Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Blue Jays' Obstruction B Award is Not Automatic

The Toronto Blue Jays, by way of Buffalo learned an important lesson about Obstruction Type 2 (B) during Tuesday's game against Miami when baserunner Lourdes Gurriel Jr was called out at third base after 2B Umpire Chad Whitson's obstruction call and the umpires' determination that had the violation not occurred, the runner would nonetheless have been put out at third base.

The Play: With two out and a runner on second in the bottom of the 2nd inning of Tuesday's Marlins-Jays game, Miami pitcher Elieser Hernandez attempted to pickoff R2 Gurriel, erring on this throw and launching the ball into shallow center field. As fielder Jonathan Villar lay on the ground having missed the throw, he became entangled with runner Gurriel, thus hindering Gurriel from running the bases unencumbered and drawing an obstruction call from 2B Umpire Whitson. After recovering from the entanglement, Gurriel continues toward third base, where he is thrown out.

In 2017, we wrote about the myth of Obstruction 2 (formerly OBS B) and a free base award: When a play is not being made on a runner and Type 2 Obstruction occurs, there is no automatic award. Instead, the remedy, as Rule 6.01(h)(2) states, is "The umpire shall then call 'Time' and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction."
Related PostObstruction Type 2 Does Not Guarantee Free Base (4/29/17).

Angel Hernandez calls obstruction for R2.
To further clarify, OBR 6.01(h)(2) comment declares, "When the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire’s judgment, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call."

Thus, the question here is simply whether baserunner Gurriel Jr would have made it to third base safely had obstruction not occurred.

Gil's Call/Analysis: This is a tough play. We first deem that OBS 2 is properly invoked because at the time obstruction ("the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner") occurs, the ball has already been missed by the middle infielder.

Gurriel returns to second standing.
As the accompanying image demonstrates, the runner does not slide back into but instead stands on second base. In doing so, the runner keeps himself in a better position to push off of second base with his right foot and advance to third base in the event he choses to do so.

One tenth of a second later, Gurriel shifts his weight and assumes a posture suggesting he is attempting to advance to third base. At this time, he trips over the prone fielder, resulting in hindrance and obstruction.

A mathematical obstruction award ruling.
Play is properly kept alive and runner Gurriel is thrown out at third. After crew consultation amongst chief Mark Carlson's crew of Whitson, 1B Umpire Roberto Ortiz and HP Umpire James Hoye, the out call prevails with the umpires ruling that had obstruction not occurred, Gurriel would nonetheless have been thrown out at third base (nullify the act).

But is that correct? Having the benefit of replay, slow motion, and a stopwatch, we see that the difference in time between the third baseman receiving the throw and tagging out the runner was 0.94 seconds, while the total time the runner was hindered by the middle infielder was approximately 1.74 seconds. Under simple math alone, we find that 1.74 seconds is greater than 0.94 seconds (suggesting Miami's obstruction might have made a difference), but do other variables confound this play, pursuant to the tenets of butterfly theory? What's your call?

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Obstruction in Toronto (via Buffalo) - Type 2 is Not Automatic (CCS)


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