June 24, 2023

Catcher Illegal Positioning

Controversial catcher blocking the plate call in Rangers vs White Sox

Catcher Illegal Positioning

The Rangers and White Sox played at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 20, 2023. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Chicago had Elvis Andrus on second base and two outs when Zach Remillard hit safely to left field. Rangers’ left fielder Travis Jankowski fired home and Andrus was called out by plate  umpire D.J. Reyburn.

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol challenged the call claiming catcher Jonah Heim illegally blocked the plate. The Replay Official agreed, and the call was overturned. This broke a 6-6 tie in a game the Sox would win, 7-6.

Although Reyburn agreed with Rangers’ manager Bruce Bochy that there was no violation,  Bochy argued the call with Reyburn and was ejected.

Ruleball Comments

  1. It was reported that the Replay Official ruled that the catcher’s initial positioning was illegal because his left foot in his set-up, was touching the plate. The Replay official ruled that Heim’s subsequent actions impeded the runner when he straddled the third base line without possession of the ball while stepping on the plate. And apparently in his judgment the throw did not take Heim into the path of Andrus.
  2. In my opinion, although Heim was barely touching the plate in his initial set-up, common sense would tell you that he was not impeding Andrus at that point because he was nowhere near approaching the plate.
  3. Bochy’s contention was the throw took Heim into the path of the runner and that would not constitute blocking of the plate and the OVERTURN of the out call was not a good decision.
  4. If the throw did not take Heim in the direction of the throw or the hop, he should have been completely in fair territory, instead he had one foot on the foul side of the third base line and the other foot on the plate which is a violation of the rule. This most likely is what the Replay Official judged.
  5. Reyburn had no violation, but the Replay Official did.
  6. Sometimes there is a fine line as to what constitutes a throw taking the catcher into the runner’s path. It comes down to umpire judgment. I asked two individuals with separate interests in this game and they both judged that the throw took Heim into the runner. If so, Bochy’s argument was valid.
  7. I think you will find in most of these collision at home plate calls, the on-the-field umpire will call the runner out and let the Replay Official deal with it.
  8. So, from what you can see on the viewing links, how would you make the call?

Rich Marazzi

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



Since Helm caught the ball on the foul side of the 3rd base line, it is hard to argue that Helm should not have been there. As he shifted from fair to foul (while going after the ball), he left half the plate open for the runner in each case. At the time he crossed the line from fair to foul to get the throw, Andrus was still several steps up the line and could have (and did) change paths to an inside slide with no detriment. Add to that that Bruce Bochy was a catcher and was manager during Buster Posey’s horrific collision that precipitated this rule, I would argue that Bochy knows the rule and the intent behind it better than the umpires. Reyburn got it right and the replay official got it wrong.


Should be out. Over application of the rule. The runner had a path to the plate and the catcher tagged him

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