August 26, 2022

2022 Rules Questions with Rich Marazzi

Hitting pitches in the dirt, walk-off balk controversies, catcher's interference on a check swing, fielders blocking the view of a baserunner and more!

2022 Rules Questions with Rich Marazzi

Restricted Baseline Running Home

Question: When a runner is advancing home and avoiding a tag by a catcher, does the runner have a restricted baseline?

Answer: Yes. Whenever a runner is avoiding a tag, or is in a rundown, he has a restricted baseline. It is a straight line to the base he is going to, and he cannot exceed 3-feet to either side of that line. Remember, home plate is one of the four bases. In a recent game between the Angels and Tigers, Jonathan Schoop was called out for running out of the baseline as he approached the plate.


Hitting a Pitch that Bounces in the Dirt

Question: The Tigers and Guardians played at Progressive Field on Aug. 15, 2022. Javy Baez led off the top of the ninth and hit an Emmanuel Clase pitch that was in the dirt for a fly ball to center fielder Miles Straw. Is this legal? What if he hit a home run?

Answer: A batter can hit a pitch that bounces in the dirt and can be credited with a home run. If the batter does not swing and a bounced pitch ends-up going through the strike zone, it is called a “Ball.” A bounced pitch can never be called a strike unless the batter swings and misses the pitch. If a bounced pitch hits the batter, it is a hit by pitch.


Walk-Off Balk Controversy

Question: In a Florida Complex League game, played on Aug. 23rd, 2022 there was a walk-off balk called. It was not a “Ball Four” balk that followed with a pitch. The bases were loaded with two outs.  Following the balk, the runner from third scored the winning run.  The runner on second touched third base, but the runner on first ran home to celebrate and did not advance to the next base. It was the last day of the season, and the umpires just jetted off into their off-season, so there wasn’t even the ability to ask or appeal.

What is the ruling is there?  On a walk-off balk, do all the runners need to advance and touch the next base before coming off the field?  Would there be an opportunity to appeal that?  Does the Dead Ball overrule it?

Answer: The run scores, game over, umps on jet. In this play because of the one base balk award, as soon as R3 touched the plate the game was over. There is no opportunity to appeal. If the balk occurred before the pitch was called “Ball Four,” then the batter would be required to go to first base.  Rule 5.08 (b) reads, “When the winning run is scored in the last half inning of a regulation game, or in the last half extra inning, as the result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases full which forces the batter and all other runners to advance without liability to be put out, the umpire shall not declare the game ended until the runner forced to advance from third has touched home and the batter-runner has touched first base.” 

A “Ball Four” balk would negate the balk because in a bases loaded situation all runners would advance one base, and the batter-runner would be required to go to first base. But this was not the case in the above play. Therefore, the game ended as soon as the runner on third touched home plate.  In that situation, it is irrelevant what the batter does as well as R1 and R2.  My interpretation is the automatic base award on the balk takes precedence here.  

If the ball was put in play with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth or extra inning, that would be a different story. Let’s say the batter singled to center field. The batter-runner, the runners on second and third all advance and touch the next base. But the runner on first comes back to celebrate and never touches second base. In that situation the defensive team can appeal the missed base-second base. Since the runner on first was  forced to advance, the inning would end in a force out and the run would be nullified. This happened in a minor league game several years ago to a member of the Lansing Lugnuts of the High-A Midwest League. The game went extra innings and the Lugnuts lost because of the running faux pas.


Home Run Balls Bouncing Off the Top of the Wall

In the Aug. 21, 2022 game between the Jays and Yankees in New York, Whit Merrifield led off the top of the third facing Nestor Cortes. Merrifield hit a long fly ball that bounced off the corner of the top of the wall above the 385-foot mark in right center field. The ball inexplicably took another bounce on the top of the wall and went over the fence for a home run.

Question: What if the ball bounced back onto the field of play. Would it still be a home run?

Answer: If a fair batted ball strikes the top of the outfield wall and bounds back onto the playing field, the ball remains in play. Because the ball made contact with the wall, the fielder cannot make a legal catch because the ball is no longer “in flight.” Runners should continue to run and not quit on the play.

Question: What if the ball remained on top of the wall without falling on either side? Is it in play?

