out of play, the award is two bases from the time the ball was kicked or deflected."

Pham tries to field Galvis' bouncing ball.
Had Pham possessed the ball in his glove and then caused it to go out of play, the award would also be two bases from the time of deflection (treated as a thrown ball going out of play; two bases from time of throw).

Although the ball appeared to momentarily hit the pocket of Pham's glove, the guiding principle for possession (and transfer) is another matter entirely. Think: If Pham was a middle infielder trying to turn a double play and lost the ball in this fashion, would he be credited for an out at second base and losing the ball on the transfer? If so, you have possession. If not (as I believe is the case here), you have a mere deflection.

In this case, 3B Umpire Morales determined that LF Pham unintentionally deflected the batted ball out of play, resulting in a two-base award from time-of-pitch. This is a standard rule, but when combined with an unorthodox stadium that has the propensity for producing pinballs off the turf—namely, Toronto and Tampa Bay—it has the effect of creating some seemingly unusual baserunner placement, which is actually pretty standard.

Montoyo speaks with Vic Carapazza.
Unfortunately for Blue Jays Manager Charlie Montoyo, who attempted to argue the ruling to no avail, this is a fairly standard call in an unusual stadium, as affirmed via Replay Review (rules check).

History: In 2017, Blue Jays batter Teoscar Hernandez hit a high fly ball to right field, which fell untouched in fair territory before taking a high bounce into foul ground, where it was deflected by Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo out of play. After crew discussion, and although HP Umpire Chris Segal had initially sent batter-runner Hernandez back to second base, 1B Umpire and Crew Chief Brian Gorman modified the ruling and placed Hernandez at third base, instead.
Related PostCase Play 2017-9 - The Deflected Error Triple [Solved] (9/14/17).

Trumbo deflects a ball out of play in 2017.
As our analysis at the time indicates, the only possible way Gorman could have awarded Hernandez third was if he ruled that Trumbo either had complete possession or intentionally deflected the ball out of play while Hernandez was somewhere between first and second base (two bases from time of intentional act). Replays indicate Hernandez had already achieved second base at the time of deflection, meaning the only two possible outcomes should have been placement at second base (if unintentional deflection) or home plate (if possession or intentional deflection).

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Galvis hits a double into left field as Tommy Pham deflects the ball (TOR)


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