July 7, 2022

Catcher’s Throw Hits Bat

Dodgers catcher Will Smith hits the bat of Travis d’Arnaud while trying to throw out base-stealer

Catcher’s Throw Hits Bat

The Dodgers and Braves played at Truist Park on June 26th. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Travis d’Arnaud was batting with runners on first and second and no outs. Michael Harris, the Braves’ runner on second, took off for third base on the pitch in an attempted steal. Dodgers’ catcher Will Smith attempted to throw to third, but his throw made contact with d’Arnaud’s bat and ricocheted to the left side behind the plate toward the backstop. Harris made it to third and Dansby Swanson, the runner on first, reached second base.

Ruleball Comments

  1. The play is specifically covered in the Major League Baseball Umpire Manual. It reads:If the batter is standing in the batter’s box and he or his bat is struck by the catcher’s throw back to the pitcher (or throw in attempting to retire a runner) and, in the umpire’s judgment, there is no intent on the part of the batter to interfere with the throw, the ball is alive and in play.”
  2. Credit plate umpire Malachi Moore who kept the ball in play.
  3. Also, credit d’Arnaud for remaining rigid in his batting stance and playing smart Ruleball. On attempted steal attempts or pick throws to the corner bases the batter does not have to give the catcher a throwing lane because he cannot be expected to disappear so quickly after the pitch. By remaining still, d’Arnaud made the throw more difficult for Smith.
  4. In most steal situations of third, or on pick throws, the batter will instinctively duck to avoid the throw. By doing so, the batter is making the job easier for the catcher.
  5. Credit ESPN broadcaster Eduardo Perez for correctly explaining the rule when he said, “He (d’Arnaud) understands what the rules are in the batter’s box.”
  6. The batter also does not have to give way to the catcher when there is a steal of home or a failed suicide bunt attempt with the thinking that the batter is not expected to disappear the moment the pitch reaches the plate area.
  7. The batter, however, with a runner advancing from third, is expected to vacate the batter’s box when there is a wild pitch or passed ball because the batter has time to do so. In such plays he must allow the pitcher covering the plate access in receiving the throw from the catcher.

Batter Vacates on Steal of Home Attempt

The Yankees and Astros played at Minute Maid on June 30th. In the bottom of the third, the Astros had runners on second and third and two outs with Yuli Gurriel at bat facing Luis Severino. Before a pitch was thrown to Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, the runner on third, attempted to swipe the dish. But Severino, who was checking his PitchCom, noticed Tucker just in time and fired home to catcher Jose Trevino who tagged Tucker out to end the inning.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Unlike d’Arnaud in the above play, Gurriel vacated his position in the batter’s box.
  2. This is a normal reaction but not a necessary one. By remaining in his stance as d’Arnaud did, it would have made the play more difficult for Trevino.
  3. Of course, this could create a danger for the batter, and runner. You would have to weigh the risk vs. the reward.
  4. Because he was off the rubber, Severino threw home as a fielder. This raises the question, “Does the batter have to vacate the batter’s box when the pitcher is throwing home as a fielder?” The answer is “No.” Again, the batter can’t be expected to disappear or vacate so soon. The batter would only be called out if he made any movement to interfere which is an unrealistic expectation.

Umpire Improperly Kills the Play

Unlike the above d’Arnaud situation, the following play was originally mishandled, but was corrected. It occurred in the deciding Game Five of the 2015 ALDS played between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto. Shin-Soo Choo was batting in the top of the seventh inning with Rougned Odor on third base when Jays’ catcher Russell Martin made a casual throw back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez. The ball caromed off  Choo‘s bat and onto the field of play. Odor wisely kept running and crossed the plate. That gave Texas a 3-2 lead.

Although the ball was in play, plate umpire Dale Scott incorrectly called “Time” after Martin’s throw struck Choo’s bat. It appeared that Odor would not score.Rangers’ manager Jeff Banister properly argued that the ball should be alive and in play since there was no intent to interfere. After the umpires huddled, it was determined that Scott had erred in calling “Time” and the run was allowed to score.

The fans erupted in anger and threw beer bottles and debris on the field. Blue Jays’ manager John Gibbons wasn’t happy about the ruling and decided to play the rest of the game under protest which became a moot point since the Jays won the contest.

 

Ruleball Comments

  1. If Martin’s throw off Choo’s bat went into dead ball territory, all runners would advance two bases on the play, assuming there were other runners on the bases. It would be treated like any other “first play” throw in the infield that ends up in dead ball territory.
  2. Credit Odor who kept running even after “Time” was called. This is important for runners and base coaches to be aware that the ball is alive and in play.
  3. If Odor did not attempt to advance on the play, in my opinion he should be allowed to score regardless. If a runner halts his advance because of an improper call of “Time,” by an umpire, the umpires can invoke rule 8.02 (c) that allows the umpires to place the runner/s to the base they would have made had the proper call been originally made.

Summary

  1. Catchers should not make soft throws to the pitcher with runners on base.
  2. When a catcher attempts a pick throw to the corner bases the batter does not need to relinquish his position in the batter’s box. This is also true on steals of home and suicide squeeze bunts even if the batter does not make contact with the pitch.
  3. If the catcher’s throw makes contact with the bat, the ball remains alive and in play. Runners should be alert to this.
  4. The batter needs to vacate the box when there is a wild pitch or passed ball that gets by the catcher and the pitcher is covering the plate in an attempt to retire a runner who is advancing from third. In that situation the batter is no longer in the box as a batter, and he has time to vacate.
  5. In this era of PitchCom, runners might take advantage of pitchers who are distracted, and pitchers need to be mindful of the actions of runners.

 

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. 

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