September 23, 2022

Backswing Interference

How backswing interference differs from regular batter interference

Backswing Interference

Backswing interference is sometimes called “follow-through” interference. It is covered under rule 6.03 (a) (3) and (4) Comment.  The penalty is not as severe as your traditional or regular batter interference when the batter’s missed swing takes him into the throwing lane of the catcher. When that occurs, the batter is out unless the runner is retired by the catcher’s initial throw. If the interference occurs on strike three, both the batter and the runner are out.

When backswing interference takes place, the batter’s bat makes contact with the catcher on his follow-through swing. The ball remains alive and if the catcher retires the runner, the runner is out. If the runner is not retired the runner returns to the base he occupied at the time of the pitch. And unlike your regular batter interference, when backswing interference is ruled, the batter remains at bat unless the interference occurs on strike three or the act is intentional.

Let’s look at the following situation when the Rays’ Manuel Margot made contact with Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen on his follow-through swing twice in the same at bat.

The Rays and Blue Jays played a double header at the Rogers Centre on September 13, 2022. In the top of the third inning of the opening game, the Rays had Randy Arozarena on first base and two outs with Margot facing pitcher Mitch White. On a 1-0 count, Arozarena stole second but had to return to first base because Margot was called for backswing interference by plate umpire Ramon De Jesus when his bat made contact with Jansen on his follow-through swing. Margot remained at bat.

With a 2-1 count on Margot, Arozarena had second stolen but had to go back to first one more time because Margot, again, was called for backswing interference by De Jesus.

Ruleball Comments

  1. De Jesus properly handled the rule twice in the above play.
  2. Catchers seem to increasingly set closer to the plate to help the pitcher gain strikes. In my opinion, because of this, you are seeing more catcher interference calls and maybe backswing issues. Launch angle swings might also be a contributing factor, especially in catcher interference calls.
  3. If the batter puts the ball in play, the ball remains alive even if his bat makes contact with the catcher on the follow-through.
  4. If no play is in progress when the contact occurs, there cannot be interference. The pitch is called a strike, the ball is dead, and no runner shall advance on the play.
  5. One of the broadcasters incorrectly said, “It’s a do-over.” Because the missed swing counts as a strike, you cannot say it’s a do-over.
  6. If the backswing hits the catcher after a ball has been batted and the catcher is prevented from making a play, it is treated as a regular interference. The batter-runner is out and any runner on base returns to the base he occupied at the time of the pitch.
  7. It’s possible that the batter can be called out for interference on his backswing but doesn’t make contact with the catcher. Let’s say with a runner on first base and no outs the batter swings at a pitch in the dirt and misses. The runner on first takes off for second. The catcher is able to block the ball into the air and the ball lands in front of the plate. The batter’s backswing contacts the ball and knocks it several feet away. Because the batter has prevented the catcher from making a play, he should be called out for interference and the runner should be returned to first base.
  8. Here’s another situation where interference can be called on the backswing: The batter pops the ball up behind home plate. His backswing hits the catcher, preventing his chance to catch the fly ball, and no other fielders can make a play. The batter should be called out for interference.
  9. If the backswing interference occurs in a situation where the batter would normally become a runner after a third strike not caught, the ball shall be dead, and the batter declared out regardless of the location of the baseball at the time the backswing hits the catcher.
  10. If the batter is in the batter’s box and his normal backswing or follow-through unintentionally strikes the catcher or the ball while the catcher is in the act of throwing, “Time” is called. The runner/s return to the base they occupied at the time of the pitch unless the catcher’s initial throw retires the runner.
  11. Teams should have scouting reports on batters who have long swings and who frequently make contact with catchers because backswing interference can create a danger to the catcher.  Several years ago, a study was done by John Hopkins University of Medicine, and contrary to popular belief, the worst injuries baseball catchers face on the field come from errant bats and foul tips, not home-plate collisions with base runners. The research, done in collaboration with Baltimore Orioles trainers Brian Ebel and Richard Bancells, involved analysis of all catcher injuries during major league baseball games over a 10-year period. Ebel is still employed with the O’s, but Bancells has since retired.  
  12. In 1998 Mets catcher Mike Piazza was hit in the head by a Gerald Williams backswing and knocked unconscious. He suffered a mild concussion. In 2010, Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo was carried off the field after sustaining a mild concussion when he was struck in the back of the head and neck area by Albert Pujols’ backswing. In Game Two of the 2014 ALDS, Royals’ catcher Sal Perez took a blow to the head off the bat of the Angels’ Josh Hamilton on his follow- through swing causing “dizziness” and “fogginess” to the Royals’ catcher. In a 2015 spring training game, Twins’ catcher Josmil Pinto was cracked in the head three times during the game on the backswing of the O’s Adam Jones. I can go on-and-on. Every catcher has a story.                     

Play Follows Backswing Interference

It’s seldom that there is a continuing play following backswing interference. But click on the link below to see a rare example that occurred in a 2018 Blue Jays-Orioles game.

  1. The plate umpire properly allowed the play to continue but did not signal the violation when it occurred. He waited until after the throw was made and there was contact at the plate. He then signaled interference. 
  2. We could not see how the umpires handled the runner after the play ended. Hopefully, “Time” was called the moment the infielder secured the ball. At that point the runner should have been returned to first base and the batter remained at bat unless the pitch was strike three.

Final Comment

In the 2022 Official Rules of Major League Baseball the rule is inadequately written. It states that the ball is dead when backswing interference takes place. But this is not true. If the catcher retires a runner, the out stands. This is covered in the Major League Baseball Umpires Manual but not in the OBR.

My question is, “Why not?”

 

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

tzemaitis

Backswing interference is ruled to not be either a penalty or an award. There are considerations for both the offense and defense. However, it is to be enforced when conditions exists…with one exception. Only the initial throw from the catcher is permitted to get an out otherwise backswing interference is in effect which results in an immediate dead ball. Thus, a runner advancing to third or a runner who steps off the bag never happen because the ball is dead. There are considerations for both sides.

fishgrifff

Hey Rich,
I don’t get it. In the Blue Jay/Oriole game — The runner is at risk at second but not at third? What if the the runner had made it to second safely but in popping up the steps off the bag and is tagged. Go back to first?
Seems to me the correct application would be to let the action proceed if the runner is retired, that out stands whether it is at second or anywhere else. Otherwise we are rewarding the backswing interference.
DG

Leave a Reply

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.