Thursday, September 8, 2022

Reds-Cubs Batter Interference - Benefit of Doubt to Defense

After HP Umpire Lew Williams ruled Cubs baserunner R1 Alfonso Rivas out for teammate and retired batter Nelson Velazquez's interference at home plate by stepping out of the batter's box and hindering Reds catcher Austin Romine's throw to second base, we were asked to review the batter interference rule.

An important distinction to note is that the Official Baseball Rules contain two potentially relevant provisions—one which applies to a batter who has not been retired or become a runner, and another which applies to a batter or runner who has been retired and nonetheless impedes a fielder attempting to play on a teammate.

OBR 6.03(a)(3) pertains to a still-active batter (e.g., batter has not struck out): "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."

OBR 6.01(a)(5) pertains to a batter or runner who has been put out (including a batter that just struck out): "Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of their teammate."

Thus, with Velazquez swinging and missing at a 3-2 pitch, we have a recently retired batter.

Because Velazquez seemed to step in front of Cincinnati catcher Romine after swinging and missing for a strikeout, the benefit of the doubt goes to the defense. Thus, it is logical to conclude that Velazquez, by stumbling to his right and in front of catcher Romine's left side, hindered or impeded Romine by causing the catcher to adjust by veering or throwing to his right more than he otherwise would have had Velazquez not stepped onto home plate. Because the throw was wild and to the right of its intended destination as well, we can conclude that interference—which does NOT require contact—likely occurred.

Video as follows:


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