Monday, July 8, 2019

HP Collision Rule - Marisnick Illegally Hits Lucroy

Astros baserunner Jake Marisnick barreled into and injured Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a textbook example of an illegal slide in violation of Home Plate Collision Rule 6.01(i). HP Umpire Mike Estabrook called Marisnick out in a ruling upheld via Replay Review as the result of a Manager's Challenge by Houston Manager AJ Hinch, drawing a chorus of boos from the Minute Maid Park crowd, but as the following analysis will illustrate, the call was correct and should be used to train umpires as to what a 6.01(i)(1) violation looks like.

The Play: With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th inning and the score tied at 10, Astros batter George Springer hit a 2-2 fastball from Angels pitcher Hansel Robles in the air to right fielder Kole Calhoun, who caught the fly ball to retire Springer and threw to catcher Jonathan Lucroy as Astros baserunner R3 Jake Marisnick tagged up and attempted to score, resulting in a collision between Lucroy and Marisnick as the baseball bounced freely behind home plate.

HP Umpire Estabrook observes the play.
The Call: After the conclusion of play, HP Umpire Mike Estabrook, in consultation with 1B Umpire Crew Chief Bruce Dreckman and field umpires John Libka (2B), and Chad Fairchild (3B), ruled Marisnick out for violation of Official Baseball Rule 6.01(i)(1), otherwise known as the home plate collision rule, wiping out Houston's go-ahead sacrifice fly and awarding Los Angeles an inning-ending double play.

The Rule: OBR 6.01(i)(1) applies to the runner and states, "A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision. If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (regardless of whether the catcher maintains possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 6.01(i)."

SIDEBAR: It goes without saying that if this play occurred 10 years ago at the Major League level, it would have been legal and there would be nothing to discuss. Alas, we now have Rule 6.01(i) that is designed to eliminate collisions at home plate, including the Marisnick-Lucroy crash play.

Lucroy is legally positioned up the line.
Analysis: Although Lucroy did appear to move up the line to field the throw (recall that it is a legal play if "the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in a legitimate attempt to field the throw" [6.01(i)(2)]), and this complicated matters for baserunner Marisnick looking to score, replays indicate Lucroy's entire body was positioned in fair territory at the time of the collision. In other words, Lucroy provided a pathway to home plate for Marisnick.

Yet for the sake of argument and illustration, we shall disregard the issue of run-path and pay attention only to the quality of Marisnick's slide.

Rule 6.01(i)(1) Comment states, in part, "The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 6.01(i), or otherwise initiated a collision that could have been avoided."

Marisnick lowered his shoulder into Lucroy.
Replays indicate Marisnick's slide was illegal because he lowered his shoulder and barreled into Lucroy, and failed to make an effort to touch the plate (you'll notice on the replay that Marisnick pinballed off Lucroy, which is the only reason he bounced toward home plate; had he continued on his trajectory, he would have slid well to the right of home plate).

To that end, Marisnick's slide fails two of the test criteria specified in the rule's comment (lowered shoulder and no effort to touch home plate; you'll notice Marisnick must reach back to touch the plate after his post-collision roll), and for this reason, the slide is illegal.

How Marisnick Could Have Legally Scored: Rule 6.01(i)(1) Comment also instructs runners of their responsibilities to ensure their slides are legal: "In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher."

Replays clearly demonstrate that Marisnick's slide did not conform to this requirement.

Marisnick deviated from his path to home.
If Marisnick attempts to slide into home plate as opposed to away from the plate (in this case, into the catcher, whether intentionally or by doesn't especially matter which as intent isn't the only criterion for this rule), then his slide may be deemed legal if contact with the catcher occurs: "If a catcher blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall not find that the runner initiated an avoidable collision in violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(1)".

The accompanying diagram indicates runner Marisnick's starting point during his penultimate step before contact with catcher Lucroy (pink X), direct path to home plate (yellow line) and deviation from that path to initiate contact with Lucroy (blue line...again, "initiate contact" is somewhat of a misnomer as intent isn't part of the home plate collision rule). The green line represents the entirety of foul territory, which has been vacated by Lucroy. You'll notice that had Marisnick stayed true to his direct pathway to home plate from his foul territory origin (the yellow line), he likely would have avoided crashing into Lucroy.

Marisnick prepares to crash into Lucroy.
One other footnote or clue exists in the catcher's portion of the collision rule, 6.01(i)(2): "In addition, a catcher without possession of the ball shall not be adjudged to violate this Rule 6.01(i)(2) if the runner could have avoided the collision with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) by sliding."

Again, even if you're thinking Lucroy blocked the plate, Marisnick's "slide" was not legal, which thus absolves the catcher of his Rule 6.01(i)(2) restriction. With our catcher legal pursuant to 6.01(i)(2), attention turns toward the runner, whose actions in failing to make an effort to touch the plate while lowering his shoulder contribute to the determination that the runner has violated the rule.

Had Marisnick at least attempted to touch home plate by taking a path along the foul line or to the outside of it (e.g., in foul territory), contact with Lucroy would have been deemed incidental. Because Marisnick failed to do this and the other aforementioned acts in running toward the catcher in fair territory, his slide was a clear violation of the home plate collision rule, 6.01(i)(1). Intentionally or inadvertently, the result of the play is an out and dead ball. This was a fairly easy confirmed call for the Replay Official.

Brief Note on Baseball Rules Differences: In NCAA/college ball, the relevant rule is 8-7-7-b (Collision Rule), which states, "A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision." The NCAA rule for this play is nearly identical to the OBR version, with one additional wrinkle.

Greater penalties could apply at lower levels.
Depending on your interpretation, you could deem this a Flagrant Collision between baserunner and fielder in which "the runner maliciously attempts to dislodge the ball." If so, the runner would be ejected from the contest. Bear in mind, however, the catcher did not appear to have possession of the ball at the time of the collision.

Under NFHS/high school rules, the catchall malicious contact rule could be invoked ("initiate malicious contact on offense or defense" (3-3-1m)), the penalty for which is an immediate dead ball, out call, and ejection from the game of the offending player (cross-references NFHS 5-1-1m and 4-2-e ["runner is out when he: initiates malicious contact...Malicious contact always supersedes obstruction"]).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Jake Marisnick bowls over Jonathan Lucroy in a violation of Rule 6.01(i) (CCS)


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