Batter Interferes With Catcher’s Throw – Two MLB Examples
Two Batter Interference plays that occurred six days apart are worth a look.
Play Number 1
On August 31, 2017, the Astros hosted the Rangers at Tropicana Field in Florida because of Hurricane Harvey. In the bottom of the first, the Astros had George Springer on first base and no outs when Alex Bregman swung through a 3-2 pitch from Pitcher Nick Martinez. On Bregman’s swing, his momentum took him into the throwing lane of Rangers’ catcher Brett Nicholas who attempted to throw out Springer at second base. Martinez’s pitch was a strike three, thus, the runner being played on (Springer) was also called out.
Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch disagreed with the call. He pleaded his case to plate umpire Chris Segal. Hinch argued that because there was no contact from Bregman, interference should not have been called.
Bregman echoed Hinch’s argument.
“It wasn’t interference,” Bregman said to Mlb.com. “He didn’t touch me.”
The conversation between Segal and Hinch became slightly animated when second base umpire Joe West intervened, most likely to protect the young umpire. West subsequently ejected Hinch which took him by surprise. “I didn’t think I was getting ejected by the home-plate umpire. I didn’t say anything that was necessary to get thrown out by the home-plate umpire — then Joe got involved and decided I was done for the day, ” said Hinch to Mlb.com.
You can view this play by going to the link below.
- Per rule 6.03 (a) (3) reads, “A batter is out for illegal action when he interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher at home plate.” The Pro rule parallels the NCAA rule. As for the NFHS rule, the runner being played on is not automatically out when the batter strikes out and interferes with the catcher. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher could have thrown out the runner, the umpire can call the runner out as well. If not, the runner is returned to first base.
- Contact is not necessary for the call to be made. Based on the report by Mark Feisand to Mlb.com, both Hinch and Bregman argued that interference should not have been called because there was no contact between the batter and the catcher. This indicates that Hinch and Bregman are not clear regarding the interpretation of the rule. As long as the batter impedes the catcher in any manner, interference can be called on the batter.
Some batters are prone to the batter interference call because of their batting style. I think coaches on all levels should do what is necessary to correct this.
Play Number 2
The Braves hosted the Rockies on August 26, 2017. In the top of the eighth inning, the Rockies had Trevor Story on first base and no outs when Jonathan Lucroy struck out swinging on a Daniel Winkler pitch. In doing so, his momentum carried him into the path of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers while he was in the act of throwing down to second base. Plate umpire Sean Barber ruled interference on Lucroy and also called Story out because it was strike three.
To view this play, go to the link below.
Batter Interference Guidelines
When ruling on batter interference, the plate umpire must distinguish if the catcher’s throw was to prevent a stolen base or to pick-off a runner on a base. He must consider the following:
Throw to Prevent a Stolen Base
- Any movement that hinders the catcher’s play can constitute batter interference. This is true whether or not the batter remains in the batter’s box. The batter can leave the batter’s box and it is only a violation if he interferes. Conversely, the batter can lean over the plate and interfere while remaining in the batter’s box.
- The catcher must have a clear throwing lane.
- There does not have to be contact for the call to be made. Because contact helps sell the call, it’s common for catchers to initiate contact with the batter.
- The catcher must make an attempt to throw the ball. The throw does not have to be made but the umpire must be convinced that there was an attempt to throw the ball.
- If a runner is attempting to steal third base with a right handed batter at bat, the batter does not have to vacate the box to open a throwing lane but he cannot make any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play.
- If there is a wild pitch or passed ball and a runner on third is attempting to reach the plate with the pitcher covering, the batter must vacate the box or is subject to be called out for interference.
- There can be times when there is interference but not illegal interference. (e.g. a pitch in the dirt requires the catcher to field the ball behind the batter thus causing the throwing lane to be blocked by the batter.)
- If the catcher retires the runner who is attempting to steal, batter interference is nullified, if it should occur. The runner is out and the batter remains at bat.
- If the batter interferes with the catcher on “strike three” and the catcher attempts to throw out a runner, both the batter and the runner are called out.
Throw to Pick-Off a Runner
- With a left-handed batter at bat and a runner on first base, the batter does not have to give the catcher a throwing lane on a pick-off throw.
- With a right-handed batter at bat and a runner on third base, the batter does not have to give the catcher a throwing lane on a pickoff throw.
- In both cases the batter cannot make any movement that hinders the catcher’s play.
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