Monday, August 12, 2019

Barber's Batter Interference - Mancini Impedes Chirinos

When HP Umpire Sean Barber declared Orioles runner Jonathan Villar out for teammate Trey Mancini's interference in Baltimore, he enforced Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(5) that deals with a batter who impedes a catcher's throw at home plate by illegally stepping out of the box.

As the following video analysis illustrates, this hindrance may appear subtle at first, but on review, it is quite apparent that in stepping out of the box, Mancini impeded Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos' throw to second base in an attempt to retire baserunner Villar.

Ordinarily, a batter committing interference in such a manner is out for the illegal act while the runner is returned to his base of origin. The relevant rule is 6.03(a)(3), which states, "A batter is out for illegal action when—He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base," and whose penalty states, "If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call 'interference.' The batter is out and the ball dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference."

However, because Mancini struck out on the pitch during which the interfering act occurred (swing-and-a-miss on a 3-2 slider from Houston pitcher Justin Verlander that was legally caught by the catcher), an additional rule was invoked in OBR 6.01(a)(5), which states, "It is interference by a batter or a runner when—any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate."

Sidebar: Once again, there need not be contact for interference (or obstruction). That is a harmful rules myth. The only standard is whether or not the fielder was impeded by the retired batter. 

Tmac's Take: This also means the catcher does not have to complete a throw. If the batter's illegal actions impeded the catcher's ability to throw the ball, that too is interference, even if the ball never leaves home plate. Naturally, an umpire must judge whether or not the catcher would have actually thrown the ball had the batter not interfered (e.g., we're probably not looking at interference if the pitcher throws a wild pitch).  Also, notice that Barber with a right-handed batter takes a step left; If there was a left-handed batter you should take a step right to see this play.  The angle will open up.  For a switch-hitter do the hokey pokey!!  That's what it's all about!

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Barber judges the retired batter's actions as impeding the catcher (CCS)

Second Video: On the other hand, at the 3:02:30 mark of this Ottawa-Rockland CanAm League game, you'll see what happens when an umpire doesn't acknowledge a batter's interference situation.


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