6 Rules Questions Answered by Rich Marazzi
Question #1 – Can Interference Be Unintentional
Q. In the April 30th, Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies) vs Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles) South Atlantic League game, the following play occurred. Should the batter have been called for interference?
Aberdeen had Adley Rutschman on second, Coby Mayo on first with Jacob Teter at bat and less than two outs. Mick Abel was pitching for Jersey Shore and Karl Ellison was catching. Teter swung at strike three. The ball deflected off Ellison and rolled a few feet up the first baseline. Both Teter and Ellison collided. Lane, the home plate umpire, made no call. After asking him to talk to his partner they decided it was interference and moved Adley back to second base. The umpire’s response two different times is that the interference was unintentional. Can interference be unintentional with the ruling being different than intentional interference? Take a look and give me your thoughts.
A. According to rule 6.01 (a) (1) Comment, “If the pitched ball deflects off the catcher or umpire and subsequently touches the batter-runner, it is not considered interference unless, in the judgment of the umpire, the batter-runner clearly hinders the catcher to field the ball.” Based on the language of the rule, and viewing the video, it is my opinion that Teter, the batter-runner, clearly hindered Ellison, the catcher, in his attempt to field the ball that was deflected off the catcher. Intent on the part of Teter is irrelevant in this play. The fact that he hindered the catcher from fielding the ball supersedes any other factor. I would call Teter out and return the runners to their original bases.
If a batter, a batter-runner, or a runner intentionally interferes with a fielder who is attempting to make a play, the umpire can rule a double play. The runner being played on can also be out. But the umpire better be sure that the intent is obvious, and that the fielder is attempting to make a legitimate play. In a situation where a third strike is not caught by the catcher, if the batter-runner clearly hinders the catcher in his attempt to field the ball, this is interference. The ball is dead, and runners return to their bases. This is covered in rule 6.01 (a) (1).
The difference between 6.01 (a) (1) and 6.01 (a) (1) Comment, is that the latter deals with a “deflected” ball which is what occurred in the above play. Generally speaking, when these types of plays occur in the plate area the umpires will protect the defensive team unless the ball is in the immediate vicinity of the plate and the batter-runner, en route to first base and the catcher collide. In that situation, normally no call is made.
Question #2 – Retired Batter Interference
Q. The Blue Jays hosted the A’s on April 17th. In the bottom of the second, the Jays had runners on first and third and one out when George Springer struck out on an Adam Oliver pitch. After Springer fanned, umpire Shane Livensparger called him out for interference with catcher Stephen Vogt. The ump judged that Vogt was making a play on Cavan Biggio, the runner going from first to second and Biggio was also called out. It appeared that Vogt was making a fake throw to the base and was not making a legitimate play on the runner. If the umpire judges that the catcher was not making a play on the runner, what should the umpire do with the runner?
- The batter has the primary responsibility to avoid any interference with the catcher when any play is possible. But an umpire is getting into dangerous territory when he starts making judgment calls on whether or not the catcher had a legitimate play and whether or not the catcher’s action was a “fake” or a legitimate termination of an attempted throw
- In my opinion, the situation would have to be obvious. For example, let’s say the runner on first is advancing to second on defensive indifference when the batter squares to bunt then falls out over the plate. The catcher then fakes a throw to second base and claims interference. In that case, common sense should prevail. The catcher does not need to be protected and interference should not be called.
- Smart catchers will sometimes initiate the interference by moving into the batter immediately following the batter’s swing.
Question #3 – Balk on Spiked Pitch?
Q. The Yankees and Tigers played at Comerica on April 19th. In the top of the second inning the Yankees had Isiah Kiner-Falefa on second with one out. Aaron Hicks was the batter facing Rony Garcia. The Tigers’ pitcher accidentally spiked the ball. The ball crossed the first base foul line where it was retrieved by first baseman Spencer Torkelson. Kiner-Falefa advanced to third base on the play. If Flalefa remained at second base, would he be awarded third base? Should a balk have been called?
A. The answer to both questions is “No” under rule 6.02 (b) (Comment). It is a balk if a pitcher delivers a pitch with a runner/s on base and the pitch slips out of his hand, and the ball DOES NOT cross the foul line. Any intended pitch that slips out of the pitcher’s hand that crosses the foul line is a ball with or without runners on base. It is no pitch with no runners on base and no call. It is one of the few do-overs in baseball. In the above play because the ball crossed the foul line, the ball remained alive and in play. A “ball” is charged to the pitcher.
Question #4 – Carter Capps Rule
Q. Does the Carter Capps rule still apply where a pitcher needs both feet grounded at the time of release?
A. To compensate for elbow injuries, Capps used a hop, drag delivery that would get him closer to the batter. He would reset his pivot foot a couple of feet in front of the rubber. At his release point he was probably about 52-feet away from the batter. This would make his fastball look faster and would upset the timing of the batter. Pitching for the Marlins in 2015, he had an impressive 1.16 ERA. He struck out 58 batters in 31 IP.
In 2017, MLB outlawed the delivery. An addition to Rule 5.07 stipulated that a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is at least one runner on base, then such an action will be called a balk under Rule 6.02(a). If the bases are unoccupied, then it will be considered an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b). If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch with the bases empty it shall be called a ball unless the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base- on- balls, a hit batter or otherwise.
In recent years some pitchers have used a variation of the Capps delivery by making a double tap with their lead foot. If the pitcher doesn’t show much space between taps, (almost drags his foot), the umpires have allowed that. But, if the pitcher’s actions demonstrate a discernible space between taps with the lead foot, a balk should be called.
BTW – Capps had Tommy John surgery in 2016. In 2017, possibly because of the rule change, he was ineffective pitching to 6.57 ERA for the Padres. He never again pitched in the major leagues.
Question #5 – Foul Ball Overturned to Double
Q. In the May 3, 2022, Marlins- D’backs game, the umpires changed the call of a foul ball to a fair ball. Can they do that?
A. Yes. Rule 8.02 (c) gives the umpires the authority to correct a situation in which they believe the original call was incorrect. They are also empowered to place the runners to the base they would have made had the original call been made correctly. Here is what happened.
In the bottom of the seventh, with two out and the bases loaded, Marlins batter hit a fastball from Diamondbacks’ pitcher Luis Frias down the right-field foul line, ruled fair by first base umpire Ryan Wills who inadvertently pointed into foul territory, as if signaling a foul ball, which resulted in both teams stopping play. Upon crew consultation, the call was rectified as a fair ball, with runners placed as follows: Garrett Cooper, the runner on third and Brian Anderson the runner on second both scored. Jacob Stallings, the runner on first, was placed at third base, and Chisholm was placed at second base.
Replays indicate the ball was fair and the runner’s placement was proper, the call was correct. The D-Backs ultimately won the contest, 5-4. D’backs manager Torey Lovillo was ejected by plate umpire Adrian Johnson.
Question #6 – Outfielder uses glove or hat to knock ball down
Q. In the event of a ball that is in the trajectory to clear the fence as a home run, but the outfielder uses his glove, hat, etc. to knock the ball down and it returns in the field of play without clearing the fence – would it be awarded as a ground-rule triple or as a home run?
A. If the umpires judge that the ball would have cleared the fence, they should award a home run.
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.