Infield Throws and Pitched Balls That Deflect into Dead Ball Territory: Part II

In this Part II edition involving deflected balls, I’ll cover batted balls that deflect off infielders that go into dead ball territory and pitched balls that deflect off the catcher and go into dead ball territory. Unless noted, the Pro, NCAA and NFHS rule is the same.

Ball Deflects Off Infielder and Lands in Dead Ball Territory

The Rockies and Cubs played at Wrigley on April 30, 2018. Ben Zobrist was batting in the bottom of the second inning with one out and the bases empty when he hit a chopper down the third base line.

The ball deflected off Nolan Arenado’s glove and caromed into the seats for a unique book rule double. Zobrist was awarded two bases per Pro rule 5.06 (b) (4) (F), that reads, “Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines…” It should be understood that the award is made from the runner/s position at the time the pitch was delivered. Therefore, the batter would always be awarded second base.

You can view the play by going to the link below:

Deflections Are Not Considered Plays

THE DEFLECTION ITSELF IS NOT A PLAY and does not affect the “first play” or “second play” in the infield rule. See Pro rule 5.06 (b) (4) (G) and sections 19-20 of the 2018 MLB Umpire Manual.

 Regarding throws from the infield that go out of play, umpires must determine if it is the “first play” or “second play.”  By rule, when an infielder initially fields the ball, that is NOT A PLAY. The infielder’s “first play” is either: (1) a throw to a base (most common), (2) an attempted tag of a base (running to a base), or (3) attempted tag of a runner.  A deflection, muff or an error when initially fielding a batted ball is not a play. When an infielder’s “first play” is a throw and the ball goes into dead ball territory, all runners, including the batter-runner are awarded two bases from their position on the bases at the start of play which is when the pitch is delivered. (EX: Runner on first is running with the pitch when the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop who air mails the ball into DBT. At the time of the throw, the runner is on second base. Because the throw is the “first play,” the runner can only be awarded third base, two bases from his original base at the start of play which is when the pitch is delivered.

 When the throw into DBT is the “second play” in the infield, all runners are awarded two bases from their position on the bases at the time of the throw. (EX: runner on first is running with the pitch when the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop who attempts the 6-6-3 double play. But the runner beats the shortstop to second base. The shortstop then throws the ball into DBT. The shortstop’s “first play” was his attempt to tag the base. His “second play” was the wild throw into DBT. Therefore, the runner who reached second base would get two bases and score because he had that base made at the time of the throw.

With all that in mind, let’s look at the following play and see if you can properly place the runner in question.

The A’s hosted the Giants on July 22, 2018. Franklin Baretto was batting in the bottom of the third with the bases empty and no outs when he hit a shot that deflected off pitcher Johnny Cueto’s glove.

The ball was recovered by first baseman Brandon Belt who threw wide of Cueto covering first. The ball got by Cueto and was rolling toward the dugout when catcher Nick Hundley unintentionally deflected the ball into the dugout.

That’s two separate deflections on the same play.

The umpires awarded Baretto second base. A’s manager Bob Melvin wanted to know why Baretta wasn’t awarded third base? To the satisfaction of Melvin, the umpires (Gerry Davis, Ryan Anderson, Pat Hoberg and Brian Knight) huddled and decided to place Baretta at third base.

Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy then challenged the award of three bases. Bochy argued that Baretto should only get second base.

To view the play, click on the link below:

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Who was right? Melvin and the umpires who agreed that Baretto should be placed on third base or Bochy, who argued that the runner should only be awarded two bases on the play and be placed at second base.

Bochy was correct.  The Replay Official ruled that Baretto should only be awarded second base because Belt’s throw into dead ball territory was the “first throw” (or “first play”) in the infield. Therefore, Baretto should only be awarded second base. As stated above, the deflection itself is not a play and did not affect the “first play” rule.

