Saturday, March 23, 2024

Shohei's Blunder & Bogaerts Strikes Out on Pitch Clock Violation in Seoul

After Dodgers acquisition Shohei Ohtani's baserunning blunder during MLB's Seoul Series, Padres batter Xander Bogaerts struck out on a pitch timer violation when HP Umpire Andy Fletcher called an automatic strike on the San Diego slugger, leading to an argument over who said what and when.

In Game 1 of the LA vs San Diego season opening series in Korea, baserunner R1 Ohtani ran toward second base on a deep fly ball off Freddie Freeman's bat that was eventually caught for a fly-out. When retreating to first base, Ohtani—who had rounded second base—failed to retouch on his last time by the bag. San Diego successfully appealed the base-running error for the inning-ending double play. Official Baseball Rule 5.06(b)(1) requires all runners forced to return to "retouch all bases in reverse order."

With two out and none on in the top of the 8th inning of Game 2, Bogaerts took a 1-0 changeup from Dodgers pitcher JP Feyereisen for a called first strike. Bogaerts, who appeared to disagree with HP Umpire Fletcher's strike call (pitch QOC for those curious: px 0.68, pz 1.54 [sz_bot 1.58 / RAD 1.46]...the call was correct), stepped toward the umpire and said something, to which HP Umpire Fletcher signaled "Time" and pointed at the batter to indicate Bogaerts had taken his offensive timeout.

After a later strike two call (px 0.31, pz 1.64 [sz_bot 1.58]—call was correct), Bogaerts again said something to Fletcher, who then signaled Bogaerts out for a clock/time violation, resulting in an argument during which it became clear the disagreement concerned how many times Bogaerts had requested time out. Bogaerts maintained it was his first time out request of the at-bat while Fletcher had it as the batter's second.

With a 15-second bases-empty pitch clock (18-seconds with runners on base [down from 20-seconds in 2023]), the timer can work very quickly, leaving little time to argue about an umpire's call between pitches. The pace of play procedure states that each batter is allowed one time out request per at-bat, meaning that Fletcher's determination that Bogaerts had requested two time outs also meant that Bogaerts had violated the pitch timer rules by requesting an excessive timeout, the penalty for which is an automatic strike.

With a two-strike count, the auto-K resulted in a strikeout. | Video as follows:

Friday, March 22, 2024

Lindor Called for Obstruction After Base Blocking

As Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor appeared to tag out Tigers baserunner Carson Kelly on a stolen base attempt, 2B Umpire Brennan Miller called the New York fielder for obstruction pursuant to MLB's new point of emphasis concerning base blocking, declaring Kelly safe at second due to the violation.

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(h)(1) itself has not changed and obstruction is still defined as "the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."

However, the primary focus of the new emphasis appears to be fielders blocking runners on pickoffs and steals (or any time a play is being made at a base).

Major League Baseball seems concerned that infielders have used the "in the act of fielding the ball" exemption to the obstruction rule as an excuse to illegally block the offense from reaching a base, by sticking a leg, knee, or foot in the runner's way, and has adopted a stance on OBR 6.01(h)(1) similar in theory to the existing standard for home plate collisions in OBR 6.01(i)(2), which prohibit a catcher from blocking the pathway of the runner—even when in the act of fielding—unless the catcher is blocking the runner's path "in a legitimate attempt to field the throw."

Video as follows:

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Interference Ends Tigers' 8th vs Phillies - Whose Protection is it Anyway?

After Phillies 3B Esteban Quiroz failed to catch a two-out fly ball vs Detroit, 2B Umpire Matt Brown called Tigers baserunner Eddys Leonard out for interference, ruling that the runner illegally hindered the fielder attempting to field a batted ball. But with three Philadelphia infielders in close proximity appearing to track the fly ball, was 3B Quiroz the correctly protected fielder or was this another player's ball?

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10), which puts a batter or runner out for interference if they "fail to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball," also states, "if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule."

Although the "comes in contact with" portion of this rule might suggest contact is required for such a call, this is another instance of a misleadingly-worded rule. The definition of interference states, "Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." Body contact is not required (though it often helps toward getting this called).

Replays indicate 3B Quiroz was joined by two teammates in the immediate vicinity of the falling fly ball and 2B Umpire Brown determined that this fielder was the one protected—do you agree?

Had the umpire not protected 3B Quiroz, we theoretically could have seen an Obstruction 2/B call out of this, presuming the umpire also determined that the fielder hindered the runner's attempted advancement.

But in the end, with 3B Quiroz protected, the interference call ended the inning. Credit Tigers batter Parker Meadows with an infield single.

Video as follows:

Monday, March 18, 2024

Bat Flip Ejections - How Not to Be Ejected for Flipping?

After umpires ejected UConn's Matt Malcolm and Penn State's Kyle Hannon, both for bat flips after hitting a home run, you asked us how a college player can avoid ejection for celebrating a big hit, and why bat flips have seemingly been deemed illegal by NCAA Baseball. Perhaps of equal importance is to consider why college baseball adopted the bat flip ejection rule in the first place.

Prior to the 2023 season, NCAA adopted rule 5-17: Unsportsmanlike Conduct, which states
Game personnel shall not use language that will, in any manner, refer to or reflect negatively upon opposing players, coaches, umpires or spectators. Any orchestrated activities by any player or dugout personnel designed to distract, intimidate or disconcert the opposing team or reflect poor sportsmanship shall not be allowed. This includes activities such as:
> Negative comments directed at an opponent, umpire or spectator.
> Bench jockeying.
> Bat flips near or toward an opponent or umpire.
> Use of props or signs directed at an opponent or umpiring decision.
The instruction to umpires appears to be one of strict scrutiny: interpret most bat flips as qualifying under this new sportsmanship rule 5-17. After all, an opponent (including the opposing dugout) or umpire is bound to be near a bat flipping player.

During a college baseball playoff game in 2016, a Miami player flipped his bat after a grand slam, resulting in a benches-clearing incident when defensive team Boston College responded with objection. Eight years later, the NCAA rules committee stepped in to address the bat flip issue, effectively finding that its member schools had been unable to address the problem on their own, requiring a sportsmanship intervention.

*An earlier version of this article's title contained the phrase, "How to not be ejected for flipping?" The author sincerely apologizes for exposing the reader to this reckless split infinitive. This careless error has been corrected.

Video as follows: