September 27, 2022

2022 Rules Questions: September Edition

Obstruction during a rundown, illegally blocking the plate, base-running questions and more

2022 Rules Questions: September Edition

Runner Obstructed During Rundown

Question: See the above attachment before reading this play. In this situation, the runner going from second to third is obstructed during the rundown. I know this is a Type 1 obstruction because there was a play being directly made on the runner. The umpires awarded the obstructed runner third base but only allowed the batter-runner first base. Why?

Answer: When Type 1 obstruction occurs, the runner is awarded one base beyond the last base he legally touched before the obstruction. All other runners are awarded the base they would have reached had there been no obstruction. In the above play, the umpires gave the batter-runner first base because they judged he would not have made it to second base if there was no obstruction.

Question: In the same play, what if there was a runner on third when the runner was obstructed between second and third. Where would that runner be placed?

Answer: In that situation the runner on third would be allowed to score under rule 6.01 (h) (1). Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out. Because the obstructed runner was awarded third base, it would have forced the runner on third to advance home.

Illegally Blocking the Plate

Question: In the Braves-Phils game on September 25, 2022, the Phils’ Jean Segura was thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the fifth. The Phils challenged that Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud was illegally blocking the plate. It certainly looked like d’Arnaud took away Segura’s running lane. Why was the no call on the field confirmed?

Answer: If you notice, you will see that the throw from the outfield obviously took d’Arnaud into Segura’s path. When this occurs, the catcher can legally block the plate. Plate umpire Chris Segal wisely made no call.

Question: If a runner does not touch the plate and the catcher does not tag the runner, what should the catcher do if the runner who did not touch the plate heads a good distance toward the dugout? This happened in the September 27, 2022 Nats-Marlins game. Plate ump Bill Miller made no call at the plate.

Answer: Here is what happened. In the top of the second the Nationals had CJ Abrams on third and Ildemaro Vargas on first and no outs when Victor Robles laid down a bunt in front of the mound. The ball was fielded by Marlins’ pitcher Edward Cabrera who tossed to catcher Nick Fortes in an attempt to retire Abrams. But Miller judged that Abrams never touched the plate and Fortes never tagged Abrams. So, Miller correctly made no call until Fortes ran after Abrams and tagged him near the dugout. The Nationals challenged the out call, but the Replay Official could not determine if Abrams had touched the plate and therefore would not overturn the call on the field. If Abrams entered the dugout without being tagged, this would be an appeal play under rule 5.09 (c) (4).

Question: Regarding the Fortes/Abrams play, could Fortes have simply touched home plate and appealed that Abrams never tagged the plate?

Answer: Yes. If a catcher has to “chase” a runner who has missed the plate, the catcher can appeal to the umpire and retire the runner by stepping on the plate. In the above play, Fortes took a chance by “chasing” Abrams because by doing so it’s possible that Vargas and Robles could have advanced on the bases. Catchers should be coached in such situations not to “chase” the runner. If a runner fails to touch the plate and immediately attempts to return to touch the plate, the catcher must then tag the runner to put him out. In that situation the umpire will not accept an appeal.

Base-Running Questions

Question: Runner on first and less than two outs. The batter hits a pop-up to the infield. The batter-runner passes the runner on first before the ball is caught. The batter-runner is out, but the ball is dropped. Is there a force at second or is it like the Infield Fly rule and the runner is protected?

Answer: Once the batter runner passed the runner on first, the force was removed. The runner can attempt to return to first if he chooses. The runner is not forced to go to second base, so to put him out he must be tagged unless he returns to first safely or reaches second base.

Question: If a runner goes beyond second base, then returns to the first base side of second base, what is the retouching process he must do before going to third?

Answer: The runner would have to touch second with either foot before heading to third.

Question: The runner on first base attempts to steal second base. The batter swings for strike two and misses. The batter’s momentum takes him into the throwing lane of the catcher and the umpire rules “batter interference.” The catcher’s throw beats the runner to second. The runner stops and retreats to first. The second baseman chases him and tags him before he can return safely. Or, in another variation, the second baseman throws to the first baseman who tags the runner before he can return safely. Are both the batter and the runner out?

Answer: No, only the batter is out. The batter is the only one out because the catcher’s initial throw did not retire the runner. If it did, the runner would be out, and the batter would remain at bat. But in this play, the initial throw to second base did not retire the runner, so the ball is dead, and the runner remains at first base. The moment a rundown begins, or a throw is made to another fielder, this creates a dead ball because it is not considered that the catcher’s first throw retired the runner. If the first base coach can see that the batter has interfered with the catcher, it would be wise to have the batter return to first base, if time permits, and it is obvious the runner will be an easy out at second base. By avoiding the tag-out at second base, the offensive team still has a runner on first base despite the batter being out.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst: D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.

Have a question or comment for one of our experts?

Don't strike out!

Become a part of the largest baseball rules community in the world!

Get free access to baseball forums, rules analysis and exclusive email content from current and former Major League Baseball players and umpires.