Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Mets End Game on Bobbled Foul Tip

When Yankees batter Brett Gardner made contact with a 3-2 fastball from Mets pitcher Edwin Diaz, NYM catcher Wilson Ramos bobbled the ball and caught it for foul tip strikeout? As umpire Gary Cederstrom—who became yet the latest umpire hit by a pitch or foul ball during a Mets game in 2019—signaled the final out, we review an odd looking non-fly-ball.

The Play: With two out in the 9th inning, Yankees batter Brett Gardner swung and fouled a 3-2 fastball from Mets pitcher Edwin Diaz off the glove of catcher Wilson Ramos and into the air, whereupon the ball ricocheted off Ramos' free hand and back into his glove for a game-ending catch.

Ramos catches a flying foul tip for strike 3.
The Call: This play was ruled a swinging strikeout by HP Umpire Gary Cederstrom, specifically a foul tip.

The Rule: This is indeed a foul tip. Although the Official Baseball Rules' definition of the term states, "A FOUL TIP is a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to the catcher’s hands and is legally caught. It is not a foul tip unless caught and any foul tip that is caught is a strike, and the ball is in play. It is not a catch if it is a rebound, unless the ball has first touched the catcher’s glove or hand," the most relevant rule is found in OBR 5.09(a)(2) Comment, which refers to "The batter is out when—a third strike is legally caught by the catcher."

The tail end of a foul tip in Milwaukee, 2015.
OBR 5.09(a)(2) Comment states, "If a foul tip first strikes the catcher’s glove and then goes on through and is caught by both hands against his body or protector, before the ball touches the ground, it is a strike, and if third strike, batter is out. If smothered against his body or protector, it is a catch provided the ball struck the catcher’s glove or hand first."

Analysis: The comment's hypothetical scenario is pretty much what happened here, and it's also what happened in a UEFL Case Play from 2015, when HP Umpire Ryan Blakney similarly ruled a foul tip when Diamondbacks batter Jarrod Saltalamacchia's offering deflected off Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado's glove and into the air, where it was caught on the fly by the diving catcher.
Related PostCase Play 2015-04, The Flying Foul Tip [Solved] (6/8/15).

As we wrote in the Case Play, the main consideration is what the ball touched first after coming off the bat. If it's the hands/glove/mitt, it can be legally caught. If it's another part of the catcher's equipment or body, it cannot be legally caught.

To summarize:
Bat => Catcher's Hand, Glove, or Mitt => Caught or Smothered = FOUL TIP.
Bat => Anything Else => Caught or Smothered = FOUL BALL.
The ball's first point of contact: the mitt.

Implications: Finally, we'll discuss what this means in real life. Recall that the ball remains live during a foul tip, but is dead on a foul ball. Thus, if we had less than two outs (or less than two strikes) in New York, our baserunner could have legally stolen third base while the catcher was juggling the foul tip—and because it was a foul tip and not a legally caught foul ball (e.g., an actual fly ball that is caught in the air), there is no requirement to "tag up" or retouch a base. In such event, a quick-thinking catcher—with less than two strikes on the batter—might strategically choose to let the ball fall to the ground for the express purpose of preventing a potential stolen base.

But with two strikes, it's better to catch the ball for a strikeout | Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Ramos' juggling foul tip recalls a Milwaukee play from 2015 (CCS)


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