Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Kershaw & Profar's Catcher Interference Dispute

After HP Umpire Tom Hallion called "strike three" on Padres batter Jurickson Profar's 3-2 check swing to seemingly end San Diego's 4th inning, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Profar shouted at each other, SD convinced catcher's interference had occurred as Los Angeles accused the Padres of playing dirty.

Situation Handling Side Note: As Kershaw and Profar shouted across the diamond, the umpiring crew went into game management mode, with Hallion attending to Kershaw, Umpire Phil Cuzzi taking Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts and 1B Umpire Cory Blaser standing in front of Profar.

As for the catcher's interference play itself, which Padres Manager Jayce Tingler challenged and was overturned from strike three to catcher's interference as a result of Replay Review, tmac just days earlier had assembled an analysis regarding a check swing catcher's interference call in Seattle, with the moral of the story being that, yes, catcher's interference is possible on a check swing.

Kershaw-Profar takes it a step farther, as replays did clearly and convincingly indicate that Profar's bat indeed made contact with Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes' mitt...but the question is whether Barnes had actually interfered with Profar's opportunity to strike the pitch (the Official Baseball Rule's definition is as follows: "defensive interference is an act by a fielder that hinders or prevents a batter from hitting a pitch").

Over the years, it has become clear that a batter need not actually swing for a catcher's interference call to occur, but at what point of the ball traversing through the hitting zone does catcher's interference cease to be a liability to the defense? Must the batter have a realistic chance of actually hitting the ball (either fair or foul) or has this become a black-and-white did the bat make contact with the glove kind of a play?

Regardless, Profar would not have been awarded first base for catcher's interference had umpires ruled that Profar intentionally swung at Barnes, in order to draw the call, instead of legitimately attempting to strike at or check his swing at Kershaw's pitch.


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