Major League Coach Estimates Only 50% of Big Leaguers Know the Infield Fly Rule
I recently asked a coach of a Major League, pennant-contending team to estimate how many players on his team know the nuances of the Infield Fly Rule. His answer was shocking – only 50%.
Everyone knows the basic requirements for an Infield Fly:
- Runners on 1B and 2B or bases loaded and fewer than 2 outs
- Must be a fair ball
- Cannot be a bunt or line drive
- Pop up must be able to be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort.
Ted Barrett explains how to retire a runner who attempts to advance on an Infield Fly.
But most players have never read the fine print: the rules governing runners when an Infield Fly is dropped or when a runner attempts to advance on an Infield Fly.
The first thing to remember is that when an umpire calls an Infield Fly the batter is out. The runners are not forced to advance. However, runners may attempt to advance. If the ball is caught they may tag up. If the ball is dropped a runner may attempt to advance without tagging up. Any attempt to advance by a runner is at his own risk.
Because there is no force play on an Infield Fly, even after the ball is dropped, the fielder must tag the runner attempting to run to the next base. The question I posed to the major league coach was, “How many players on your team would take off running to the next base if on an Infield Fly, the fielder dropped the ball and then in a panic, scrambled after it?” This exact scenario happened August 22, 2017, in a game between the Angels and the Rangers. The umpires, runners and fielders were confused. Only third base coach Ron Roenicke kept his head.
Watch the Rangers and Angels botched Infield Fly play here:
Rich Marazzi’s Insider Report breaks it down:
Infield Fly Rule Confusion by Fielder and Umpire
Confusion over the Infield Fly Rule occurred on August 22, 2017, when the Angels hosted the Rangers.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Angels had Mike Trout on first and Kaleb Cowart on second and one out when Albert Pujols hit a pop fly in front of the pitcher’s mound. The umpires invoked the IFR and Pujols was out. Rangers’ catcher Robinson Chirinos attempted to make the catch but muffed it. The ball glanced to the right of the mound. Both runners took off.
Rangers’ first baseman Mike Napoli got the ball and fired to Elvis Andrus who was covering third base. Andrus received the throw like a first baseman, apparently thinking this was a force play. That of course was a mistake because runners are never forced to advance when the IFR is called because the batter-runner never occupies first base to create the force. Runners, however, are allowed to run at their own risk. If they run, to be put out they must be tagged because they are not forced to advance.
The second mistake was made by third base umpire Stu Scheurwater who called Cowart out. His only defense was that he did not hear the IFR call which is not likely. Cowart wisely stayed on the base, most likely with instructions of third base coach Ron Roenicke. It should be noted that Scheurwater’s erroneous out call was reversed by the umpiring crew.
Also, did the runners realize that they did not have to run on the play? If they didn’t, that’s mistake number three.
The faux pas proved costly for the Rangers. Kole Calhoun followed with a two-base RBI double that gave the Angels a 3-0 lead in a game they won, 10-1.
You can view this play by going to the link below:
The Rockies and Cubs played at Wrigley on June 10 when the Cubs turned an unusual double play during an Infield Fly Rule situation.
In the top of the seventh the Rockies had Raimel Tapia on second and Tony Wolters on first when Carlos Gonzalez hit a pop fly between the pitcher’s mound and second base. Several Cubs fielders converged on the ball that was called an Infield Fly by the umpires. The ball dropped to the ground where Ben Zobrist picked it up and threw to third baseman Kris Bryant, who unlike Andrus, tagged Tapia for the strange double play.
Tapia was not forced to run to third because the IFR had been called. Did Tapia attempt to advance because he thought he could reach third base or did he go to third because he thought he had to run because the pop fly wasn’t caught? Was he aware that he was protected by the IFR and did not have to run?
Credit Bryant for applying the tag on Tapia. Often times fielders do not tag runners who attempt to advance after the IFR is called because it appears the runners are forced.
To view the play, click on the link below.
Infield Fly Rule Review
An Infield Fly is a fair ball that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort when first and second or first, second and third base are occupied with less than two outs. Bunts and line drives are not included in the rule.
- The purpose of the Infield Fly Rule is to protect the runners from fielder deception or trickery. The call should be made on any fly ball that can be caught with ordinary effort by an infielder. This of course is umpire judgment. An outfielder can make the catch of a declared Infield Fly as long as the fly is one that can be caught by an infielder.
- The batter is automatically out when the Infield Fly Rule is called-as long as the ball remains fair.
- Runners are not required to run when the call is made whether or not the ball is caught or dropped.
- Runners may run at their own risk. If the ball is caught, they must tag-up. If the ball falls to the ground, runners do not need to tag-up.
- There is no force play when the rule is invoked. Therefore, if a runner attempts to advance to the next base, he must be tagged.
- Wind and poor weather conditions may warrant the umpires not to invoke the Infield Fly Rule but sun is not a factor. If a fielder loses the ball in the sun after the Infield Fly is declared, the call remains in effect.
- If an infielder intentionally drops a fly ball that has been ruled an Infield Fly, the ball should remain alive and in play. However, I think many umpires would kill the play. If runners attempt to advance, they do so at their own risk.
- If a declared Infield Fly falls to the ground untouched, it is a fair ball if it settles in fair territory before home and first or home and third base.
- If a declared Infield Fly falls to the ground untouched and settles in foul territory before first or third base it is a foul ball.
- If a runner is struck standing on the base by a batted ball that is declared an Infield Fly, he is not out. If he is off the base and is struck by an Infield Fly, he is out as well as the batter.
- On fly balls hit into the short outfield that may or may not be called an Infield Fly, runners need to get off the base as far as possible, in case the call is not made. This will increase their chances of advancing to the next base.