Answer: If a fair fly ball strikes the top of the outfield wall and remains on the wall, the batter and all runners are awarded two bases from their position on the bases at the time of the pitch, if the fielder cannot reach the ball. If the fielder can reach a batted ball that settles on top of the wall, the ball remains in play

Question: Can a fielder swat the ball back onto the field if the ball sits on top of the wall or is rolling on the wall?

Answer: Yes…and the ball remains in play.

Question: What is the rule if a fielder accidentally pushes the ball over the wall?

Answer: If a fair batted ball that is on top of the wall is inadvertently pushed over the wall by the outfielder, the batter is credited with a home run.

Question: What general advice do you have for the players and coaches if a batted ball remains on top of the outfield wall?

Answer:

Defensively- if the ball settles on the wall and the ball is reachable for the fielder, he must play the ball. If the ball is rolling and is reachable, he should swat the ball back onto the field. In that situation, the outfielder cannot waste time. When a team visits a ballpark, the coaching staff should carefully inspect the outfield wall and assess the potential of a batted ball remaining on the top of the wall. The above information should be reviewed with the outfielders.

Offensively-I would have the runners keep running and let the umpires deal with it when there is no further action. If an outfielder raises his arms, the runner/s should ignore it. If an umpire improperly calls “Time,” the runner/s should ignore it as well. This should give the Replay Official the opportunity to award the maximum base award. 

 As for the manager, this would be a boundary call that is reviewable, if necessary.   


Catcher’s Interference Challenge on a Check Swing

Question: The Reds and Mets played at Citi Field on Aug. 8, 2022. In the top of the seventh, Nick Senzel was facing Chris Bassitt with Albert Almora on first and two outs when he checked his swing and his bat made contact with Mets’ catcher James McCann’s catcher’s mitt.

Plate umpire Paul Emmel had no interference. Reds’ manager David Bell challenged the no call and the Replay Official agreed that there was catcher’s interference. Senzel was given first base and Almora was sent to second.

Can the umpires call catcher’s interference on a check swing?

Answer: Yes, and if the ball is put in play. It is a live ball and handled like any other catcher interference call.


Fielder Blocking the Baserunners View of Ball in Flight

Question: Runner on third- fly ball to center field- runner is tagging-up. While R3 is tagging-up the third baseman or shortstop attempts to block his view of the ball. Is this obstruction? If so, where can it be found in the rules? This happens a lot by the way.

Answer: Yes. This is a Type 2 obstruction under rule 6.01 (h) (2) because unlike Type 1 obstruction no play was being directly made on the runner at the moment of the obstruction such as in a rundown. Contact is not necessary for obstruction to be called. If the defensive player impedes the runner in any manner he should be called for obstruction. It would behoove teams to have a scouting report on fielders who do this. The third base coach needs to get a good angle and yell “Go” to the tagged-up runner as soon as the ball makes contact with the fielder’s glove if there is an issue with a defensive player attempting to block the view of a runner.  

Question: Have you ever seen this call made?

Answer: I saw it made once in a Mariners-Rays game and the umps blew it. It was a game-ending play. The Rays had a runner on third, tie score, bottom of the ninth, and less than two outs. The batter flied to the mid-outfield in left field. R3 retreated to third and had no plans to go home. The umpire incorrectly ruled Type 1 obstruction on the shortstop who intentionally was jumping up and down, waving his arms and getting in the line of vision of the runner.  R3 was incorrectly awarded home, and the game ended. This was a Type 2 because no play was being directly made on R3 when the obstruction occurred. If R3 attempted to go home and was an easy out, the obstruction would have been ignored. 


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.  

Comments

jeffyterdal

1. Runner is only out if leaving the base line to avoid the tag, unless abandoning the play altogether.
2. When Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves, in the bottom of the 13th inning Felix Mantilla reached 2nd on an error and Hank Aaron was walked. Joe Alcock hit a fair fly over the fence, scoring Mantilla, but that was the only run of the game. Aaron abandoned the base path to celebrate after touching 2nd, Adcock was called out for passing him and credited for only a double.

Trips2007

The plain text of 6.02.a seems to contradict the analysis of the alternative scenario in Walk-Off Balk Controversy in which the BR hits the ball to center field:

“If the batter-runner and all other runners do not advance, the balk penalty prevails, the batter must return to the batter’s box with the previous count, and runners advance one base as penalty for the balk.”

If R1 fails to touch 2B on a live ball, he failed to advance. Appealing a missed base seems the same as if he had been thrown out on a force to 2B. How does this plain language not apply in this situation?

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