Thursday, October 10, 2019

Teachable - Clearing the Catcher on a Wild Pitch

This edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments pertains to an umpire's positioning responsibilities during a wild pitch with a potential play at the plate involving a runner from third base. Clearing the catcher, as Fieldin Culbreth demonstrates, is the first step in preparing for a play, but what happens next?

The first step for a home plate umpire on a wild pitch/passed ball play with a runner coming home from third is to spin off the catcher by reading where the catcher wants to go, and then getting out of this fielder's way. Taking the mask off will likely come after the catcher leaves the vicinity, since the most important thing is to minimize the potential for collision with the catcher.

Here, we follow Culbreth during a Red Sox-Rangers game as Shawn Kelley's pitch bounces to the backstop.

After clearing the catcher, an umpire should continue to read the fielders—the catcher's actions will communicate where the ball is, while it's a pretty solid bet that the pitcher will be running home to cover the plate.

Sometimes it isn't feasible to be 3BLE.
Accordingly, the umpire should ensure that the catcher has an unobstructed look at home plate from wherever the catcher is near the backstop—this is the most likely path the catcher will use to throw the ball to the pitcher and an umpire should stand nowhere near this path.

A plate umpire may continue to adjust position in response to the fielders' actions and then prepare to take this play just like any other tag play—with freedom to position adjust as needed to get a keyhole angle look at the action area, and with great regard for the fact that the throw is coming from behind the plate, not in front of it.

The pitcher would block the umpire at 3BLE.
It's not always practicable to start at point of plate or even third baseline extended because of the potential for getting in the way of the catcher's throw, so a plate umpire may alternately stand close to the first base foul line—it's all dependent on where the catcher goes and how the pitcher sets up for a tag. For instance, Rangers pitcher Kelley sets up in a way that would block the plate umpire from seeing the play from the third baseline extended position; in order to get the keyhole from the behind-the-plate angle, the umpire would likely have to move into the catcher's throw, which could complicate the play.

In this situation, Culbreth moves far away from a place where me may get in the way of a potential play—and if this is an umpire's route, that umpire should be prepared to adjust positioning based on the fielders' actions, which Culbreth does by continuing to circle around into fair territory. In this situation, the reverse angle is not possible due to the catcher throw and the direction of the runner's arrival.

This edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments is brought to you by Umpire Placement Course.

Alternate Link: Teachable Moment - Clearing the Catcher on a Wild Pitch (CCS)


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