Thursday, August 6, 2020

CPBL Demotes Umpire After Infield Fly Call

A controversial bases-loaded infield fly rule call overseas resulted in a 10-minute delay and, after the game, the calling umpire's demotion from the CPBL to Taiwan baseball's minor leagues. Was the call correct and why or why not? We dive into the rules to answer this question.

Starting with the definition of Infield Fly Rule would be most helpful: "An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule."

According to Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(2)(5), "A batter is out when—An Infield Fly is declared." and an umpire shall declare an infield fly when "it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly."

To summarize, an umpire has three key checkmarks to dole out in determining whether the infield fly criteria has been satisfied and should only declare an infield fly after all three boxes are marked.
(1) First & second base must be occupied with less than two out (third may or may not be occupied).
(2) The batter must hit a fair fly ball (a ball hit into the air), which is not a line drive nor a bunt, that;
(3) In the umpire's judgment, can be caught by an infielder (F1 - F6) employing ordinary effort.

Compare to Sam Holbrook's 2012 INF Fly.
Gil's Call: Back to the August 6 CPBL game between the Fubon Guardians and Rakuten Monkeys, I've color-coded the three criteria above as to my personal judgment as to their satisfaction. Yes, this is clearly a potential infield fly situation: runners are at first and second base with one out. Criteria number two is where I start to lose my willingness to call an infield fly: The batter definitely hits the ball into the air, but its trajectory and low arc suggests it may not quite fit the fly ball mold.

Even with room for interpretation as to this rule's second point, the third criterion—can be caught by an infielder employing ordinary effort—should seal the deal. Recall that "ordinary effort" is defined as, "the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in [CPBL in this case] should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions."

An extended argument from the home team.
Based on this definition, I do not believe the second baseman could have caught this ball with ordinary effort. Accordingly, even if we were to have deemed fair fly ball criterion two as satisfied, we would be prohibited by rule from calling 'infield fly' due to failure to satisfy the rule's ordinary effort clause.

The second part of the analysis pertains to game management. When 2B Umpire Qiu Jingyan made the infield fly call, 1B Umpire Ji Huawen, after observing his partner call infield fly, mirrored the point mechanic. That's fine.

This bump-the-ump produced a warning.
When the crew conferred to discuss the call, this would have been the prime opportunity to reverse the call and load the bases...IF any of the other umpires A) saw that it wasn't an infield fly and B) the calling umpire were to have allowed such an overturn [remember, umpires by rule cannot unilaterally overturn another umpire's judgment call...see OBR 8.02(c)'s "no umpire shall criticize, seek to reverse or interfere with another umpire's decision unless asked to do so by the umpire making it"].

When HP Umpire Luo Junhong, who appeared to be our crew chief, made the crew's final call, the crew entertained Rakuten's manager—fine. But once the manager began walking back toward his dugout, only to turn around and physically push through multiple umpires enroute to physically bumping the calling umpire, that should have been addressed.

Umpire Odo in Star Trek cites the USC rule.
Physical contact with an umpire in the course of an argument is not a warning, it's grounds for immediate ejection. The rule is 6.04(a)(4) Unsportsmanlike Conduct and reads, "No manager, player, substitute, coach, trainer or batboy shall at any time, whether from the bench, the coach’s box or on the playing field, or elsewhere make intentional contact with the umpire in any manner...PENALTY: The offender shall be removed from the game and shall leave the playing field, and, if a balk is made, it shall be nullified."

The following article from 2019 provides more insight on the infield fly rule and its implications for both the offense and defense.
Related PostYankees Doubled Up on Infield Fly - Learn the Rule! (3/28/19).

In 2018, we discussed the issue of reversing calls made during a potential infield fly situation.
Related PostForgetful Infield Fly - Reversing Calls Across Levels (3/21/18).

And in 2017, we discussed IFR situations and how to judge a batted ball as an infield fly or not.
Related PostKnowing the Situation - Infield Flies and Time Plays (9/15/17).

And there's a lot more where that came from.
Related PostOrioles Turn Triple Play on Contested Infield Fly No-Call (5/3/17).
Related PostInfield Fly and a Double Play - Back to Basics for Phillies (4/11/16).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: CPBL ump's infield fly call results in assault, battery, and...warning? (CCS)


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