If Baretto had touched first base before the throw left Belt’s hand he should have been awarded third base. The APPROVED RULING to rule 5.06 (b) (4) (G) reads, “If all runners including the batter-runner, have advanced at least one base when an infielder makes a wild throw on the first play after the pitch, the award shall be governed by the position of the runners when the wild throw was made.” If you look at the video closely, this almost happened. It would have been a “rare” three base award on the first throw or “first play” in the infield.

If Hundley had complete possession of the ball and dropped it into dead ball territory before it went out of play, Baretto would be awarded two bases from his position on the bases at the time the ball was dropped. If Baretto had first base made, he would be sent to third base.

Catcher Deflections

In all playing codes, if a pitched ball deflects off the catcher and the force of the pitch causes the ball to enter dead ball territory, the runner/s are awarded one base from their position on the bases at the time of the pitch.

Under Pro rule 5.06 (b) (4) (H), the award for the runner(s) is one base from the time of the pitch unless the catcher kicks, pushes or deflects the ball into DBT in which case the award becomes two bases from the time the pitch was delivered. Sec. 20 of the 2018 MLB Umpire Manual states, “The ruling applies without regard to whether or not the ball would have gone out of play had it not been kicked or deflected.”

NCAA rule (8-3n4) reads, “If, during an attempt to field a wild pitch, passed ball, or wild throw on a pick-off attempt, the catcher or any other fielder deflects the ball into dead-ball territory, the runner(s) shall be awarded two bases from the bases occupied at the time of the pitch.”  That parallels the Pro rule. But Note 1 to the rule reads, If the ball has stopped rolling or it is clear that the ball will not roll into dead ball territory and a new impetus is applied to the ball by a defensive player, the awards are two bases from the time of the act. Under the Pro rule, there must be intent to deflect when awarding bases at the time of the act. Under the NCAA rule, intent is not necessary.

Under NFHS rule (8-3-3d), if the catcher applies the force that causes the ball to go into DBT, the runner(s) is awarded two bases from his position on the bases at the time of the act that causes the deflection. This parallels the NCAA rule. In cases where a catcher deflects a rolling ball into DBT, if the umpire judges that the force of the pitch caused the ball to go into DBT, the award is one base from the time of the pitch. This is foreign to both the Pro and NCAA rule because despite the fact the catcher touched the ball, there is only a one base award.

From a defensive perspective, playing under all playing codes, it is wise for a catcher to allow a deflected ball to roll into dead ball territory if he determines the rolling ball has enough momentum to enter DBT. In that case the award is always just one base from the time of the pitch.               

What Part of the Dugout is Dead Ball Territory?

Before we review the following play, it’s important to note that dead ball territory in the dugout starts on the first step below the lip (top step) of the dugout. While the ball is on the top step of the dugout, it is still in play.

Catcher Carries the Ball into Dugout: Two Base Award          

Former Yankees’ catcher Jorge Posada learned the rule the hard way. The Toronto Blue Jays hosted the New York Yankees on Oct. 2, 2004. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Jays had Eric Hinske on first base. Hinske took off on a Kevin Brown pitch that caromed off Posada and rolled toward the first base dugout. In an attempt to keep the ball from rolling into the dugout, Posada dove on the ball and carried it into the dugout. By carrying the ball into the dugout, the base award for Hinske was changed from one to two bases from his position on the bases when the pitch was delivered.

Let’s go to Game Two of the 1992 ALCS played between the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland A’s. In the top of the fifth inning, the A’s had Willie Wilson on second base and Pat Bordick on first with one out when Jays’ right hander David Cone tossed a 1-1 pitch in the dirt to Walt Weiss. The ball caromed off the chest protector off Jays’ catcher Pat Borders and rolled toward the dugout. Borders smartly allowed the ball to enter the dugout without the risk of deflecting it and changing the base award from one to two.

While Borders was chasing the ball toward the dugout, Wilson, running like a scalded duck, crossed the plate and Bordick ended up at third. But the umps properly returned Wilson to third and Bordick to second because Borders’ patience allowed for a one base award instead of two.






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