Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Missed Base Appeals Cost Pittsburgh & Arkansas Runs

The Official Baseball Rules hold a runner is out for missing a base when appealed by the defense and on Tuesday, MLB's Pittsburgh Pirates and Double-A's Arkansas Naturals lost home runs on appeal when Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT) and Bobby Witt Jr (ARK) were declared out for failing to touch first base and home plate, respectively.

The governing rule is OBR 5.09(c)(2): "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when, with the ball in play, while advancing or returning to a base, they fail to touch each base in order before they, or a missed base, is tagged." This rule applies not just to physical touches that (don't) occur during a live ball but also to any touches (or missed touches) that occur during a dead ball wherein the runner has been awarded a base (or bases) due to actions that occurred while the ball was live (such as a home run being hit).

Pittsburgh: Hayes' fly ball off of Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler to deep right field hit the base of PNC Park's right field foul pole, 1B Umpire Adam Beck ruling the play a home run having dashed down the right field line to get an optimal look at the play. With U1 Beck in right field, that left HP Umpire Jeremie Rehak with rotational base touch responsibility for batter-runner Hayes, although Rehak had a more important job just as Hayes was rounding first base.

OBR's General Instruction to Umpires in Rule 8.00 states, in part, "Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play. It is more vital to know just where a fly ball fell, or a thrown ball finished up, than whether or not a runner missed a base."

For this reason, when Los Angeles appealed Hayes' failure to touch first base, HP Umpire Rehak did not have definitive knowledge that Hayes had missed first base: Rehak was concentrating on the flight of the ball along the right field foul line at the crucial moment that Hayes missed first base—providing backup for Beck on both the fair/foul decision (due to Rehak's angle on the foul line) and the HR/in play ruling.

Sidebar: You might notice that the foul pole in Pittsburgh is painted black at its base atop the outfield wall, near the wall's painted yellow line. For more information on why this coloring scheme exists, refer to our following article from 2013.

Hayes' miss of first base occurred on the outfield side of the base (see first still image), meaning Rehak's angle from the opposite side of first base would likely not have enabled him to see the missed contact.

No matter, Replay Review took care of LA's appeal in short order, with Crew Chief Dan Iassogna signaling Hayes out and the run nullified.

Arkansas: As for Royals prospect Bobby Witt, Jr., a 430-home run turned into a dead ball triple when the Frisco RoughRiders ruled that Witt failed to touch home plate during his HR trot.

The primary difference between the LA-Pittsburgh play and the Arkansas-Frisco one is that Witt's hit was clearly fair and plainly left the playing field in flight: unlike Rekah, HP Umpire Chris Presley-Murphy didn't have to help a base umpire with a boundary call at the moment Witt arrived at his last base touch responsibility (home plate), as opposed to his first one (first base).

Thus, the umpire (joined by Frisco catcher Matt Whatley) were able to stare at home plate to see whether Witt's foot touched it during his gallop. Whatley appeared to immediately notice Witt failed to touch home plate and, upon the ball being put back into play and made live, pitcher Hever Bueno threw to Whatley, who touched home plate to ask for the missed base appeal, resulting in an out call as the umpire agreed that Witt had missed home plate, resulting in a triple.

Rules Difference
: Appeals must occur during a live ball in professional and college baseball, while high school allows for dead ball appeals. Live ball appeals that follow a missed base wherein the ball remains live during the play, such as a ground ball to the outfield, can occur during the initial play itself (aka a real-time appeal). These appeals may also occur after the ball has been declared dead, returned to the pitcher, and put back into play (aka delayed or traditional appeals, as ordinarily occurs after dead ball situations, such as home runs).

For more information about so-called real-time appeals, refer to this article from 2017.

For an example of where a real-time appeal would have helped a team, refer to this play in New York and correction to an inaccurate statement regarding missed base plays by the Yankees broadcast.

Play Difference, Scenario: The Pittsburgh play occurred at first base while the Arkansas play occurred at home plate. Thus, if there had been two out in the inning and runners on base at the time of the home run, no runs would be allowed to score in LA-Pittsburgh while all runners preceding Witt would be allowed to score in Arkansas-Frisco. The reason is because Hayes (PIT), by virtue of failing to touch first base, becomes a batter-runner making the third out of the inning prior to touching first base (by rule, no runs may score on such a play), while Witt (ARK) is a batter-runner who makes the third out after touching first base. The Hayes (PIT) play is thus scored as a fly out (no hit) while the Witt (ARK) play is a triple, with all runners ahead of him allowed to score because the third out on appeal constitutes a time play.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Hayes & Witt's missed base touches cost team runs (CCS)


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