Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Batter's Interference in LA or a Bad Time to Lose The Count

Braves batter Jorge Soler swung and missed at a 1-1 knuckle curve Monday in Los Angeles. As Dodgers catcher Will Smith threw to second base to play on Atlanta runner R1 Ozzie Albies attempting to steal, Soler fell over home plate and interfered with Smith, drawing an interference call from HP Umpire Mike Estabrook. Shortly thereafter, however, confusion reigned as Albies appeared to be declared out as well, resulting in an inning-ending double play. What happened?

During the post-play confusion, Estabrook and Crew Chief Jeff Nelson conducted an administrative check with Replay Review in New York and soon it became clear that the umpires had not erred on a rules interpretation—as Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3) is very clear that only the batter is out when said batter "interferes 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"—but had instead lost track of the count and based their double play call on a strikeout of Soler and Albies' retirement for reason of retired batter/runner's interference.

As 2B Umpire Manny Gonzalez discussed the matter with players and Braves first base coach Eric Young, and 3B Umpire John Libka conducted a league-mandated foreign substance check of pitcher Corey Knebel, Replay Review corrected the count from a strikeout to 1-2. With Estabrook's interference call immediately following strike two, this meant that Soler was finally declared out for interference (not for striking out) and Albies returned to first base (not out for retired teammate Soler's interference)...which coincidentally is precisely what Estabrook initially signaled when making the call in real-time.

For reference: This bona fide illegal action of OBR 6.03(a)(3) supersedes the comment relative to unintentional backswing contact that would otherwise prescribe a dead ball and runner returned to first base (strike only)...Otherwise any legitimately interfering batter could flair their backswing at a catcher in order to mitigate their misdeed or evade eventual punishment. Once again, we note backswing interference is the colloquial term used in professional baseball while high school (NFHS) uses follow-through (which is interference), as high school's backswing refers to a pre-pitch action by the batter.

The source of the strikeout call thus remains a mystery | Video as follows:


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