Friday, May 21, 2021

KBO Walk-Off Rundown & Force Play Analysis

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO)'s SSG Landers walked off the LG Twins 6-5 Friday when the defense forgot to make a play on the winning runner during a groundout to third base and ensuing rundown. Umpires Choi Young-joo, Kang Gwang-hwe, Kwon Young-chul, and Lee Yong-huk presided over the unique walk-off situation that is actually covered by the Official Baseball Rules.

Play: With one out and the bases loaded, Landers batter Lee Jae-won hit a ground ball to Twins third baseman Kim Min-sung, who stepped on third base and threw to catcher Yoo Kang-nam to make a play on Landers baserunner R3 Choo Shin-soo.

What followed was pandemonium for one team and jubilation for the other as the catcher ran R3 back to third base, where trail baserunner R2 Han Yoo-seom was standing. The defense's attention then turned to R2, who retreated toward second base as R3 again broke for the plate, only this time, there was no throw home and he scored the winning run in uncontested fashion.

: As stated, the batter with the bases loaded and one out hit a ground ball to the third baseman, who stepped on third base. This forced out R2, as signaled by the umpire right after his fair ball call, and removed R3's obligation to run home, meaning the defense now needed to tag R3. When the catcher ran R3 back to third base and saw R2 begin to run back toward second base, he began to chase R2 as R3 scored, all while the 3B Umpire signaled that R2 was already out (due to the force play).

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(5) Comment states, "If the batter or a runner continues to advance or returns or attempts to return to his last legally touched base after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders." This means R2, by virtue of advancing to third then retreating toward second, was legal in the sense that, although R2 was already put out, his actions are not to be construed as retired runner's interference. Accordingly, that means R3's run was legally scored and the game properly declared over in walk-off fashion.

: Assume that fielder F5 never stepped on third base to force out R2 and, for whatever reason, F2 never stepped on home plate to force out R3. OBR 5.06(a)(2) states that, "Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base, unless Rule 5.06(b)(2) applies." (b)(2), in turn, states, "If a runner is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner and two runners are touching a base to which the following runner is forced, the following runner is entitled to the base and the preceding runner shall be out when tagged or when a fielder possesses the ball and touches the base to which such preceding runner is forced."

Plainly, relative to our hypothetical case, if R2 and R3 both stood on third base during a force play situation and both were tagged while on the base, lead runner R3 would be declared out.

But if R2 and R3 both stood on third base when there was no force (e.g., first base was not occupied at the start of the play or the batter-runner was already thrown out at first base, etc.), and both were tagged while on the base, trail runner R2 would be declared out. Note that as long as R3 runs back to third base and remains on the base without going up the left field line (e.g., past the base), there is no runners passing situation: as stated in prior articles, the base, relative to runners passing, is somewhat of a neutral zone.


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