Monday, June 7, 2021

Ask the UEFL - Backswing Recoil Interference?

In this Ask the UEFL, Astros batter Chas McCormick struck out on a foul tip as baserunner Yuli Gurriel attempted to steal second base. With replays indicating McCormick's bat appeared to touch Blue Jays catcher Reese McGuire's throwing hand after McGuire already released the ball, we ask whether umpires should have ruled this interference and, if so, what brand of interference with what penalties?

On-Field & Replay Call: Originally ruled a strikeout by HP Umpire Chris Conroy, no interference, and runner Gurriel declared safe at second by 2B Umpire Pat Hoberg, the call was confirmed following Toronto's Manager's Challenge.

Rule: The relevant rule is Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3): "A batter is out for illegal action when they interfere with the catcher's fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter's box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher's play at home base." The rule's comment declares that "If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard they carry the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hit the catcher or the ball in back of them on the backswing, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play."

For good measure, OBR 6.01(a)(5) states it is interference when "any batter or runner who has just been put out...hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of their teammate."

: Before dissecting the contact, we first establish this play is not eligible for backswing interference because the batter has already completed his backswing (e.g., behind his back) and the bat has now been brought in front of the batter's body. If interference is to be called, it would not be of the backswing variety.

With that established, we now consider whether or not the catcher was hindered or impeded in his throwing. Because it appears the catcher released the ball prior to contact, which did not appear to alter the course of the throw or release of the baseball, it would follow that this play is not interference. If adjudged as interference, the penalty would have been to declare the runner out for the retired batter's interference, effectively awarding Toronto a double play.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Backswing must end at some point, and so too must potential for interference (CCS)


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